Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

6 miles southeast of Kenosha in Lake Michigan

National or State Register of Historic Places
6 miles southeast of Kenosha in Lake Michigan | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Wisconsin Shipwreck
Reference Number:09000820
Location (Address):6 miles southeast of Kenosha in Lake Michigan
Wisconsin Shipwreck
Lake Michigan, Kenosha County
Builders: Frank Kirby, Detroit Dry Dock Company Dates of construction: 1881, 1909

Six miles southeast of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the 204-foot iron package steamer Wisconsin lies in 125 feet of water. Built in 1881 at the Detroit Dry Dock Company in Wyandotte, Michigan, the wreck of the Wisconsin is one of only a handful of iron steamers in Wisconsin waters. The Wisconsin foundered due to an unknown leak during a violent storm in October 1929, and today her lower hull lies upright and mostly intact on the lakebed.

The Wisconsin is representative of early iron hulled ship construction. She was the first iron vessel on the Great Lakes constructed with a double bottom and a movable water ballast system, and an iron forefoot capable of riding up on and crushing ice to allow year round navigation on Lake Michigan. During her 48 years of service, the Wisconsin served Lake Michigan¿s cross lake freight trade under many names- Wisconsin, Naomi, E.G. Crosby, and Pilgrim, before returning to the name Wisconsin. She also briefly served as a convalescent hospital ship named General Robert M. O¿Reilly during WWI.

The Wisconsin allows historians, archaeologists, and divers the rare opportunity to examine early metal ship construction on the Great Lakes, early examples of modern ship design such as double hulls, and a movable water ballast system. In addition to her unique construction features, the Wisconsin represents a vessel type that has little representation in Wisconsin¿s collection of well-preserved shipwrecks ¿ the package steamer. Designed to run regular year-round scheduled routes between Lake Michigan cities, the Wisconsin sank with a cargo that represents a cross section of the everyday goods used in the early twentieth-century life that remains well-preserved in her intact hold. Much of our understanding of this vessel type and her unique construction features lies on the lakebed and comes from archaeological data recovered from the wreck site.

More information on Wisconsin's historic shipwrecks may be found by visiting Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks website.

Period of Significance:1881-1929
Area of Significance:Archeology/Historic - Non-Aboriginal
Area of Significance:Commerce
Area of Significance:Engineering
Area of Significance:Maritime History
Applicable Criteria:Architecture/Engineering
Applicable Criteria:Information Potential
Historic Use:Transportation: Water-Related
Architectural Style:Other
Resource Type:Site
Architect:Detroit Dry Dock Company
Architect:Kirby, Frank
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:10/07/2009
State Register Listing Date:04/17/2009
Number of Contributing Buildings:0
Number of Contributing Sites:1
Number of Contributing Structures:0
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:1
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:0
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

National Register of Historic Places Citation
National Register of Historic Places, "Historic Name", "Town", "County", "State", "Reference Number".

Have Questions?

If you didn't find the National Register listing you were looking for or have other questions about the National Register, please email us and we can help: