Shipping and Submarines on the Great Lakes

By Leslie Cade, Host Committee member

The Great Lakes transportation industry has had a major impact on Cleveland, and conversely, the city has played a significant role in its development. Many rivers flow to the south shore of Lake Erie. Historically, a town developed at the mouth of most of them. Only three – Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo – emerged as major cities, with water transportation as the focus. For all three, the catalyst was canal construction, with each serving as a terminal point. By the late twentieth century, 115 million tons of cargo were shipped on the Great Lakes by 58 U.S. flagged ships. Stone, cement, coal, and iron ore remain mainstays of waterborne transportation in Cleveland, and the revival of the traffic in bulk cargo, primarily iron ore, has kept Cleveland at the heart of the transportation industry on the Great Lakes.

You can learn about shipping on the Great Lakes at the steamship William G. Mather, flagship of the Cleveland-Cliffs steamship company, now a floating museum berthed at the East Ninth Street Pier right next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

“A Stern Look” at the William G. Mather, with Cleveland in the background (photo courtesy of Laszlo Ilyes via Flickr, creative commons license)

You can also experience life on a World War II submarine with a visit to the U.S.S. Cod, a GATO class fleet submarine named for the world’s most important food fish, just east of the William G. Mather.  The sub’s five diesel engines were built by the General Motor’s Cleveland diesel plant on the city’s west side. After being decommissioned from active service, the Cod served as a naval reserve training vessel until being reactivated as a museum in 1976. It achieved National Historic Landmark status in 1986.  The Cod is the only U.S. submarine on display with its original stairways and doors so be prepared for a real submarine experience!

U.S.S. Cod (photo courtesy of Cliff via Flickr, creative commons license)
U.S.S. Cod (photo courtesy of Cliff via Flickr, creative commons license)

Enjoy some of the other maritime sites in Ohio while you’re here!