The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Be It Ever So Humble...

TC_5992-RCBT-Glenview shanty_final.jpg

Lansdowne Boat House & Shanty Boat at Mouth of Glenview Branch, 1912

Shantyboats, keelboats, were unpowered constructs handmade of wood with a vernacular design. They normally consisted of one or two small rooms in which an entire family would live. A door at each end and side windows gave some cross ventilation to the boat. A single stove was used for cooking and heating, with firewood gathered from drift piles and coal pilfered from barges and railroad yards. If the current was slow, a shantyboater could maneuver and row the home over short distances. Often another small, light boat for rowing, called a skiff or john boat, would accompany the shantyboat, and be used for transport to shore, fishing (both to catch and hold live fish), and even for doing laundry. A good shantyboat could be built for a few hundred dollars, or much less when most of the material was found along the river banks or floating on rising river waters.