BGSU Magazine Summer 2009

Living the good life aboard Great Lakes icon

BGSU collection helps couple convert scrapped freighter to summer home

It was love at first sight.

The moment Marc and Jill Vander Meulen laid eyes on the battered old Great Lakes cement-carrier–back in the fall of 2003–they knew they wanted to make the rusting, 80-year-old steamship freighter part of their lives.

And they did.

Moving swiftly, they bought the forward decks of the 350-foot-long vessel for scrap value from the scrappers who were about to cut her to pieces … and then they had the structure loaded onto a barge and towed to the rocky beachfront that flanks their summer cottage on the edge of Michigan’s mighty Lake Huron.

Soon, if all goes well, this remarkable husband-and-wife ship-salvaging team will be living part time in the “forward house” of the venerable Lewis G. Harriman–a hard-working, boiler-driven freight-hauler that spent more than 70 years lugging tons of cement back and forth across the Great Lakes.

Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

According to current archivist Robert Graham, who’s been managing the collections since 1989, “There’s no doubt that people all around the world are eager to learn more about the Great Lakes and Great Lakes shipping. In recent years, we’ve been getting more than 50,000 hits a month on our Web site database for vessels, for example. Our databases are easy to use, and they’re a great way to look up material on some of the great ships and ports that have played such a major role in Great Lakes shipping.

“This September we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary, and our holdings are used daily by BGSU students and faculty along with authors and scholars from all around the world. In recent years, we’ve also contributed materials to the Smithsonian Institution and other museums–and even to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which recently drew on some of our materials for a radio program on the Great Lakes.”

Visit the collection here