Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle

August 2008: Volume 27, Number 2

Feature: Seminar--Researching African American History | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

Images from the HCGL--Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company

This issue of the Archival Chronicle Gallery features images from the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.

The Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, part of the Center for Archival Collections at BGSU has recently acquired a large collection of historical materials from the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Illinois.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company's operations span the period between 1890 and the present day. The company has played a major role in creating shorelines and waterways through both its dredging and construction activities. Through this period, Great Lakes has grown to be the largest dredging contractor in the U.S., and a major international competitor.

Founded in 1890 as the partnership of William A. Lydon and Fred C. Drews, Lydon & Drews' first project was construction of an off-shore tunnel to extend the water intake at Chicago Avenue to a new intake farther out in Lake Michigan. The company experienced tremendous expansion in the 1890s, growing in Chicago and opening satellite operations in virtually every major city on the Great Lakes.

In 1905, the company changed its name to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company. The company's assets had expanded to include thirteen dredges and ten tugboats. Projects involving dredging, pile-driving, construction of foundations, bridges, breakwaters and lighthouses were completed in Chicago, as well as in other Great Lakes cities such as Toledo, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Sault Ste. Marie, and Ashtabula.

Chicago Headquarters and Projects

  Chicago & Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company Letterhead

The letterhead above dates from 1903.  In 1905, the company changed its name to "Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.," to reflect the wider geographical scope of its work.

Look Left  Chicago.  Michigan Avenue Bridge in action, 1922

Although the company expanded far beyond Chicago in the twentieth century, it continued to work on major projects in the city.  The company built the foundation and the approaches for the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The landmark Wrigley Building can be seen in the background.

Marine Construction in the Great Lakes and Beyond

Look Left Albany, New York, 1914

After a successful dredging project in Boston Harbor, GLD & D secured additional contracts for work beyond the Great Lakes.

Construction of Davis Lock, 1912-1913 Look Right

The locks at Sault Ste. Marie (commonly referred to as the Soo Locks) are a vital link in the Great Lakes waterborne transportation system.  The construction of the Davis Lock was a major expansion for the system and enhanced GLD & D’s reputation.

Breakwaters Preserve Harbors

Look Left  Cleveland Breakwater, 1907

A breakwater is a structure designed to protect a harbor from wave energy or to deflect currents which might interfere with navigation.


Ashtabula, Ohio Breakwater, 1907   Look Right

A staple of the company’s work has involved harbor improvements and expansion.  Ashtabula and Cleveland have long been significant maritime commercial centers where harbor improvements are critical to the infrastructure of the Great Lakes transportation system.

A Variety of Projects, a Variety of Equipment

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1920   Look Right

Site work for the Milwaukee Sewage Disposal System in 1920.   

Look Left  Hydraulic Dredge MINNESOTA, 1916

This hydraulic dredge is an example of the specialized vessels required for the various projects undertaken by GLD & D.

The above images are a small sample of various projects completed by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. in the first half of the twentieth century. For more information on the collection contact:

Bob Graham, Archivist

Feature: Seminar--Researching African American History | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage