“The State of the Great Lakes” Chris Korleski at Cleveland City Club 7.11.14

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Chris Korleski is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO). GLNPO coordinates U.S. efforts in implementing the goals and objectives of the Canada – U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, working under the strategic framework of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Before coming to GLNPO, Korleski was director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. He also served as counsel to Honda of America Mfg. Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, and was an assistant attorney general in the Ohio Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Section. Korleski earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from The Ohio State University College of Agriculture, and a master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska. He received his law degree from The Ohio State University. Tickets: $18 members/$30 nonmembers

The Great Lakes Water Commission

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The Great Lakes Commission is an interstate compact agency that promotes the orderly, integrated and comprehensive development, use and conservation of the water and related natural resources of the Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence River. Its members include the eight Great Lakes states with associate member status for the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec. Each jurisdiction appoints a delegation of three to five members comprised of senior agency officials, legislators and/or appointees of the governor or premier.

Water System

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

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WATER SYSTEM. The production, purification, and distribution of potable water constitutes a “hidden system” in the infrastructure of the modern city. Until faucets run dry, or reservoirs are exhausted, citizens tend to remain unaware of the nature and condition of the complex technological, social, and political attributes of the water system.

Early settlers in Cleveland were dependent on surface-water supplies from ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, and upon dug wells, the latter becoming more prevalent as population density increased in the early walking city. A town pump on PUBLIC SQUARE is reported to have been in operation in 1812. Ca. 1820 a well existed at Bank (W. 6th) and Superior designated mainly for firefighting. At the same time, “every family had a well; however, Benhu Johnson hauled lake water when droughts set in . . . [for] twenty-five cents for two barrels.” In Jan. 1833 the privately owned Cleveland Water Co. was chartered to supply water for the village, but the city council continued its involvement, allocating $35 in 1840 to sink public wells at PUBLIC SQUARE. By 1852 water was being drawn from springs, wells, canals, and the CUYAHOGA RIVER, with storage cistern-based pumps utilized in the business district for firefighting and public use. A dependable public water system to provide fresh water, together with a sewage system to dispose of the used water, was needed. Both were capital-intensive municipal functions that reflected a growing concern for local public health and the needs of Cleveland’s growing businesses. The city was prosperous enough to acquire the needed financing for a municipal waterworks, and a popular vote (1,230 to 599) in 1853 authorized the city to issue $400,000 in bonds to build it. Water was first brought from Lake Erie in Sept. 1856, via a 50″ boilerplate pipe tunnel extending 300′ into the lake, reaching shore at about W. 58th St. At the same time, the KENTUCKY ST. RESERVOIR at Kentucky (W. 38th) and Prospect (later Franklin) streets was opened to store water pumped by 2 Cornish steam engines, the first west of the Alleghenies. Two distribution mains totaling 44 mi. were established, along with a water fountain on Public Square. By 1864 most of the 75 cisterns placed around the city for firefighting had been supplanted by piped water. Cleveland now had the ability to provide fire protection for the city and make a constant volume of fresh water readily available for residential and business needs. In 1856, the waterworks’ first year of full operation, 127 million gallons of water (38,000 gallons per day) were distributed (in 1900, distribution was about 20 billion gallons–about 5.5 million gallons per day; in 1970, about 129 billion gallons–about 35.3 million gallons per day).

With the advent of piped water, traditional privies, storage cisterns, and other means for disposing of sewage rapidly became inadequate. The first sewer in Cleveland is reported to have been built for surface drainage of Euclid St. in 1856. Two years later a rudimentary sewage system consisting of open drains conveying the wastewater downhill toward the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie was begun. To gain access to fresh water beyond Lake Erie’s polluted shoreline, a new water-intake crib and tunnel were built some 6,600′ offshore in 1874. However, in 1881 city health officials protested that some 25 sewers, factories, oil refineries, and other industries were polluting the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie, source of the city’s drinking water. By that time, 125 mi. of water mains had been completed in Cleveland, and the system’s capacity was about 10 million gallons per day, serving about a third of Cleveland citizens. In the 1880s the original Kentucky St. Reservoir had already become inadequate, requiring the building of the Fairmount and Kinsman reservoirs to service the growing population moving toward the heights east of downtown Cleveland.

