COVID-19 Updates: In order to help reduce the increased spread of COVID-19, options for accessing our headquarters building have changed. Click here for more information.

Lake Michigan, 3 miles east of Fox Point | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

Lake Michigan, 3 miles east of Fox Point

National or State Register of Historic Places
Lake Michigan, 3 miles east of Fox Point | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Milwaukee Shipwreck (Steam Screw)
Reference Number:15000479
Location (Address):Lake Michigan, 3 miles east of Fox Point
City/Village:Fox Point
Milwaukee Shipwreck (Steam Screw)
Lake Michigan, Fox Point, Milwaukee County
Builder:American Shipbuilding Company Date of Construction: 1903

Located three miles east of Fox Point, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee wreck site (47-MI-443) lies in 120 feet of water on the bottom of Lake Michigan. The steam-powered rail car ferry was launched at Cleveland, Ohio, and entered service as the Manistique Marquette and Northern I in early 1903. The Milwaukee is a good example of the steam screw vessel property type for its role in the distinctive Great Lakes railcar ferry system. Railroad transportation was a critical factor in the development of extractive industries and the expansion of agricultural production in “Northern Tier” territories and states west of the Great Lakes. It also made possible the massive expansion of the region’s industrial base, which later came to define the cities of the Great Lakes region during the middle decades of the twentieth century. The lakes themselves were barriers to direct rail access. Cross-lake railcar ferries, like the Milwaukee, allowed railroad companies to effectively “bridge” the lakes, speeding the flow of raw materials, manufactured goods, and passengers through the Great Lakes region.

The vessel foundered during a brutal storm on the night of 22 October 1929. She went down with a crew of approximately 47 men and a cargo of 28 loaded rail cars in her hold. None of her crew survived and the precise cause and location of her sinking remained unknown for over half a century. The foundering of the Milwaukee remains the worst car ferry disaster in Great Lakes history. The wreck site was discovered in 1972 and has drawn a steady stream of recreational divers. The vessel was documented by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 2013-2014. The ship’s unique combination of maritime and railroad history, as well as the mystery and tragedy surrounding her loss, continues to fascinate both professional and historians alike.

State and federal laws protect these shipwreck. Divers may not remove artifacts or structure when visiting this 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,

Period of Significance:1903-1929
Area of Significance:Archeology/Historic - Non-Aboriginal
Area of Significance:Maritime History
Area of Significance:Commerce
Area of Significance:Transportation
Applicable Criteria:Information Potential
Historic Use:Transportation: Water-Related
Architectural Style:Other
Resource Type:Site
Architect:American Shipbuilding Company
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
National Register Listing Date:07/27/2015
State Register Listing Date:11/21/2014
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: