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City of Cleveland: 1910

City of Cleveland: 1910

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1910. "Sidewheel steamer City of Cleveland. Off for the upper lakes." Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.


Mea Culpa Bauhaus

For a people convinced they were on the cusp of modernity, they had an ineffable sense of style. Nothing of value was produced without elegant embellishment that is so lacking today.With apologies to Gropius and Frank, I think there is an ephemeral value to frills.


Growing up as I have in a largely post-industrial suburban America, images like this fascinate me. I suppose people do travel from Detroit to Cleveland today, but I don't know why.

You could probably make the drive in the time it takes to roll through the traffic in Detroit to the airport, park the car, get a ticket, go thru TSA, get on the plane, land, get your luggage, rent a car, and drive to their destination from the airport thru Cleveland traffic.

Given the choice of the two, neither seems as fun or as novel as taking to the lake on the City of Cleveland. Seeing pictures of my home country thru the eyes of this website is almost like reading science fiction. The names of the locales are the same, but the details of these people's existence seem almost otherworldly. Going back a mere second in time seems a infinitely less traversable distance than that to the farthest conceivable galaxy. It is a true Lost World. My continuing thanks for posting the photography.


One explanation, in this case: Detroit's population in 1910 was about 465,000 - with only 5,741 Black people. Buffalo (my city) had only 1,773 out of 423,715. Migration to the factory jobs of the North began shortly after this time.

Board of Commerce excursion, June 10

In a 1910 issue of the Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record you can read all about the upcoming cruise sponsored by the Detroit Board of Commerce, the This was seventh annual trip for the organization. It was also the first trade group to go on a trip by airplane.

Largest Side-Wheeler in the World

Popular Mechanics, March 1907:

The largest side-wheel steamer in the world, the "City of Cleveland", was launched at Detroit on January 5th. Her dimensions are: Lenght: 444 ft.; beam, 96 ft. 6 in.; and depth, 22 ft. There are seven decks with a passenger capacity of 5,000 and sleeping accomodations for 1,500. In addition, freight cargo equivalent to 110 carloads can be carried. Electric passenger elevators connect the upper and lower decks. There is a telephone in every stateroom which will have connection with the city service when in ports. A complete wireless system will afford land communication when sailing. A speed of 25 miles is expected from the 8,000-hp. engines.

A unique feature is the bow rudder which can be seen in the illustration taken just before launching. The steamer will cost $1,250,000 and run between Detroit and Cleveland the coming summer.

Ghost Ship

One of the ships managed by one of the Halloween house owners.

Well how about that?

It sure is a sidewheel steamer! (Pictures with no comments seem lonely to me and since this picture had not a single one, I had to acknowledge its presence). Go "City of Cleveland"! Keep on sailin'!

Incendiarism Is Suspected

Mansfield (Ohio) News, May 13, 1907.


City of Cleveland, Under Construction in Detroit, Swept by Fire Early Today


It was to Have Been the Finest Side Wheel Steamer on Fresh Water. The Boat Will Be Rebuilt, but it Will Be Impossible to Get Her Ready for Service Before Next Season -- Incendiarism Is Suspected.

Detroit, Mich., May 13. -- The magnificent new passenger steamer City of Cleveland, under construction at the plant of the Detroit Ship Building company, for the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation company, and designed to run between Detroit and Cleveland, was swept by fire early today and is a total loss except for her hull and machinery. How much they have been damaged cannot be determined until the hull is pumped out and a careful examination made. The loss, which falls on the Detroit Ship Building company, a branch of the American Ship Building company is about $700,000 and is fairly well covered by insurance.

The fire broke out just before daylight in some mysterious manner. There are rumors afloat that an inceniary is suspected. The officials of the ship yard are at a loss to explain the fire, as there were two watchemn on the ship and another at the gate of the ship yard.

The City of Cleveland was launched at Wyandotte January 5 and was to have been turned over to the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation company about June 30. She is 444 feet long and is designed to carry 4,500 passengers, with sleeping accomodations for 1,500. The interior wood work and fittings were practically completed and the machinery and boilers were installed. The flames had secured a good start before they were discovered and despite the efforts of two fire boats and all the shore apparatus which could work on the burning ship, swept away everything inflammable from the craft. Tons of water were poured into the hull which now lies at the Orleans dock partly submerged. The two watchmen on the steamer got ashore safely and no one was injured during the fire.

The City of Cleveland was intended to be the finest side wheel steamer on fresh water and her interior wood work all of which is destroyed, was unusually beautiful and lavish. Here whole cost was intended to $1,250,000.
The ship building company will rebuild the boat as rapidly as possible, it is announced, but it will be impossible to get her ready for service before next season.

The Detroit and Cleveland Navigation company will continue the same service arrangements on the Cleveland route which prevailed last season.

Name change

More about the City of Cleveland here.

An inauspicious beginning and tragic end

marked the career of the City of Cleveland. Launched 5 January 1907 at the yard of the Detroit Ship Building Company at Wyandotte, she caught fire there while being fitted out for service on 13 May 1907 (see photo). She was, of course, built for the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company, of which William McMillan, discussed here recently, was President, but who died a month after the vessel's launching. Rebuilt, she entered service in May 1908. Renamed City of Cleveland III in 1912, she remained in service until she collided with the Norwegian freighter Ravnefjell in dense fog on Lake Huron off Harbor Beach, Michigan, on 25 June 1950. The freighter's bow pierced her cabins, killing five aboard the passenger vessel. The official Coast Guard report.

Following the collision, the City of Cleveland III was laid up at Detroit for four years until she again caught fire on 20 October 1954. Most of her was scrapped at Sandwich, Ontario, 1954-1955, but her hull was towed to Buffalo to be converted to a crane barge, a metamorphosis that never occurred, and the hull was broken up there in 1956.

Eminent American naval architect Frank Kirby designed the City of Cleveland.

W.C. would have been proud

In 1910 the City of Cleveland (v. 3) was the pride of the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co., the company run by W.C. McMillan (the owner of the Addams Family-type home posted three days ago). She was built twice - because, in 1907, when her construction was nearly finished, she burned to her steel framework. The History of Detroit (1912) describes her elegance this way: "five hundred staterooms, twenty private parlors with bath, hot and cold running water in each room; telephone in every stateroom, passenger elevator, fire place, convention hall. Venetian garden, luxurious dining room and costly furnishings."

All Aboard!

I can imagine the guy that broke the news to the people on the dock to form a single line.

Looking good after the fire

Googled history and read that the steamer was launched in Jan '07 and almost completely destroyed by fire in May '07. Original build/superstructure must have been something grand.

Connecting The Dots

Remember the Gothic mansion of W.C. McMillan that was shown here lately, well, from "Marine Vessels Navigating the Great Lakes in 1905" we find:

Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Co.,Detroit, Mich.,
W. C. McMillan, General Manager.
Steamer City of Cleveland
Captain, Archibald McLachlan
Engineer, John Hall.


I am always amazed at these pictures of an active crowded America at the beginning of the last century, there always seems to be a dearth of people of color present at public events. Were we "encouraged" to avoid large gatherings or were we just not tolerated by what was then mainstream America? What was our role in our country's many and varied activities?

Crunched "Cleveland"

After colliding with the Norwegian freighter Ravnefjell:


This must be the rebuilt version, after the fire.

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