TOLEDO — The National Museum of the Great Lakes announced today the acquisition of Toledo’s second museum ship - the OHIO.
The OHIO is a Lake Class Tugboat formally owned by the Great Lakes Towing Company, which donated the tug to the museum for display at its location on the east bank of the Maumee River. “We are very excited that after almost 30 years, Toledo will have its second museum ship in the form of the tug Ohio. This new attraction will, like the Col. James M. Schoonmaker, become a feature exhibit on the riverfront,” said Christopher Gillcrist, NMGL executive director.
The tug OHIO was built in 1903 as the MFSD No. 15, fire boat owned by the City of Milwaukee. Around 1952, the Great Lakes Towing Company, one of the oldest and most respected marine companies on the Great Lakes, purchased the vessel and operated it as the Laurence Turner before it was renamed in 1973 as the OHIO.
Lake Class Tugs are used for long hauls across the lakes and for wrecking and salvage work. It is thought that the OHIO likely steamed more miles for the Great Lakes Towing Company than any tug in its long history.
“After finally reaching the end of her useful commercial life, we are delighted that the famous Tug OHIO has found a new home at the museum. Built in 1903 as a fireboat, and in our fleet as a key ice breaking tug since 1952, the tug is rich in history with a wonderful story to tell,” said Joseph Starck, Jr., president of the Great Lakes Towing Company.
Gillcrist said that the Tug OHIO will fill a void in the museum’s exhibition program that currently does not adequately explore the importance of tugboats on the Great Lakes.
The donation of the OHIO has been over a year in the making. Paul LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe and the individual responsible for saving the old Willis B. Boyer (rechristened in July 2011 to its original name – the Col. James M. Schoonmaker), played the lead role representing the museum in dialog with the Great Lakes Towing Company.
“People love tug boats. There is a nostalgic draw to them and it is only fitting that one of the most historic tugs in Great Lakes history will accompany the Schoonmaker, while bearing the name of the home state of our museum,” LaMarre said.
Plans for the OHIO include an exterior restoration over the next three to four months with an opening to the public planned for the spring. During the winter months, volunteers will restore the interior portions. The museum may open the tug for visitation to its members and individuals in the community prior to next spring as part of its effort to raise $30,000 towards its restoration.