Shanty Boat Town

I remember a few Shanty Boats on the Elk River.  At one time,  these houseboats stretched from the mouth of Court Street all the way up to the trolley bridge on the Elk . These were very tiny, usually one or two rooms at the most.  The bathroom was the river,  usually an "outhouse" built right in to the boat that dropped into the Elk.  The funny thing is that the city wanted to get rid of the houseboats as far back as 1923 according to newspaper articles, and yet they were still there when I was a kid. This photo shows the last of the Shanty Boats just before early Urban Renewal.



Same scene, as the first photo, just up the riverbank.   The people living on this boat were "junkers",  finding wood, metal, cardboard.... anything to sell at the "recycling center".  They brought their finds to the riverbank and sorted them.  Some even had little food gardens.



Same scene again, looking in the opposite direction.   Here you can see the old powerhouse for the Charleston Urban Railroad which was possibly by this time,  the Boys Club.  You also see the old Trolley bridge and railroad bridge crossing the Elk. 



You can just barely see the bridge piers and deck in this photo,  as the trees have reclaimed the riverbank long ago.


Riverboat Shanty

Notice the "outhouse" that discharges directly into the river

Riverboat Shanty

Kids learned to swim at a very early age on these boats.  They had to...

Riverboat Shanty

This little guy  didnt need a babysitter 24-7 on a houseboat.

Riverboat Shanty

Walking the gangplank while drunk or even while carrying groceries could be very tricky.

Typical family on the Elk

Some lived on the riverbank.   Pay attention to this photo, because you're going to see it again.

Shanties Elk River


And now for a guest commentator.....

My name is Jim Hapney.. I was raised in Charleston and my earliest memories are of living on a houseboat on Elk River. In your site you have some photos from the late 30s. While looking through them I came across one that I believe is my Grand Parents. Our house boats were located just past the Virginia St Bridge,and I believe are shown in the 1939 aerial shot you have on your website. My Grandparents, my Uncle, and my father had boats at that location..

Later on My father and Uncle move to another location between the Spring Street and railroad bridge. My father went in the Army at the start of the war, and my mother and I moved in with my Uncle. My Uncle's boat sank on New Years eve and I don't remember the year. I remember he built a shanty the sit and we lived there for awhile.. He was employed by the Capitol Iron and Metal Co that was there at the time.. I attended Elk Elementary school until the fourth grade. I remember going to the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners the Rev. Earl Hissom would have in a big tent up near Spring St.

I am sending you photos I have from back then. If you can use any of them on your site feel free to do so. I was really surprised to see the one that I believe is my Grandparents. My Uncle was killed in WWII and my grandparents used the insurance money to buy a farm in the Alum creek area. What become of their boat I have no clue. My Uncle is listed on the WWII monument there in Charleston.  Signed....  Jimmy L Hapney CW4 USA Retired

This is me, my Grandmother and my cousin Kitty. Kitty now lives in the Alum Creek area. I believe it was Easter. Granny was all dressed up. The Holiday inn is now where that building was.

This was my Uncle's boat. This photo was taken while it was still in the Clendenin St area. The folks in the picture are on left is one of my aunts with her son. Not sure which one.. My Aunt Grace, Me (Jim Hapney),Mom (Pansy Hapney),Grandmother Gertie Van pelt. The boat in the background I believe was my Mom and Dads.

Neighbors Ben & Gertie Vanpelt in 1941


This is the photo of me on the paddle wheel boat taken the same day as the one with my Grandmother.

This was me on my Uncle Elvin's boat The railroad bridge is in the background.


My Grandmother on the paddle wheeler.