617-foot-long Col. James M. Schoonmaker once hauled
iron ore, coal and rye on the Great Lakes. It was
launched in 1911 and was mothballed in 1980. Today,
it is a museum ship at the National Museum of the
Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio.
Ohio — There have been 8,000 shipwrecks on the Great
few of those are spotlighted in the expanded and relocated
National Museum of the Great Lakes, a new Toledo
attraction that opened in the spring and includes a
617-foot-long ore boat/museum ship.
wrecks featured in the museum include the most-famous
Great Lakes shipwreck: the ore boat Edmund Fitzgerald that
sank in Lake Superior on Nov. 10, 1975, taking 29 men down
to the $12.1 million National Museum of the Great Lakes
will find one life raft and paddles from the Edmund
Fitzgerald among the items from the boat.
orange raft, one of two, automatically inflated and popped
to the surface after the boat sank.
is also an interactive exhibit where visitors can direct a
simulated submersible to the Fitzgerald wreck in an
attempt to determine the cause of the sinking. The exhibit
looks at an array of options to explain what happened to
the lake freighter. Officially, it remains undetermined.
shipwrecks are compelling tales. They amount to one
shipwreck every 11 days for the last 250 years. There are
more shipwrecks per surface square mile on the Great Lakes
than anywhere else in the world.
greatest number occurred in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.
example, the 335-foot steel Marquette sailed from
Conneaut, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 1909, to cross Lake Erie to
Port Stanley, Ontario. It carried 30 railroad cars. It
disappeared. It has never been found and no one knows why
it sank, although some wreckage was located.
can look through goggles to view footage that divers took
of the wreckage of the Cedarville that sank in the Straits
of Mackinac in 1965, after it collided with another ship.
museum is filled with more than 250 historical artifacts
from Great Lakes vessels and other sources, plus hundreds
of photographs. The exhibits cover 9,000 square feet of
space in five galleries. It also features documentary
videos and interactive displays.
museum’s goal is to educate and entertain, to let
visitors learn how the Great Lakes affected the United
is an interesting, fresh, bright, colorful and
kid-friendly place designed to attract and entertain
families with compelling stories. It is a great day-trip
destination: You can easily tour the museum and the old
ore boat in two to three hours.
are exhibits on Great Lakes lighthouses (there are 326 of
them), luxurious passenger ships that once sailed the
lakes, the Underground Railroad, rum runners on the lakes,
the 1913 White Hurricane that sank 12 boats and killed
240, and maritime technology and equipment.
of the most historic artifacts is a piece of the wooden
frame of the USS Niagara, the flagship of American
commander Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie
in the War of 1812.
artifact was acquired when the sunken ship was raised in
had never heard about the two Great Lakes passenger
steamers that were converted into aircraft carriers in
World War II. They were used on Lake Michigan to train
thousands of American pilots to safely land on a carrier.
Among those pilots was future president George H.W. Bush.
another exhibit, you can admire a gold life-saving medal
established by Congress in 1874. It was awarded for
bravery in rescuing people in distress on the water.
museum has the very first medal, awarded to Lucian Clemons
of Marblehead, Ohio, who with his brothers A.J. and
Hubbard rowed a 12-foot boat to help rescue two seamen
from a schooner that had overturned in Sandusky Bay in
Clemons later became the keeper of the lighthouse at
can hoist a heavy backpack like early European fur
traders, learn how to pump a ship’s bilge to keep water
out of leaky vessels and work together to fire the engine
of a simulated coal-powered freighter.
learn that the Great Lakes contain 84 percent of all fresh
water in North America and 21 percent of the world’s
surface fresh water.
museum looks at the Great Lakes’ exploration and
settlement; industrial growth; military history;
shipwrecks, lighthouses and survival; and maritime
technology and shipbuilding.
10 percent of the museum’s historical items are actually
on display, officials said. Interestingly, the collection
includes a 25-foot-long surf boat from 1854. It was
designed by naval architect Joseph Francis to enable
rescuers to get through heavy waves. It was used on Lake
Erie until 1940 and was then used as a pig sty on Kelleys
Island until 1970 when it was rescued by the Great Lakes
22-ton ship’s propeller from the lake freighter John
Sherwin sits outside the museum in a small riverbank park.
the Col. James M. Schoonmaker is easily the museum’s
biggest attraction and its biggest artifact. The retired
freighter is moored on the east bank of the Maumee River
next to the museum.
was launched in 1911 and was hailed as the "Queen of
the Lakes" as well as the largest bulk freighter on
the Great Lakes and in the world at the time. It carried
iron ore from Lake Superior to the steel mills of Ohio and
Pennsylvania, plus coal and rye.
BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
is 617 feet long and 64 feet wide. It draws up to 33 feet,
1 inch of water. It weighs 8,600 tons empty and 23,600
was wider than other ore boats of its time, designed to
fill up the canal locks at Sault St. Marie between Lakes
Superior and Huron and to haul more cargo. It sailed for
65 years and was hailed as one of the most luxurious ore
boats on the Great Lakes.
was owned by the Shenango Furnace Co. until it was sold to
the Interlake Steamship Co. in 1969 and to Cleveland
Cliffs Inc. in 1971 when it was renamed the Willis B.
Boyer. It was mothballed about 1981. In 1986, the
freighter was sold to the city of Toledo and restored at a
cost of $1 million.
Schoonmaker is open for self-guided tours: from the engine
room to the cargo holds, from the owner’s cabin to the
pilot house, from the crew’s cabins to the galley and
dining rooms. It includes five suites for guests and rare
twin steering wheels.
tour features steep stairwells and staggered deck plating.
The museum advises that parents follow children when
climbing ladders and have them follow you when descending.
museum, once based in Vermilion, is housed in the Toledo
Maritime Center on the east bank of the Maumee River. The
building was constructed in 2008 by the Toledo-Lucas
County Port Authority to serve as a ferry terminal. That
has not happened.
museum got a nearly $6.1 million grant from the Ohio
Cultural Facilities Commission and provided $4 million of
in-kind services. The biggest expense was dredging the
river for the ore boat.
are hoping to get 40,000 visitors a year, said Executive
Director Christopher Gillcrist. The former facility, which
was in Vermilion for 60 years and closed in 2011, got
about 5,000 a year.
are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to
5 p.m. Sunday at 1701 Front St., Toledo. Take the Ohio
Turnpike west to Interstate 280. Head north to Toledo.
Exit at Front Street (Exit 9). Turn left. The museum is on
$8 for museum only and $12 for museum and tour of the Col.
James M. Schoonmaker. Tickets for senior citizens and
children are $1 less.
information, call (419) 214-5000 or go to
www.inlandseas.org. For Toledo tourist information, call
(800) 243-4667 or (419) 321-6404 or go to www.dotoledo.org.