JEFFERSONVILLE — This weekend, a local museum is offering an opportunity to learn about Jeffersonville's steamboat history and to celebrate the holiday season.

The Howard Steamboat Museum is presenting its annual Christmas Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. at 1101 E. Market St. in Jeffersonville. The historic Carriage House will be available for tours, and children can visit with Santa from 1 to 3 p.m.

The event is free to the public, but donations are encouraged. The museum's gift shop will be open for people to buy books and "steamboat stocking stuffers."

The museum tells the story of the steamboat era and the Howard family, who owned the Howard Shipyards on the banks of the Ohio River in Jeffersonville for more than 100 years. The museum is located in the historic home of the shipbuilding family.

Museum Director Keith Norrington said the tours of the recently renovated carriage house, which was transformed into an event venue, will be one of the highlights of the event. The refurbishment of the 1880's-era building was completed earlier this year, and it is available for rental for events such as parties, receptions and weddings.

The Carriage House has exceeded people's expectations since it opened, Norrington said. The interior of the building was rebuilt, and many original materials such as timbers were recycled in the renovation.

The event venue has been a wonderful avenue to fund the museum, he said. It is open year-round, and the museum plans to use it for school programs in the future.

"The response from the community has been very good," he said. "We like to think it belongs to the community."

The first floor of the Howard's Victorian-era home was restored to reflect how it looked when the family lived there, and the museum is located on the second floor. Open house attendees can eat fudge and cookies and enjoy the home's Christmas decorations, Norrington said.

"Everyone enjoys the festive spirit," Norrington said.

Norrington has a long involvement with the Howard Steamboat Museum, which has been open for about 60 years. He first came in 1963 for a third grade trip, and was captivated by the history. By age 14, he became a volunteer guide, and has remain involved throughout the years.

Jeffersonville is here because of the Ohio River, and the Howards played a major role in its history as shipbuilders and employers, Norrington said. About 400 to 500 people were employed in the shipyard at the time, he said, and when it became JeffBoat, generations of families worked there.

Norrington said he likes providing an opportunity for people to tour the museum for free. He hopes the open house and the Carriage House tours will attract both new and returning visitors to the museum.

"People say I've been there I don’t need to go back, but the Carriage House draws them back," he said. "Everyone’s curious about it. I'm hoping it will bring people back that come in to tour the museum again."