Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

Six miles east of Sturgeon Bay Canal, Lake Michigan

National or State Register of Historic Places
Six miles east of Sturgeon Bay Canal, Lake Michigan | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:Lakeland Shipwreck (Steam Screw)
Reference Number:15000403
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):Six miles east of Sturgeon Bay Canal, Lake Michigan
County:Door
City/Village:Sturgeon Bay
Township:
SUMMARY
Lakeland Shipwreck (Steam Screw)
Six miles east of Sturgeon Bay Canal, Lake Michigan
Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin
Launched: 1886
Sank: 1924

The Lakeland represents multiple eras of ship construction and use on the Great Lakes. She began as a bulk freighter in 1886, was converted to a passenger steamer in 1910; and finally was converted to a car carrier in 1920. In her first incarnation as the Cambria, she was only the second GIW freighter built with steel hull plates, and was the first vessel on the Great Lakes powered by a triple expansion steam engine. After her conversion to a car carrier in 1920, the Lakeland became associated with the early development of the Great Lakes region’s burgeoning automotive industry.

Much of the Lakeland’s enduring fame stems from the circumstances of her sinking, the novel investigation of the wreck, and the lengthy court case that followed. The 1924 “Lakeland disaster” as some newspapers dubbed it, was one of the earliest Great Lakes losses to actually be photographed in the process of going down.

The vessel had been suffering from persistent but manageable leaks and when rough seas threatened during a return trip, the captain decided to bring her into the Sturgeon Bay Canal to wait out the storm. The Lakeland had left Chicago on 2 December 1924 when she encountered heavy seas on Lake Michigan north of Chicago and the steel plates buckled, causing a leak. The minor leak worsened after the ship’s departure from the Sturgeon Bay canal. At 10:00 AM, a lookout at the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard station observed the Lakeland in apparent distress, and at 11:30 AM, the Lakeland abruptly went down. The entire crew of the Lakeland escaped, but she took her cargo of automobiles to the bottom of the lake. Observers reported that her stern went under first, and the hull probably “telescoped” or broke in two. The Lakeland currently lies at the bottom of Lake Michigan underneath 205 feet of water. Although broken in half, the site retains excellent archaeological integrity, and sites such as the Lakeland present a rare opportunity to study and learn about historic steel-hull ship construction, and how these vessels were used in the bulk cargo, passenger, and package freight trades.

State and federal laws protect this shipwreck. Divers may not remove artifacts or structure when visiting this shipwreck site. Removing, defacing, displacing or destroying artifacts or sites is a crime. More information on Wisconsin's historic shipwrecks may be found by visiting Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks website.

PROPERTY FEATURES
Period of Significance:1886-1925
Area of Significance:Archeology/Historic - Non-Aboriginal
Area of Significance:Maritime History
Area of Significance:Commerce
Area of Significance:Engineering
Area of Significance:Science
Applicable Criteria:Event
Applicable Criteria:Information Potential
Historic Use:Transportation: Water-Related
Architectural Style:Other
Resource Type:Site
Architect:Globe Iron Works Company
DESIGNATIONS
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
National Register Listing Date:07/07/2015
State Register Listing Date:05/16/2014
NUMBER OF RESOURCES WITHIN PROPERTY
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
RECORD LOCATION
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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