DOUGLAS, Mich. (WOOD) - Saugatuck and Douglas will soon lose one of their most recognizable historic landmarks. The SS Keewatin will soon leave the mooring that it has called home for 45 years.
A group in Canada has purchased the 104 year old steam ship and intends to preserve it at a port in Ontario.
"The whole idea is to insure the boat remains in original condition into the future," said owner Roland J. Peterson.
In 1967, Peterson brought the SS Keewatin to the dock in Douglas, where it has rested ever since. The ship's sailing days were long past and Peterson wanted to preserve her so future generations could witness a piece of Great Lakes history.
The ship's original owner was the Canadian Pacific Railway. The company used her for almost 60 years.
Once the standard in Victorian luxury, the Keewatin is today much the way she was at her 1907 christening -- but her age is showing.
Peterson has welcomed visitors aboard his floating museum for 45 years. It will be difficult for him to watch the SS Keewatin leave the dock, but he does not think it is the worst thing that could happen to the vessel.
"What I don't want to watch is her deteriorate. Being 85, I am getting a little long in the tooth for the paint brush trick," said Peterson.
Peterson said that boats like the SS Keewatin were integral to the shipping and travel industry in the early 1900s.
"I don't think they had a railroad through here -- it was really rocky. So these boats would take passengers up to here at Port William and then bring back passengers and grain to Port McNicoll," explained Peterson.
Recently, a preservation group from Port McNicoll, Ontario secured the funding to move and refurbish the SS Keewatin.
The agreement also covers the dredging that will be needed to tow the boast out of here, leaving behind a newly dredged lake that may help grow the marina.
Peterson said the best thing he can do now is make sure that the SS Keewatin ends up in good hands for the next generation.
Peterson said that he's going to miss seeing the ship in its customary place, "but I am going to miss breathing one day soon, too."
"It's called planning ahead, I guess. You have to think about the ship itself. There would be a point where we couldn't keep up with the maintenance and that wouldn't be good."
The museum on the SS Keewatin will close Oct. 15.
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