News
11.15.2011
Portfolio> S.S. Columbia
Step inside Detroit's ghost steamship.
Catherine Gavin

Detroit is home to countless ruins, but the floating hulk of the S.S. Columbia, docked in Ecorse, Michigan, stands out among the roster of idled factories and abandoned houses. The oldest remaining steam passenger vessel in the country, the Columbia was built in 1902 with an innovative structural design by Frank E. Kirby and opulent interiors by Louis O. Keil. The steel and wood ship crisscrossed the Detroit River headed for Boblo Island in Ontario for 89 years. Despite insensitive renovations and 20 years of neglect, the grand ballroom, bandstand, mahogany and oak staircases, mahogany paneled walls with etched leaded-glass lights, and ceiling frescos all remain under the layers of paint. The S.S. Columbia Project is charged with the restoration, and a plan is afloat to put the boat back in service in New York’s Hudson Valley. Detroiters shouldn’t despair though. Another steam ship—the S.S. Ste. Claire also docked nearby—may be returned to Detroit’s waterways.

Catherine Gavin

     

 

   
     

 

Catherine Gavin