National Museum of the Great Lakes adds tugboat to Toledo campus

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is adding a tugboat, fittingly named the Ohio.

Great Lakes Towing Co. donated the tug to the Toledo museum, which tells the story of the five lakes, and how critical they are to the economic and political history of North America. Paul LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe, helped arrange the donation.

The 106-foot-long ship was built 1903 as a Milwaukee fireboat named the Laurence Turner and later converted to a tug. It was “Lake Class,” assigned to long hauls across the Great Lakes, plus ice breaking and wrecking and salvage work since 1952. The towing company believes it’s traveled more miles than any of its other ships.

“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,” said Joseph Starck Jr., president of the Great Lakes Towing Co. “The tug is rich in history with a wonderful story to tell.”

The tug’s exterior will be restored over the next three to four months, with a planned public opening for next spring. During the winter, volunteers will restore the interior. The total cost is expected to be $30,000.

The tug will eventually be secured in front of the museum’s freighter, SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker, in the Maumee River.

The $12 million museum opened in 2011 inside the Toledo Maritime Center, built in 2008 in an attempt to attract cruise ships and passenger ferry service. It replaces a smaller version in Vermilion.

The museum’s 619-foot-long Schoonmaker was the biggest ship on the Great Lakes when it debuted in 1911. LaMarre helped arrange the Schoonmaker donation to the museum.

The museum artifacts span centuries of maritime history, including a piece of the famed USS Niagara, the ship that won the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, and a life raft from the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in Lake Superior during a 1975 storm.

Executive Director Christopher Gillcrist said the museum is very excited to have a second museum ship.

“The Ohio is not our largest artifact, but tugboats have always had a special place in people’s hearts and we are proud to bring this icon to Toledo.”