To mitigate the growing pollution, the water system extended intakes farther and farther out into Lake Erie, and early in the 20th century finally provided treatment of the raw water. In 1890 a new 7′ diameter, 9,117′ long water inlet tunnel was completed. Yet another 9′ diameter intake tunnel was begun in 1896, extending 26,000′ into the lake, one of the longest in the world at that time; it was completed in 1904 after a considerable loss of life during its construction (see WATERWORKS TUNNEL DISASTERS). The intake structure for this tunnel, which at a distance resembled a freighter, was known as the “5 Mile Crib,” the distance from the actual lake intake to the Kirtland pumping station, built in 1904 at Kirtland St. (E. 49th St.). Seven years later, in 1911, Cleveland introduced water chlorination to reduce the instance of water-borne bacteria, on the recommendation of Drs. Howard Haskins and ROGER G. PERKINS†. Still unfiltered, the water was found unpalatable; in 1915 it was reported that on at least one occasion, thousands of people patronized springs in places such as WADE PARK and ROCKEFELLER PARK, requiring police to keep order. About 1916, the original 6,600′ intake tunnel west of the “5 Mile Crib” was extended about 26,000′ from shore to feed water to the Division Ave. filtration plant, which became operative in 1918. By 1920 the system of water mains had grown to 985 total miles, and it continued to grow in response to Cleveland’s expanded water needs. The Baldwin Filtration Plant on the border of CLEVELAND HEIGHTS was completed in 1925, with a reservoir capacity of more than 135 million gallons, capable of pumping up to 200 million gallons per day (see BALDWIN RESERVOIR). In addition, expansion and alterations begun much earlier on the Kirtland station were completed in 1927, giving Cleveland wholly filtered and chlorinated water.

As a municipal industry, the waterworks was expected to be self-supporting, and improved water quality was expensive; the water system’s debt grew from $1,775,000 in 1886, to $4,266,000 in 1906, and reached $27 million in 1930. Beginning in 1856, charges were levied on water users in the form of a semi-annual flat fee paid by the owner of each dwelling or building, to pay off the bonds issued for construction and expansions. Widespread criticism of poor water quality and inadequate service, however, slowed customer growth until after the turn of the century, when both the quality and delivery of water improved. With the universal introduction of water meters into dwellings by 1908, the amount of water used could be gauged more accurately, producing more equitable customer charges. As a result of the growing customer base, the water debt accumulated from past improvements was easily amortized.

By the 1940s Cleveland’s water system included cribs, 4 lake tunnels, 2 filtration plants (Division Ave. and Baldwin), 3 major pumping stations (Kirtland, Fairmount, and Division), and 2,700 mi. of water mains. During the post-World War II period, a new 3.5-mi., 10′ diameter tunnel was built into the lake to supply water to the new Nottingham Filtration Plant and pumping station in northeast Cleveland. Completed in 1951, the plant had a capacity of about 150 million gallons per day. A fourth, 2.5-mi, 8′ diameter tunnel, completed in 1958, extended northward into Lake Erie from the Crown Filtration Plant inWESTLAKE. The plant had a daily capacity of 50 million gallons, making the nominal capacity of the water system about 225 billion gallons annually. In 1970 the system had over 4,000 mi. of water mains, serving 75 sq. mi. in Cleveland and an additional 450 sq. mi. in Cuyahoga, Medina, Lorain, and Lake counties. Since 1856, when Cleveland’s public water supply was established, annual consumption has increased an average of 12 billion gallons each decade–much of the increase coming in the 20th century. However, between 1970 and 1986 daily water consumption declined from about 545 million gallons to approx. 320 million gallons (about 118 billion gallons annually). Much of the decline may be accounted for by demographic changes and the loss of business and industry from greater Cleveland. The city’s water system, however, had expanded its service area, providing water for Cleveland and 68 surrounding suburbs and municipalities in Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit, and Medina counties in 1986. The system had grown to about 5,800 mi. of water mains, serving some 400,000 accounts.

During the postwar period, purification and filtration continued to be improved. Beginning in 1965, sodium silicofluoride was added to the water to control tooth decay. In 1986, purification processes of settling and filtration were augmented by the use of aluminum sulfate for impurities coagulation, potassium permanganate for oxidation, chlorine for disinfection, and activated carbon for taste and odor control. Although most communities in Cuyahoga, Medina, and Summit counties served by Cleveland’s water system had direct service, CLEVELAND HEIGHTSBEDFORDEAST CLEVELAND, andLAKEWOOD purchased their water in bulk for many years and redistributed it to customers, charging their own water rates. In 1986 this bulk service was extended to Lake County.

Some of Cleveland’s suburbs, dissatisfied with the quality of water service and the high rates charged, initiated lawsuits in the 1970s to regionalize the ownership and management of the system, similar to the NORTHEAST OHIO REGIONAL SEWER DISTRICT, organized in 1972. In order to avoid losing control of the system, the City of Cleveland had to agree to a more equitable formula for setting suburban water rates and undertake a massive program of renovation, rehabilitation, and improvement of the system–a program that in 1982 was projected to cost roughly $918 million. Cost projections were revised regularly as interest rates and projected demand for water changed; for the 1986-92 period, the projected investment in repairs and improvements was calculated at about $380 million. It was expected that the capital-repair and improvements program will extend into the 1990s before completion. Since the water system is a self-supporting utility, funds for the capital-improvement program were acquired through increases in water rates to repay bonds sold for construction purposes. These increases caused some political furor in the city council, however, despite the fact that Cleveland’s water rates remained among the lowest of any major American city.

Willis E. Sibley

Bluestone, Daniel M., ed. Cleveland (1978).

City of Cleveland Water Div. The Cleveland Water Story (ca. 1970).

Fishing Industry in Cleveland

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

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FISHING INDUSTRY. Although Cleveland is situated on a lake that historically ranked among the world’s great fisheries, Clevelanders never looked to Lake Erie as a food source in any major sense. After 1796 the fishery was a marginal commerce, overshadowed by the port’s role as a transportation hub and industrial depot. Four major factors, geography, technology, consumer taste, and chronological coincidence, steered commercial fishermen to other ports on Lake Erie, particularly Sandusky, OH, and Erie, PA. By 1850 the Port of Cleveland looked to the Great Lakes for resources that proved of far greater economic importance than inexpensive protein.

The topography of the Lake Erie shore, high and rockbound from just east of the CUYAHOGA RIVER west to Cedar Point, presents as great a navigational hazard as any stretch of water on the Great Lakes. Only a few river mouths provide safe refuge from the sudden storms. On 19 Apr. 1808, Capt. Joseph Plumb of NEWBURGH, fitted out a sailing scow for a seining expedition. A sudden squall wrecked the boat at Dover Point (BAY VILLAGE), drowning all aboard except Capt. Plumb. Plumb was saved in a daring rescue, but the event exposed the difficulties of offshore fishing from Cleveland. Geography placed the richest fishing grounds at the far ends of the lake. The shallow, warm western basin has always been home to most of the lake’s fish. The deep eastern basin, on which Cleveland is sited, holds comparatively few. Because of its depth, it is not as easily fished as the west. Further, the species available off Cleveland were not as profitable to fishermen as the highly desirable fish of the west. Geography gave Cleveland’s competitors another advantage–both Sandusky and Erie grew beside the only natural harbors on Lake Erie. Sandusky and Presque Isle bays provided both refuge and terrain favorable for early fishing equipment.

The earliest extensive commercial fishing in Ohio began during the 1830s in Sandusky Bay. Its calm, shallow water and abundance of fish permitted simple, inexpensive onshore seining. A seine was a large bag-shaped net carried out on the water by rowboat, dropped overboard, and then dragged ashore. The rocky shore of Cleveland was not appropriate for this operation. When the northern port of the Ohio Canal was awarded to Cleveland it profited indirectly from the fishing industry along the Great Lakes, handling large quantities of fish caught elsewhere for transshipment to Ohio hinterland markets. During the 1850s, commercial fishermen moved out into the main fetch of the lake, significantly increasing their catch. Simultaneously, Cleveland received the first shipment of iron ore from the Marquette Range in 1852. This new traffic further congested the busy river, pushing out less profitable vessels. Still, despite the gathering industrial boom, a real commerce in fish did exist in the FLATS. The wholesale grocers who had transshipped imported fish on the canal had evolved into commission merchants who brokered a variety of commodities. These merchants purchased boatloads of fish from as far away as Lake Superior. They would then pack the fish on ice for local sale, or in salt for transport inland–the latter proved more profitable. W. L. Standart, cited as the most prominent commercial fisherman in Cleveland, operated 2 boats from the city, however, he was also a grocer, commission merchant, and saloon keeper. Clearly, Standart was not the professional lakeman seen in other ports.

Consumer taste also retarded the development of a fishing fleet in Cleveland. Both Native Americans and Europeans pursued the coldwater species of fish, especially whitefish and lake trout. This demand remained constant until those populations declined in the 1930s and 1940s. While found throughout the Great Lakes, neither species was particularly numerous in comparatively warm Lake Erie. With the fishing fleets of the upper lakes supplying the premium fish, and those of Sandusky and Erie providing other needs, Clevelanders chose to invest in fleets of freighters to serve the transportation and steel industries. By the 1860s, the economic role of the Port of Cleveland had been
established. The city would be a consumer, not a producer, of raw resources such as foodstuffs. However, some fishing boats sailed from the Cuyahoga, and processing plants continued to clean and preserve the catch. This marginal commerce would last for many years. In fact, the industry did enjoy some growth in the late 19th century. In 1883, for example, the demand of a booming urban population kept 4 major processing houses and several independent operators profitable. Two of the large firms specialized in ocean fish and shellfish, which had been sold in Cleveland since the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The other 2 handled imported lake fish. The independents generally sold their catch directly to grocers or through the municipal market. John W. Averill, Jr., was typical of the owner-operators of this period. His fleet consisted of 4 steam tugs and 1 sailboat, somewhat smaller than the comparable Sandusky firms. Even so, Averill especially advertised his whitefish and lake trout, indicating that he also imported fish.

In 1899 Chicago-based A. Booth & Co., then the largest fishing company on the lakes, opened a fishing station and processing plant in the Flats. Both (est. 1848) were the first to apply sophisticated management and financial procedures to a rough-and-tumble industry. The company soon had stations on all major fishing grounds and plants in most lake cities. True to form, Booth quickly grew to be the largest commercial fishing company in Cleveland. However, the long decline of the fishery had just begun, and the first evidence of it was the collapse of the lake sturgeon population. Relentless fishing and environmental changes caused by pollution and soil erosion decimated this once-valuable species. The period 1880-1915 regularly saw catches of 40 million lbs. of all varieties in Ohio waters. After that, species after species was subjected to the same pressures that had driven the sturgeon to near-extinction. The waters off Cleveland were particularly affected. Contrary to popular belief, the arrival of the sea lamprey did not cause the decline of the fish populations of Lake Erie; the lamprey does not breed in the warm streams feeding into the lake. By the 1920s, the average yearly catch had fallen to 16 million lbs. The decline of the cisco, or lake herring, accounted for most of this loss, which was extremely damaging to the industry as the cisco had accounted for the bulk of the sales. Some of the older firms went out of business as the industry as a whole grew smaller during the 1920s and 1930s. However, the companies that have survived were founded then. Fulton Fish, Euclid Fish, and State Fish all began
as fleet owners and processors. The industry was unionized during the 1930s, which drove up wages and costs; World War II drafted every available sailor into the armed forces, leaving only 1 boat operating out of Cleveland; and postwar consumer taste turned increasingly to beef. By 1950 only 7 boats sailed from the port. Cleveland was not the only city so affected, the industry was withering throughout the Great Lakes.

The nature of the lakes’ ecosystem was changing because of human action. Commercially valuable fish were vanishing, to be replaced by “rough” fish such as carp and smelt, which flourished despite the habitat degradation. Environmental factors, so pronounced in overutilized Lake Erie, culminated in a single great ecological catastrophe; the mayfly hatch of 1954 failed. The loss of this food source was disastrous for fish populations. The number of sauger, blue pike, walleye, and perch plummeted. Moreover, the mayflies served as an environmental indicator. Polluted and oxygen-depleted, Lake Erie increasingly could not sustain life, and this general collapse finished several companies. In 1955 Booth closed its Cleveland station; Star Fisheries, the predecessor to the State Fish Co., occupied their property in the Flats, and lean years followed. In the absence of pollution controls, the lake was increasingly fouled, and the boats departed Cleveland for more promising waters. In 1970, when Governor James Rhodes was forced to suspend fishing because of mercury contamination, only 1 boat, Fred Wittal’s Shark, was left on the river. By 1973, even it was gone. Nevertheless, the abandonment of Cleveland as a fishing harbor did not mean an end to its fish-processing industry. The surviving companies continued to import and distribute fish from the ocean and upper lakes. Prospects brightened in the 1970s as pollution control stemmed the habitat degradation. Fish stocks first stabilized, then grew. Although demand for fish increased, spurred by a cholesterol-conscious society, the fishing industry did not revive because the lucrative tourist industry lobbied for restrictions on the lakemen. Recreational fishermen, arguing that overfishing was responsible for the depletion of the stocks, met increasing success in Columbus, and strict netting regulations were applied. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources instituted a phased ban on gill nets in 1983, which became complete in 1985. Fishermen sold their equipment and quit the industry. By the late 1980s, the majority of lake fish consumed by Clevelanders were caught across the lake in Canada.

Michael McCormick

Western Reserve Historical Society

Lake Transportation

From the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

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LAKE TRANSPORTATION. The Great Lakes transportation industry has had a major impact on Cleveland, and conversely, the city has played a significant role in its development over the years. The south shore of Lake Erie provides the outlet for many rivers; historically, a town developed at the mouth of most of them. Only 3–Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo–emerged as major cities, with water transportation as the focus. For all 3, the catalyst was canal construction, with each serving as a terminal point. Although the inception of the railroad allowed other communities along Lake Erie’s shore to compete with Cleveland for lake navigation business, the city’s strategic location led to the development of a thriving shipbuilding industry. With the advent of large-scale steel manufacturing and its accompanying demand for large capital investment, lake transportation became more specialized. Dockside equipment and specially designed ships capable of handling heavy bulk commodities such as iron ore and coal were introduced. Thus, the historical relationship between the Great Lakes maritime industry and the local Cleveland scene experienced 3 relatively distinct stages.

The first 4 decades of lake transportation in Cleveland (ca. 1800-40) were typical of the lake trade generally. Even though the steamboat made its first appearance off the mouth of the CUYAHOGA RIVER in 1818, there was no noticeable impact until better harbor facilities were built. For another decade Cleveland remained largely a way port for the sidewheel steamers running between Buffalo and Detroit. The town basically was serviced by small 2-masted schooners, some of them locally built. They ranged in size from 44′ to 90′ in length, the size of a modern tugboat or good-sized yacht. Their trade was locally oriented; they brought manufactured products to the community and took on locally grown produce for their outbound cargo. Many schooners were owned on a percentage basis by local merchants and forwarding agents in consortium with their counterparts in Buffalo. Prominent among Clevelanders in this role were Charles M. Giddings and Noble Merwin.

In 1841 the Ericsson screw propeller Vandalia revolutionized lake steam navigation; the propeller wheel, located at the stern, pushed the ship through the water. The steam propeller, relatively cheap to build and to operate, had several advantages. It carried an increased payload, was more maneuverable, and was of a shallow draft, satisfying the physical limitations imposed by Cleveland’s undeveloped river and lakefront harbor conditions. All of these characteristics tied in nicely with the warehouses, grain elevators, and other docks built along the banks of the Cuyahoga and the Old River Bed to accommodate the prosperous canal years. The screw propeller also made the steam tug feasible, which meant schooners could be towed through the narrow river entrance, along the winding river, past other vessels lying at docks, to their destination.

With the added benefit of strong stands of white oak in central and southern Ohio, the Forest City became one of the leading wooden-shipbuilding centers on the Great Lakes, rivaling even Buffalo. Large numbers of both sailing vessels and propellers were built in Cleveland. Production of new ships during the period 1846-70 was influenced by 3 factors: rising freight rates, particularly in the grain trade; construction of railroad-owned lake fleets to serve as connecting links in transporting passengers and freight; and the replacement of ships in the lake fleets when disasters caused extensive losses. The emergence of Cleveland as a shipbuilding center, along with its advantage as a canal terminus and, ultimately, the north-south railroad connection to southern Ohio coal fields, ushered in the prosperous lake-shipping period that followed the end of the Civil War.

The exploitation of the iron-mining districts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in the 1860s through the 1880s made Cleveland the “hub” of the Great Lakes maritime industry, previously dominated by Buffalo and Chicago with their extensive grain interests. During the late 1840s and 1850s, 4 Cleveland firms and their predecessors were pioneers in this development. The CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC.PICKANDS MATHER & CO.M. A. HANNA CO., and the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. (later American Steel & Wire) brought the steel-manufacturing industry to Cleveland. The complete regional bulk transportation industry, which included loading and unloading docks, river and harbor improvements, shipyards, fleets of specially designed bulk freighters, and RAILROADS required huge capital expenditures. All were necessary to transport iron ore, coal, and limestone from the mines to the steel plants in the most cost-efficient manner possible.

In 1869 the Cleveland shipbuilding firm of Peck & Masters built the first ship designed specifically for the iron-ore trade, the 211-ft. wooden-propeller R. J. Hackett, with the pilothouse at the bow, followed a year later by a schooner barge, the Forest City. During the same period, Clevelander Robert Wallace, of Wallace, Pankhurst & Co., built a portable steam engine to assist in unloading iron ore along the docks lining the Old River Bed, replacing horses and cutting the time in half. A 400-ton cargo now could be unloaded in 1 day. By 1880 federal harbor-improvement appropriations dramatically improved Cleveland’s facilities, as a west breakwall was built into the lake to protect the river entrance from prevailing northwesterly winds and waves. In that same year, Cleveland docks received over 750,000 tons of iron ore. Clevelander Alexander E. Brown devised an improved hoisting machine that enabled the heavy ore to be unloaded directly from ship to railroad cars or to dock storage areas. By the late 1890s, the Hulett ore unloader had been introduced (see GEORGE H. HULETT† and ). With each innovation, the turnaround time was significantly reduced for ships, enabling them to head back up the chain of lakes for more cargo.

A river and harbors act, passed by Congress in 1892, guaranteed a 20′ channel from Duluth to Buffalo. By that time, Cleveland had added a central breakwall and had nearly completed an east leg to provide protection for the growing maritime trade of the city. By 1890 Cleveland also was well established as a principal builder of steel-hulled ships. Robert Wallace and his associates, owners of the Globe Iron Works, formed Globe Shipbuilding in 1880. In 1882 the Globe Works launched the iron-hulled Onoko, the prototype for the Great Lakes ore fleet, and 4 years later they built the first steel-hulled bulk carrier on the lakes, the Spokane. That same year, 1886, Cleveland ore receipts exceeded 1 million tons. The closest rival in the ore trade was Ashtabula, whose rail connections fed the steel centers of the Mahoning Valley. Between 1886-90 the number of steel-hulled ships jumped from 6 to 68–most were owned by Cleveland-based shipping companies.

Very early in this movement MARCUS A. HANNA† began the Cleveland Transportation Co., and Hanna Co. owned or operated vessels in the ore and coal trades up to the 1980s. As a sign of the times, the Vermilion, OH, trio of shipbuilders/vessel owners Philip Minch, Isaac Nicholas, and Alva Bradley moved their operations to Cleveland during the early 1880s, investing in steel-shipbuilding companies and steel-hulled ships. From that evolved the Kinsman Marine Transit Co. (See AMERICAN SHIP BUILDING CO.). Other prominent independent vessel owners and operators, each of which controlled several ships by 1900, were the WILSON TRANSIT CO., Gilchrist Transportation Co., Hawgood Transit, the Corrigan interests, Bessemer Steamship Co., Pittsburgh Steamship Co., Bradley Transit Co., and HUTCHINSON AND CO. Thus the pattern was established that lasted until after World War II. Steel-hulled ships replaced wooden ones, and sailing ships disappeared. Corporate mergers occurred, names changed, and new companies appeared. But Cleveland remained the center of the Great Lakes bulk transportation industry.

