Friday, June 13, 2008

The William G. Mather Maritime Museum

The Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum has been a familiar sight on Cleveland’s Lake Erie shoreline since October 1990, initially at a berth at the East Ninth Street Pier on Cleveland's North Coast Harbor, and now located just north of the Great Lakes Science Center at Dock 32.

More than just a museum, it had a busy life as a Great Lakes bulk freighter that transported cargo such as ore, coal, stone, and grain to ports throughout the Great Lakes. Built in Detroit by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge, Michigan in 1925, it served for a time as the flagship for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company. It was also nicknamed "The Ship That Built Cleveland" because Cleveland's steel mills were a frequent destination. The steamship was named in honor of the man who was president of Cleveland-Cliffs at the time it was built, William Gwinn Mather.

According to Wikipedia:

In order to supply the Allied Forces need for steel during World War II, the Mather led a convoy of 13 freighters in early 1941 through the ice-choked Upper Great Lakes to Duluth, Minnesota, setting a record for the first arrival in a northern port. This heroic effort was featured in the April 28, 1941 issue of Life. She was one of the first commercial Great Lakes vessels to be equipped with radar in 1946. In 1964, she became the very first American vessel to have an automated boiler system, manufactured by Bailey Controls of Cleveland, Ohio.

After a long career, the Steamship William G. Mather was retired in the 1980s, and remained in Toledo. On December 1987, Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. donated it to the Great Lakes Historical Society to be restored and preserved as a museum ship and floating maritime museum. When the steamship arrived in Cleveland in late 1988, funding was obtained and restoration began. But soon afterwards, a fire damaged the Mather's galley and some cabins, meaning even more work would be required to get the Mather back in shape. In October 1990, the Mather was moved to a berth at the East Ninth Street Pier on Cleveland's North Coast Harbor, and relocated in 2005 to its current location north of the Great Lakes Science Center at Dock 32. In October of 2006, the William G. Mather was acquired by the Great Lakes Science Center.

The Mather is also an American Society of Mechanical Engineers National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, designated in July of 1995. The Mather is recognized for its 1954 installation of a single marine boiler and steam turbine engine, its 1964 installation of the Bailey 760 Boiler Control System and American Shipbuilding AmThrust dual propeller bow thruster, which all were firsts for U.S. Flag Great Lakes vessels.

Detailed information on the Mather and the museum can be found at the Mather's web site here.

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