Video Vault: Steamship William Mather moves to Cleveland in 1988

Ship carried lake cargo for 55 years

CLEVELAND - The steamship William G. Mather carried coal and iron ore throughout the Great Lakes for 55 years before being retired in 1980.

The 618-foot-long ship now sits behind the Great Lakes Science Center and is operated as a museum.

Between being taken out of service in 1980 for economic reasons, too small to carry profitable cargo and too expensive to run, and opening as a museum in 1991, the Mather’s fate was, in nautical terms, listing badly.

According to the Great Lakes Science Center’s website, it sat in Toledo until the Cleveland-Cliffs company donated it to the Great Lakes Historical Society in late 1987.

In October 1988, WEWS reporter Bill Younkin took a tour of the lake freighter just days after in moved to Collision Bend on the Cuyahoga River behind Tower City.

Parts of the ship, such as the bridge and crew quarters, were in great shape, other areas were damaged badly. A fire damaged the galley and dining area.

In the story in our video player, Younkin says it will take $500,000 to $700,000 to restore the ship to its 1925 glory. He adds the ship will be moved to the East Ninth Street Pier and open for tours in 1989. That projection turned out to be a bit too optimistic.

The ship moved to Ninth Street in 1990 and relocated slightly westward to its current home behind the science center in 2005.

William Gwinn Mather (1857-1951) ran Cleveland-Cliffs for 50 years.

Print this article Back to Top