At the same time as the ore trade increased in Cleveland, so too did the shipping of bituminous coal. Coal often meant a return cargo for vessels heading back up the lakes, especially to Milwaukee and Lake Superior ports. From 1890-1945 Cleveland averaged annual shipments of over 1 million tons of coal, most of it transported in Cleveland-owned hulls. Until shortly after the turn of the century, another important commodity to Cleveland marine operations was the receipt of lumber from the upper lakes. Although Cleveland could not compete with Tonawanda, NY, as a lumber port, it reached its zenith in 1892 by receiving over 7 million board feet. After that, the trade dropped off rapidly as the timber resources disappeared.

The Detroit & Cleveland Steam Navigation Co. inaugurated regular overnight passenger service between Detroit and Cleveland in 1869. It lasted until 1951. The huge sidewheel steamers were a familiar and popular sight, first as they docked near the old Main St. bridge over the Cuyahoga River, and later at the elaborate terminal constructed on the lakefront at E. 9th St. The CLEVELAND & BUFFALO TRANSIT CO., incorporated in 1892, also operated sidewheelers–to Buffalo, Toledo, the Lake Erie islands, and Cedar Point until it ceased operations in 1939, the victim of the automobile.

As the Great Lakes shipping industry became more organized and centralized in Cleveland, the city also became the regional headquarters of various support organizations. In 1880 the Cleveland Vessel Owners Assn. was formed to protect and to promote the interests of the shipping companies, evolving into theLAKE CARRIERS ASSN. in 1892. The U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, covering all of the Great Lakes, has its headquarters in Cleveland, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also maintains a depot at the foot of E. 9th St.

The period following World War II has seen many changes in the Great Lakes shipping business. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, and many agents maintained offices in Cleveland. The appearance of the lakefront docks changed as warehouses and coal docks were dismantled to make way for other dock facilities to better serve the ocean-going vessels. The lake’s transportation industry underwent dramatic changes because of restructuring in the steel industry. Iron ore shipments dropped dramatically in the 1970s. Several fleets disappeared, including those operated by M. A. Hanna and Cleveland-Cliffs. The last of Cliffs’ vessels is now a museum ship docked at the E. 9th St. Pier (see STEAMSHIP WILLIAM G. MATHER MUSEUM). Others in the 1980s reduced the number of vessels in operation. The increase in size of lake vessels offset some of the reduction in numbers of ships. Diesel-powered 1000-footers were built at nearby Lorain shipyards and elsewhere. These vessels were much too long and wide (105′) to navigate the Cuyahoga River. Smaller vessels of 600-700′ now carry iron ore to the modernized LTV Steel mills. Economic recovery by 1994 resulted in the movement of 115 million tons of cargo on the Great Lakes by the 58 U.S. flagged ships–the highest total since 1988. Stone, cement, coal, and iron ore remain mainstays of waterborne transportation in Cleveland. The GREAT LAKES TOWING CO., incorporated in 1899, once held a near monopoly on lake towing. The company operates a repair yard on WHISKEY ISLAND. Four Hulett unloaders stand at the adjacent Cleveland and Pittsburgh ore dock, no longer in operation because self-unloading vessels replaced the older, “straight deckers.” Revival of the traffic in bulk cargo, primarily iron ore, has kept Cleveland at the heart of the transportation industry on the Great Lakes.

Richard J. Wright (dec.)

Timothy J. Runyan

Cleveland State Univ.

Havighurst, Walter. The Long Ships Passing (1972).

Thompson, Mark L. Steamboats and Sailors of the Great Lakes (1991).


Alliance for the Great Lakes Website

The link is here

About Alliance for the Great Lakes

The Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest independent organization devoted 100 percent to the Great Lakes. Our professional staff works with scientists, policymakers, businesses, community groups and everyday citizens to protect and restore the world’s largest surface freshwater resource.

From forging forward-looking Great Lakes policies to promoting Great Lakes education to on-the-ground efforts to improve thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline, we’ve been out front and behind the scenes caring for the lakes since 1970.

Alliance for the Great Lakes Website

The link is here

About Alliance for the Great Lakes

The Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest independent organization devoted 100 percent to the Great Lakes. Our professional staff works with scientists, policymakers, businesses, community groups and everyday citizens to protect and restore the world’s largest surface freshwater resource.

From forging forward-looking Great Lakes policies to promoting Great Lakes education to on-the-ground efforts to improve thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline, we’ve been out front and behind the scenes caring for the lakes since 1970.