The closing of the Great Lakes Engineering Works, River Rouge Facility, in the early '60's created an opportunity for a small group of Great Lakes Steel employees. Great Lakes Steel owned the property where the Works had been located, which included several slips or channels for the construction and repair of large ships.
The company needed the land near Belanger Park, which was currently being used as a boat club, for the completion of their new 80" Hot Strip Mill complex. The company offered a portion of the Great Lakes Engineering Works site in exchange for the old boat club property.
With Management's approval, a small group of employees incorporated the Great Lakes Steel Boat Club in January 196x. From the humble beginnings of a few wooden docks with a trailer for an office, the club grew steadily through the years.
The boat club, from its very beginnings has been a volunteer working club. Over the years, nearly all of the club projects were built by our members after working hours. The inside building projects were done mainly during the winter months. Most of the outdoor projects were done on launch weekends and the weeks following.
Construction of the clubhouse began in 1968 and was completed in 1972. In the meantime, docks were added on the south side.
The tennis courts were completed in 1974.
New docks were started for the North side in 1975 and completed in 1976. That same year a kitchen addition was begun for the clubhouse and the South Side dock improvement work was started. The kitchen was finished in 1978.
The new front seawall was started in 1979 and completed in 1980, the same year the pilothouse was positioned.
Gasoline dock reconstruction was started in 1982 and finished in 1983 along with the pilothouse.
Another clubhouse addition, which included a new main room, kitchen, and storage room was started in 1986 and completed in 1989.
An additional strip of land on the South side was also acquired in 1989.
The new restroom/shower and garage facility was started in 1990 and completed in 1991.
A new building for the gasoline dock attendant was completed in 1992 and the strip of land along the South Side was graded and landscaped.
The clubhouse was air conditioned in 1994 and the road in front of the North Side docks was paved in 1995.
All this progress in such a short period of time is remarkable and a tribute to the efforts of the members.
The club is special in another way too. While it still existed, the Great Lakes Engineering Works built and launched a number of large ore carriers. In June 1958, they launched what was at that time the largest and most modern ore carrier in existence.
This motor vessel was to sail the Great Lakes over 17 years until Nov. 10, 1975 when she suddenly disappeared near Whitefish Point in Lake Superior during a violent storm. As news of her sinking spread rapidly in the following days, the Rector of the Mariners Church in Detroit was moved to ring the church bell 29 times, one for each man aboard the vessel.
A young Canadian songwriter/singer, Gordon Lightfoot heard the news of the tragic sinking and the rector's actions and was inspired to set this tragic episode to music. What resulted was "THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD", his impression of the last hours during the storm before sinking. The song became an international hit and is heard even today when November comes once more. As a consequence, the Fitzgerald went on to become the most famous of all Great Lakes shipwrecks.
In 1985, the Great Lakes Steel Boat Club erected a monument near the river to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Fitzgerald's sinking. Later, the new main room of the clubhouse was dedicated as the Edmund Fitzgerald.
A special thanks to Jack Berry for passing this on.