Greater Detroit anchor raised from Detroit River after 60 years resting at the bottom

Greater Detroit anchor to be raised out of river
Greater Detroit anchor to be raised out of river
Posted at 11:21 AM, Nov 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-15 18:28:07-05

For six decades, a piece of Michigan history has rested beneath the surface of the Detroit River.

On Tuesday, a group raised a 6,000 pound anchor that once belonged to the SS Greater Detroit. The anchor was lifted, and cleaned. Soon it will be taken to a museum for the foreseeable future.

A crew working with the Great Lakes Maritime Institute brought a special barge equipped with a crane to hoist the anchor from the floor of the river. The process, which has been planned for some time, took several hours.

“I was a kid when the boats were sitting idle,” explained William Worden, one of the local volunteers who has followed nautical history in Detroit for several decades.

Worden came to the Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit to witness the anchor being removed from the water after sitting at the riverbed floor for 60 years, but he noted that it’s history stretches back even further.

“It’s a connection to another time, it was an extreme boom time,” said Worden.  “It was a roaring 20s type of thing.”

The SS Greater Detroit was built in the 1920s. At that time, the company that built the steamship was so prosperous it built the ship with cash on-hand. The boat cost more than $3 million at the time, an amount equal to nearly $50 million today.

The SS Greater Detroit was a 536-foot long ship. It's one of the largest side-wheel steamers ever built. In its heyday, it was considered a "floating palace."

Worden said the ship is also important because of who built it.

Frank Kirby, known to many as the designer of the beloved Boblo boats, designed the SS Greater Detroit and it’s sister-ship.  The massive side-wheeler passenger steamships are considered some of his most important designs.
While the automotive history of Detroit is well-documented, fewer people know about Detroit’s place in maritime history. Kirby is still considered one of the greatest naval architects to have ever lived.

“Anything that reminds us that we have that distinction, even if it’s a small thing like an anchor, is a worthwhile endeavor,” said Worden.

The anchor is one of the final remaining pieces of the SS Greater Detroit.  It was towed to Lake St. Clair in the late 1950s and burned.  It was a common practice to strip large ships down quickly to allow scrappers easier access to the steel hull of ships.

The anchor was brought to the surface late Tuesday. A group is already raising funds to ensure he anchor has a proper display at the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority office. The display is meant to promote the area's maritime heritage.