Col. James M. Schoonmaker

col james a schoonmaker toledobladedotcom 

The steamship Col. James M. Schoonmaker began life on 1 July 1911 at the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Michigan. At the time of her launch she took the title of Queen of the Lakes which is given to the biggest ship on the Great Lakes. She became the flagship of the Shenango Furnace Company. She broke many cargo records for iron ore, grain and coal in her first year. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine which was replaced by a steam turbine in 1955. She sailed as part of the Shenango fleet until 1969 when she was sold to the Interlake Steamship Co who chartered Col James M. Schoonmaker to the Republic Steel Corporation. After a three year charter to that company Interlake decided to sell her to the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co, who renamed the ship Willis B Boyer after the company's president. They operated the laker for 7 years in the iron trade until she was laid up in 1980 due to a downturn in the steel industry. After sitting unwanted for 7 years, the city of Toledo decided to purchase her for use as a museum. She sat as the centerpiece of the International Park in that city for several years before being rechristened back to her original name Col. James M. Schoonmaker and being moved one last time to the site of the National Museum of the Great Lakes on the banks of the Maumee River in Toledo.

Col. James M. Schoonmaker is 617 feet (188 m) long overall. She has a beam of 64 feet (20 m) and a depth of over 33 feet (10 m). Her carrying capacity is 12,200 gross tons at 21-foot (6.4 m) draft. A unique feature of the ship is inside her pilothouse. She was one of the few ships on the Great Lakes to have twin steering wheels. The starboard is the main wheel while the other was an auxiliary. As the flagship of the company for many years she was fitted with many features a normal laker would not have. She was fitted with 5 luxury guest suites in the bow of the ship. She also carried a guest lounge and dining room for the comfort of passengers.

On 17 December 2009 the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Board of Directors authorized a Memorandum of Understanding with the Great Lakes Historical Society of Vermilion, Ohio for the creation of the National Museum of the Great Lakes at the Toledo Maritime Center.

Willis B Boyer was repainted in her Shenango Furnace fleet colors and, on 1 July 2011, rechristened back to her original name, Col. James M. Schoonmaker. In October 2012, Col. James M. Schoonmaker was towed by tugs downriver to her new berth next to the museum. The museum opened in spring 2014.


Museum info: National Museum of the Great lakes
Address: 1701 Front Street, Toledo, OH 43605
Phone: 419 214-5000
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