Frequently Asked Questions

Q.

Why save the J.B. Ford?

A.

The J.B. Ford is a survivor.  She survived those terrible storms early in her career, she survived obsolescence and near-certain scrapping in the 1950s to go onto a new career as a cement carrier, and she survived the end of her active career in the 1980s to find a useful role as a storage vessel. In the process, what was once a humble workhorse of the Lakes has become a time capsule of early 20th century marine architecture, from the graceful lines of her hull to her interior woodwork and vintage steam machinery. Over the years she received modifications that kept her profitable, but for the most part these were an additive process rather than a subtractive one.  The J.B. Ford of today is still very recognizable as the Edwin F. Holmes of 1904, her historic character remains very much intact. She also has an amazing story to tell, a rich and colorful history that begs to be told not through the pages of a book or a website, but through the visceral experience of walking her decks. She is a monument to those who perished in the 1913 and 1905 storms, and to the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that saw the United States grow into an industrial powerhouse.  Today, she is once again facing an uncertain future.  We at the Great Lakes Steamship Society believe that she deserves a fighting chance, to do once again what she has done so many times before in her 108-year history: to survive.

Q.

Who owns the J.B. Ford?

A.

The Ford is currently owned by LaFarge Cement. She was last used as a storage barge in 2008, and is now laid up idle and awaiting disposition. We are in discussions with LaFarge about the possibility of having the vessel donated to the Great Lakes Steamship Society.  So far, they have been receptive to our ideas, but there are important details that remain to be worked out.  Other possibilities include a partial purchase/partial donation, or outright purchase of the vessel.

Q.

Where will the J.B. Ford go when GLSS gains ownership?

A.

The Ford will become a floating museum in a Great Lakes port city.  We have been in discussions with several cities and other organizations with an eye to finding a permanent homeport for the ship once we acquire her.  Perhaps the most promising of these is Alpena, Michigan, her longtime homeport as well as home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary where the sunken wreck of her near-sistership Etruria lies.  In addition to being a tourist draw for Alpena, the Ford could be a valuable resource for divers planning dives to the Etruria and other wrecks of similar vintage, and cross-promotion between the preserved J.B. Ford and the Marine Sanctuary could be beneficial to both.  Discussions are ongoing, but as of yet no firm commitment has been made.

Q.

What can I do to help?

A.

Visit our Support page to learn more about GLSS membership, donations, pledges, outreach, and merchandise.

Q.

Where is the J.B. Ford now?

A.

The Ford is laid up at the Municipal Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. Please note that the dock is private property and it is NOT open for visitors. However, the ship can be viewed from the public road along Connors Point, and from across the harbor on Park Point.

Q.

What happens if GLSS does not succeed in saving the Ford?

A.

We have identified several other vessels that would also be worthy of preservation if we are unsuccessful in gaining ownership of the J.B. Ford.  Members and donors will be updated on our progress, and will be given the option of having donations refunded if they do not wish to support the preservation of an alternative vessel.