Ste. Claire (passenger steamboat)

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Ste. Claire
Steamer Ste Claire c 1915.jpg
Name: Ste. Claire
Operator: Detroit & Windsor Ferry Company
Builder: Toledo Shipbuilding Company
Yard number: Hull 116
Launched: 7 May 1910
General characteristics
Tonnage: 870 (gross), 507 (net)
Length: 190 ft (58 m)
Beam: 50 ft (15 m)
Draft: 14.5 ft (4.4 m)
Depth: 17.3 ft (5.3 m)
Installed power: Triple expansion reciprocating steam engine
Ste. Claire (steamer)
Ste. Claire (passenger steamboat) is located in Michigan
Ste. Claire (passenger steamboat)
Location 125 S. Dix St., Detroit [1]
Coordinates 42°17′45″N 83°9′2″W / 42.29583°N 83.15056°W / 42.29583; -83.15056Coordinates: 42°17′45″N 83°9′2″W / 42.29583°N 83.15056°W / 42.29583; -83.15056
Built 1910
Architect Kirby, Frank E.; Toledo Shipbuilding Co.
Architectural style Other
NRHP reference # 79001177
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 2, 1979[2]
Designated NHL July 6, 1992[3]

SS Ste. Claire is a steamship that was formerly located in Detroit, Michigan. Built in 1910, she is one of the last propeller-driven excursion steamships to be operated on the Great Lakes. She was declared a US National Historic Landmark in 1992.[3][4]


The Detroit, Belle Isle, & Windsor Ferry Company was incorporated in 1881 to provide ferry service between Detroit, Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit's Belle Isle Park. In 1898, the company began leasing Bois Blanc Island (later known as "Boblo") and began offering ferry service to the island. Bois Blanc became a popular day trip destination, with picnic grounds, a small amusement area, dancing and other services. In 1901, the company purchase the island. Service to Boblo became so popular that in 1902, the company hired Frank E. Kirby to design a passenger ferry, the SS Columbia. However, passenger volume continued to increase, and soon the Detroit, Belle Isle, & Windsor Ferry Company commissioned another, slightly smaller ferry. This ship was again designed by Frank E. Kirby, and constructed at the Toledo Shipbuilding Company.[4]

The Ste. Claire was launched at Toledo Shipbuilding Company in 1910, and entered service later that year between Detroit and Boblo Island. In 1911, the Detroit, Belle Isle, & Windsor Ferry Company was reorganized as the Detroit and Windsor Ferry Company. However, the construction in the 1920s of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle drastically reduced the company's service, and by the late 1930s their only activity was the Detroit-Boblo Island line. In the early 1940s, the company was renamed simply the "Bob-Lo Excursion Company."[4]

The ferry line and Boblo Island Amusement Park were sold in the 1940s, and again in 1979.[4] However, the Ste. Claire continued operating between Detroit and Boblo Island until 1991, a run of 81 years.[3] After the island park closed, she was sold to a commercial firm and fell into disrepair. In 2003 she was towed to Toledo, Ohio, where she has been undergoing restoration. In 2015, the vessel was towed to the former Detroit Lime Dock on the Rouge River, while her restoration remains in limbo.[5]

A partial restoration of both ships, Columbia and Ste. Clair, was made for the 2014 feature film Transformers: Age of Extinction.[6]


The Ste. Claire is a propeller-driven excursion steamer with a riveted steel hull and a wooden superstructure strengthened with steel members. The hull is 190 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 17.3 feet in molded depth. She is powered by a triple expansion reciprocating steam engine with Scotch boilers. The main deck overhangs the hull, and the open decks above are rounded at the bow, a characteristic of the Boblo fleet.[4]

The main staircase is in the center of the main deck, leading upward to the upper decks. A second stair underneath leads down to the crew spaces in the hull. On either side of the main stair are gangplank openings for loading passengers. Forward of the stair is a large open deck space. Aft of the stair, a passageway runs across the vessel, aft of which is the stack casing and a well opening down into the engine room, where the main engine can be seen by passengers on the main deck. Food service counters are placed at the aft end of the main deck, surrounded by open spaces, and a pair of stairs leading to decks above. Amidships, public rest rooms and crews quarters are placed on either side of the ship.[4]

The main staircase leads upward to the main cabin on the second deck. The cabin is finished in mahogany with a cream-painted beamed ceiling. Aft of the cabin is a dance floor. The main cabin and dance floor have doors out to open spaces forward and aft. The main stair leads upward to another, smaller cabin on the third deck. Doors here lead to the open deck and to a "beer garden" located above the dance floor. A final stair on the open deck leads to the top deck. Public access to the top deck is limited; the area also includes the pilot house and lifeboat storage.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jim Kasuba (November 6, 2015). "Boblo Boat Ste. Claire moves from Ecorse to Rouge River; restoration set to begin". The News Herald. 
  2. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ a b c "Ste. Claire". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Worden, Bill (1 November 1991). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Ste. Claire / Steamer Ste. Claire" (PDF). National Maritime Initiative. National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-08-28.  and
    "Accompanying four photos, from 1910, c.1915, c.1966, and undated" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  5. ^ Austin, Dan (July 24, 2015). "Unless it finds a new home, Boblo boat may be scrapped". Detroit Free Press. 
  6. ^ "Historic Boblo boats land role in Transformers 4". CBC News. 29 July 2013. 

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