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The S.S. Milwaukee Clipper has a long and distinguished history on the Great Lakes. Erie & Western Transportation Company, better known as Anchor Line, originally commissioned the American Shipbuilding Company of Cleveland, Ohio to build the 361-foot passenger and package freight steamer. The ship was then christened Juniata and her maiden voyage was on December 22, 1904. The Juniata quickly became known as “The Queen of the Great Lakes” giving her passengers a first class experience as they traveled between Buffalo, NY and Duluth, MN. She operated during the 1936 season when she was then retired from service in 1937 due to her outdated wooden superstructure. Shortly after that, Max and Mark McKee of Sand Products Corporation of Muskegon came up with plans for a cross lake service steamer, but the cost of construction was found to be too expensive. They asked a naval architect, George G. Sharpe, to redesign the plans so that an existing ship could be used and purchased the Juniata. Her wooden superstructure was replaced by an all steel streamlined superstructure, the first design of its type, courtesy of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company. The ship was now completely fireproof and sported new amenities including air conditioned state rooms, a children's playroom, movie theatre, and live entertainment with a dance floor. She was rechristened the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper and her maiden voyage to Muskegon was on June 3rd, 1941.The Clipper faithfully carried passengers and automobiles between Muskegon and Milwaukee until 1970. In 1977, she was sold to a Chicago businessman who had proposed to run her for three hour excursions, but could not obtain the certification to do so. She was then renamed the S/S Clipper and moved to Navy Pier in Chicago and became a floating maritime museum and convention facility. In December 1983 the S/S Clipper was listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and in May 1989 was designated a National Historic Landmark. The year 1990 brought around another move for the Clipper to Hammond, Indiana and another renaming back to the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper. In 1996 she was again moved and offered for sale to make room for a new casino boat. At this point the Great Lakes Clipper Preservation Association was formed in 1997 for the sole purpose of preserving the steamer. They were able to obtain ownership on December 2nd, 1997 and returned the steamer to Muskegon. Now the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper is open for tours on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day for a small admissions fee. So come out and enjoy this great piece of Muskegon maritime history!
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