A Deep Dive into Great Lakes History

Toledo Time Travels  |  By Tedd Long  |  06/21/2019 9:00 am

Anyone intrigued by the Toledo story will no doubt enjoy a few chapters about the Great Lakes. After all, Lake Erie played a significant role in the development of Northwest Ohio and the Port of Toledo lives on today as a major Great Lakes transportation center. It is fitting that the National Museum of the Great Lakes sits on the Maumee River in East Toledo just a short cruise upriver from Lake Erie. With more than 250 artifacts, hundreds of historical photographs and documents, and more than 40 hands-on exhibits, visitors are often pleasantly surprised at how engaging, educational and entertaining a trip to this museum can be.  And that’s just the museum! I highly recommend you pay the extra few dollars and tour the 617-foot, 107-year-old iron-ore freighter, Col. James M. Schoonmaker and the 106-foot Tug Ohio, both permanently moored adjacent to the museum, to get the full effect this venue has to offer.

Unlike the notoriously shallow waters of Lake Erie, the National Museum of the Great Lakes is an extremely deep dive. You can easily spend a day exploring the different galleries and the museum ships. The stories told here go way beyond Great Lakes shipping. They detail the role of the lakes in the social, economic and political history of the United States and Canada. From native inhabitants and fur traders to Underground Railroad operators; rum runners to the modern-day ship captains sailing thousand-footers—the gripping stories of the Great Lakes literally span hundreds of years. The museum’s five galleries focus on Maritime Technology, Exploration and Settlement, Expansion and Industry, Safeguard and Support and Shipwrecks and Survival to seamlessly blend together a wide-ranging experience.

If you decide to visit the museum ships, keep in mind they are not handicap accessible. Narrow, steep staircases are common throughout the Schoonmaker and Tug Ohio and may provide difficulties in accessibility for some. Don’t let that stop you from visiting, the museum is very impressive on its own.

More information for planning your visit are available at www.inlandseas.org.

Plan Your Visit

What: National Museum of the Great Lakes 

Where: 1701 Front Street; Toledo, Ohio 43605; 419-214-5000

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; SS Col. James M. open through October.

For the Kids: Kids will be able to immerse themselves in Great Lakes’ history while also learning about math, science and technological innovation. They can also join the museum’s Capt. Scupper’s Kids Klub. 

Cost: $11 for adults, museum only, or $15 for museum and ship; $10 for seniors, museum only, or $14 for museum and ship; $8 for children 6 to 17, museum only, or $12 for museum and ship; free for members and children 5 and younger.

Parking: Parking is free and located relatively close to the entrance.

For more local history, check out my history blog at www.holytoledohistory.com.