I have fond childhood memories of touring the Willis B. Boyer when I was a young child. As an adult I was excited to finally share the experience with my own children. Last Friday my mom, my kiddos, and I meet up with our playgroup to tour the S. S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker which was previously known as Willis B. Boyer.
Situated on the Maumee River, in the shadow of downtown Toledo, is the Col. James M. Schoonmaker/ Willis B. Boyer Museum Ship. Launched in 1911, the 617-foot freighter was once the largest bulk freighter on the Great Lakes. After 60+ years of service, the “queen of the lake freighters” was retired in 1980. After many years of careful restoration, the ship opened to the public as a floating nautical museum in 1987 and has been a downtown destination for thousands. With tours lasting about an hour, the museum offers its visitors a unique, hands-on experience as well as a glimpse into the ship’s huge size and beautiful interiors, including the officer’s dining room, captain’s quarters and awesome engine room. Many visitors have their pictures taken next to the ship’s wheel. The Boyer is docked at International Park on the east side of the Maumee River. http://www.toledo.com/attractions/james-m.-schoonmaker-willis-b.-boyer-museum/
In 2007 the threat of scrapping the Boyer arose because the city of Toledo, which bought the freighter from Cleveland-Cliffs in 1986 after six years of lay-up, decided it could no longer afford even basic upkeep and would lay off Mr. LaMarre, then a city employee as caretaker, that summer.
But the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority stepped in, hiring Mr. LaMarre at an increased salary to give him time to reconstitute a nonprofit museum organization and raise money. Last year, the agency also struck the deal with the Great Lakes Historical Society to develop its national museum at the Maritime Center, built by the port authority as a ferry terminal but so far used minimally for that purpose. Moving the Boyer/Schoonmaker to an adjoining berth is part of the museum plan. http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2011/03/24/Boyer-preservation-to-turn-back-clock-to-Schoonmaker.html
Mr. Schoonmaker, a retired businessman from Naples, Fla., said he had long hoped the Boyer might someday be renamed after his grandfather, a Union colonel in the Civil War who was later heavily involved in mining, banking, and railroads in western Pennsylvania.
The Great Lakes Historical Society’s mission is to preserve and make known the history of the Great Lakes. We achieve that mission by (1) operating the Inland Seas Maritime Museum and Clarence S, Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library in Vermilion Ohio: (2) publishing our award winning quarterly journal Inland Seas. (3) conducting underwater archaeology through our Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center: (4)offering educational programs to children and adults alike. In 2010, The Great Lakes Historical Society entered into an agreement with the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority to create the National Great Lakes Maritime Museum in Toledo, Ohio which will open in the Spring of 2013.
The S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker will be traveling down the Maumee River to its new home where it will sit next to the New Home for the National Museum of the Great Lakes.
I would like to express my gratitude and send a thank you to the following restoration sponsors. Thanks to you one day I too might be able to tour the S.S. Col James M. Schoonmaker with my grandchildren.