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National or State Registers Record

National or State Register of Historic Places
| National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Senator Shipwreck
Reference Number:15000738
Location (Address):
City/Village:Port Washington
Senator Shipwreck
Port Washington Vicinity, Ozaukee County
Shipbuilder: Detroit Dry Dock Company
Date of construction: 1896

On October 31st, 1929, the "Senator" was bound for Detroit from Milwaukee with a cargo of 268 Nash automobiles valued at $251,000, and despite a dense fog that limited visibility to as little as 100 feet, Captain George H. Kinch sailed the "Senator" northward at full speed, sounding fog signals as they cut through the fog. Approximately 20 miles east of Port Washington, the "Senator’s" crew heard the fog signals of the "Marquette", a 420-foot steel bulk carrier bound from Escanaba, Michigan, to Indiana Harbor, Indiana, with a cargo of 7,000 tons of iron ore captained by W. F. Amesbury. The "Senator" sounded a passing signal of one short blast, indicating a port to port passage, and the "Marquette" acknowledged this signal by returning one short blast of her own. Captain Kinch was on the "Senator’s" bridge with Wheelsman Herbert Petting at the helm when the "Marquette" suddenly appeared out of the fog only a few hundred feet from the "Senator’s" port side. Captain Kinch ordered the "Senator’s" wheel hard to port, and then corrected himself and ordered the wheel hard to starboard. Petting swung the wheel and the "Senator" slowly began swinging to starboard, but the "Marquette" struck the "Senator" just aft of amidships on her port side.

The day following the collision, the "Sheboygan" lifeboat got underway at 8:15 AM and the "Milwaukee" lifeboat got underway at 8:20 AM to search once again for bodies or survivors. The lifeboats conducted a thorough search in the vicinity of the collision, and met two fishing tugs who were also searching. Some wreckage was discovered consisting of broken hatch covers, fire bucket racks, and other unidentified debris, but no survivors or bodies were located.

The 1 November 1929 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel reported two known dead: Driver Peter Smith from Fredonia, New York, and Mrs. Minnie Gormely from Detroit, the wife of the ship’s Steward. Unaccounted for were Captain George Kinch of Ogdensburg, New York, Engineer Irwin A. Ammon, Porter Tony Marino from New York, First Mate John Nielsen from Detroit, Watchman Hubert Giroux from Midland, Ontario, and three other unidentified men.

The "Senator" shipwreck now rests upright and intact in nearly 450 feet of water. Built in 1896 at the Detroit Dry Dock Company in Detroit, Michigan, the "Senator" represents a class of Great Lakes freighters which employed innovative hull strengthening technology, the arch, to accommodate greater gross tonnage and provide a stronger hull. The steel internal arch has not been archaeologically documented on Great Lakes’ vessels. The "Senator" also possesses an early form of moveable water ballast system that has not been archaeologically documented on Great Lakes’ vessels. There is a dearth of historical information regarding the development and evolution of arch construction and movable water ballast system on Great Lakes’ steel vessels, making the "Senator" shipwreck an important archaeological site with potential to yield important information on the evolution of Great Lakes steel vessel construction.

The "Senator" site provides a rare opportunity to document the largest collection of rare Wisconsin-made automobiles. With consistently cold water temperatures, low ambient light, and low level of oxygen at nearly 450 feet, the ship and much of her cargo remain in a pristine state of preservation. The shipwreck "Senator" may provide both historians and archaeologists the unique opportunity to study early steel construction techniques, early Wisconsin automobile manufacturing and distribution practices, and through the personal effects of the crew, shipboard life on an early 20th century Great Lakes freighter. Because of its extreme depth, cold water temperatures and non-existent diver and virtually non-existent remote operated vehicle visitation, the "Senator" site has the potential to yield unprecedented information.

State and federal laws protect this 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:1896-1929
Area of Significance:Archeology/Historic - Non-Aboriginal
Area of Significance:Maritime History
Area of Significance:Commerce
Area of Significance:Transportation
Area of Significance:Engineering
Applicable Criteria:Information Potential
Historic Use:Transportation: Water-Related
Architectural Style:Other
Resource Type:Site
Architect:Detroit Dry Dock Company
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Additional Documentation
National Register Listing Date:04/12/2016
State Register Listing Date:02/19/2016
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

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