Historic anchor to be pulled from Detroit River today

DETROIT - The 6,000-pound anchor from a massive, historic steamship will be pulled from the Detroit River today after 60 years underwater.

Greater Detroit was a luxury steamship with a capacity of more than 2,100 passengers, was a 536-foot-long, 96-foot-wide "floating hotel" that toured the Great Lakes from 1924-1950, according to a news release from the Great Lakes Maritime Institute.

This afternoon, a tugboat, barge and crane will be used to remove the bow anchor from the river for display at the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority office. Once out of the water, the anchor is to be taken to the J.W. Westcott Co. dock at the foot of 24th Street to be cleaned to prevent corrosion.

The process is expected to start at 1 p.m. and take a few hours, and the best view is to be from West Riverfront Park, west of Joe Louis Arena and the Riverfront Towers apartments. The Great Lakes Maritime Institute is raising funds to continue preserving and promoting Great Lakes maritime heritage, and donations can be made at www.GLMI.org.

"This project is similar to the one that was carried out by the (Great Lakes Maritime Institute) in July 1992, when the anchor of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was recovered from the bottom of the Detroit River. That anchor is currently resting in the yard of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle," according to the institute.

The Greater Detroit had 625 staterooms with "fine amenities," one of a fleet like "floating works of art, covered with elaborate plaster, hand-carved woodwork, intricate murals and more," according to the news release.

The ships' popularity declined as commercial air travel and the highway system became more widely use, and the Greater Detroit in 1950 was tied up downtown "left to rot" for six years. On Dec. 12, 1956, the anchor was cut, as there was no on-board steam power to raise it, and the Greater Detroit and smaller fleet-mate Eastern States were towed into the river and set on fire.

They were burned "in order to strip all of the elaborate parlor rooms and beautiful wood and make it easier to scrap her hull," according to the news release.

More details on the Greater Detroit are available at HistoricDetroit.org.

Detroit Free Press


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