In 1946 General Motors christened the Codrington, a towboat with a powerful new engine capable of moving her from full ahead to full astern in only eight seconds flat. Her design proved so effective that she became the prototype for the modern towboat, and she soon busied herself by hauling liquid cargo along a 1,000 mile stretch of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. She was a symbol of America’s postwar prosperity, proudly chugging up and down the waterways alongside her thousands of sister towboats over the course of three decades.
In a country smitten with innovation, the Codrington was always fated for obsolescence. At the end of her career she was dry docked in Louisiana to retire to rust, a pastime which she took to quite naturally. After 20 years spent wasting away she was discovered by some members of the River Valley Preservation Company, who thought she would make a better inn than a heaping pile of scrap metal, so they bought her for $7,500, hauled her up north, put about $100,000 into her renovation, and rechristened her as the Covington in 1995. She now sits proudly by the south bank of the Mississippi in downtown Saint Paul, a reminder that things only become lost if we permit them to.
Liz Miller bought the Covington Inn from its original owners in 2004, and has run it continuously to this day. “There are no other hotels like the Covington Inn in the Midwest, and probably not in the world, either,” said Liz. “We have four staterooms in all, each of which is distinctly modeled to best take advantage of the little space we have on a four story boat. They’re perfect for the adventurous, for people who would like to stay in the only room of its kind, and even for people who’d just like to be near downtown — we’re only a 15 minute walk over the bridge away from there.
“Someone might fairly hear ‘towboat’ and not have hospitableness be the first thing that comes to mind, but the Covington would change their opinion in a heartbeat. The blood, sweat, and tears put into her renovation have made this one of the most charming places in the Twin Cities. Each insulated room has its own double or queen bed, tasteful furnishings, shower, air conditioning, and gas fireplace. A fireplace you really couldn’t do without if you stay here in the winter, and there’s no cozier feeling than being warm and snug while you look out a porthole at the frozen solid river. It’s only walking from the boat to your car that you’d ever feel cold during your stay, but we Minnesotans are a hearty lot!”
Waking up at the Covington Inn is a cozy feeling too, as in the mornings Liz prepares her guests unpretentious victuals like bacon, eggs, and French toast doused in caramel sauce and whipped cream.
If you’re after a smaller but nonetheless spectacular venue for your upcoming wedding, you might consider the Covington Inn. For only the price of all four of their staterooms you’ll have the whole boat to yourself from 3pm until 11am the next day, and framing the scene upon the river as it glitters Saint Paul’s night lights back up at you makes for some pretty potent stuff. Liz herself is a licensed minister, not because she is the captain of a ship that doesn’t move but because she loves hosting such affairs at her inn.
You are obligated to ask a certain question when you speak with someone who runs a boat hotel, specifically whether anyone has ever fallen into the water. “Thank goodness, no,” Liz answered. “It’s much too nice on the boat to go and do that.”
Visit covingtoninn.com to learn about how you can go sleep with the fishes, but in a nice way.