The Canadiana during its inaugural trip on May 30, 1910.
|Builder:||Buffalo Dry Dock Company of Buffalo, New York|
|Launched:||March 15, 1910|
|Maiden voyage:||May 30, 1910|
|Nickname(s):||"The Crystal Beach Boat"|
|Fate:||Remaining hull scrapped at Port Colborne, Ontario Canada in 2004.|
|Class and type:||Passenger ferry|
|Length:||215 ft (66 m)|
|Beam:||54 ft (16 m)|
|Height:||16.1 ft (4.9 m)|
3,500 passengers (when launched)1,800 passengers (downrated)
The SS Canadiana was a passenger ferry that primarily operated between Buffalo, New York and the Crystal Beach Amusement Park at Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada from 1910 to 1956. The Canadiana was also noted for being the last passenger vessel to be built in Buffalo, New York.
After being sold in 1956 the Canadiana changed owners numerous times and by 1983 she was berthed in Ohio needing major restoration. A nonprofit group, the "Friends of the Canadiana", brought the ship back to Buffalo in 1984 with a hope of restoring her to service. When restoration efforts failed the ship was scrapped at Port Colborne, Ontario in 2004.
The Canadiana was built at the Buffalo Dry Dock on Ganson Street in 1910 and was the last passenger vessel to be built in Buffalo. She was designed by marine architect Frank E. Kirby who would go on later to design the largest side wheel excursion ships built for the Great Lakes, the Greater Buffalo and the Greater Detroit.
The completed ship was 215 feet (66 m) long and a 54 feet (16 m) beam amidships. She was powered by one coal fired triple-expansion steam engine that produced 1,446 horsepower and a single propeller provided propulsion. The Canadiana also had a cutout in the main deck to allow passengers to view the "workings" of the engine.
The Canadiana was fitted with brass railings, red mahogany trim from Honduras and beveled mirrors. She was designed to be a premier vessel designed not only for transportation but also for pleasure. Originally intended to carry 3500 passengers, it was decided by the United States Coast Guard that 1800 was a safer number. With the reduction in passenger capacity, the ship's owners found room to construct the largest dance floor of any steamer ever placed on the Great Lakes.
After her completion, the Canadiana joined her sister ship, the Americana, which had been built in 1908. Both ships would make round trip passages between Buffalo and Crystal Beach until the Americana was sold in 1929. Although the Canadiana was popularly known as "The Crystal Beach Boat", she would occasionally make journeys to other destinations including Port Colborne, Ontario. Nevertheless, Crystal Beach remained its primary destination. Her crossings to and fro from Crystal Beach and Buffalo were often highlighted by big band concerts aboard on which some of the region's most famous musical acts performed, including acts who regularly performed within the park's large Ballroom Building.
After the completion of the Peace Bridge in 1927, which allowed automobile traffic between Buffalo and Crystal Beach, some of the popularity of the Canadiana was lost. Ticket prices were kept low in order to attract the necessary patrons to make the ship profitable. During World War II, the Canadiana saw an increase in business. This was due, in part, to gas rationing because of the war. A British pilot, who was flying with the Canadian Air Force, was killed when he lost control of his aircraft while "buzzing" the Canadiana during World War II as well.
In its last year of service an "incident" happened on board the Canadiana. While returning from Crystal Beach to Buffalo on the evening of May 30, 1956, violence erupted between several youths. The group of belligerents, made up of whites and African-Americans, left little doubt that racism was a factor in the incident. This incident, along with shrinking revenues, made continued operation of the ship uneconomical. The 1956 season proved to be the last for the Canadiana and she was sold.
After being sold, the Canadiana was involved in an accident on July 30, 1958. While on her normal excursion trip traveling upstream on the Maumee River from her berth in Toledo to Bob-Lo Island, the Canadiana was struck by a railroad swing bridge and damaged. The Canadiana was sold in 1960 and was towed to Cleveland, Ohio being unofficially renamed Pleasurama. From 1960 through 1967 the Canadiana was stored at Buffalo, Fairport and Cleveland. She sank at her berth in Cleveland on February 17, 1982 and wasn't refloated until May 1983. Following her refloat, she was moved to Ashtabula, Ohio.
A second Americana, formally a 1940s-built ferry-cruise boat for the Circle Line, was placed in service to Crystal Beach during the 1988-89 seasons, with mixed profits. After the park's closure, the ship was used for lake cruises before her owners, among them proprietor Ramsey Tick, filed for bankruptcy in 1990. The small ship was later sold off to Caribbean interests.
Friends of the Canadiana
A non-profit group called the "Friends of the Canadiana" was formed in 1983 to try to save the ship and restore her to service. A fund raising effort was undertaken and she was purchased by the group. The Canadiana was towed back to Buffalo during September 1984. In July 1988, after being stripped down for restoration to return her to sailing conditions under modern regulations, the Canadiana was towed to the Marsh Engineering Dock at Port Colborne, Ontario for drydocking.
The S.S. Canadiana Preservation Society, Inc.
During 1993 changes were implemented regarding the restoration efforts. On July 1, 1993, the name of the organization was changed to The S.S. Canadiana Preservation Society, Inc. Along with the name change, membership of the corporation board of directors was undertaken and efforts were made for the corporation to be designated as an "Education Corporation". These changes were undertaken by the organization with the eventual goal of being accredited as a full-fledged museum.
During the 1990s, a number of studies regarding the ship and its use were undertaken. The S.S. Canadiana Preservation Society applied for, and was awarded on December 8, 1994, a $400,000 grant under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act for the restoration efforts. Following the award, in 1995, the award funding was withdrawn by the New York State Department of transportation and a lawsuit was filed by The S.S. Canadiana Preservation Society. The final outcome of the court case was that the withdrawal of funding by the New York State Department of Transportation was upheld.
When restoration plans were not realized the remaining hull of the Canadiana was cut up for scrap in 2004 at Port Colbourne, Ontario. The ship's engine was salvaged and returned to Buffalo to be part of a planned exhibit. Much of the wooden superstructure was saved including the pilot house. Some of the salvaged wood has been manufactured into various memorabilia.
- Frank E. Kirby
- USS Sable (IX-81)
- MV Aquarama
- Buffalo, New York
- Crystal Beach, Ontario
- Edward M. Cotter (fireboat)
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