In June of 2012, the SS Keewatin returned home to Port McNicoll Ontario to the delight of over seven thousands of waiting fans, enthusiasts and admirers and followed by an armada of 1000 vessels of all sizes..
In 1965 the Canadian Pacific Railroad made the decision to stop the last two Great Lakes Passenger ships and the mighty S.S. Keewatin and her sister ship the S.S Assiniboia carried their passengers one last time. That also meant the tremendous infrastructure of rail yards, freight sheds, laundry and green houses that supported the ships were also not needed. What had been known as the Chicago of the North in its hay day was destined to become a ghost town. Over the years the tracks and buildings were removed and many of the residents found work elsewhere. The town’s only Hotel burned down and most of the stores closed.
Several years ago a visionary developer named Gil Blutrich became aware of the property and purchased it to become the sight of a new marina, hotels and residences. Since then Gil learned that the mighty Keewatin was still in existence he sought to purchase her to become the community symbol of strength and tradition. All of that came to pass when a waiter, Eric Conroy, who worked on Keewatin as a teenager in 1963 and 1964 met Gil at the 100th Anniversary of Keewatin’s launch in Douglas/Saugatuk Michigan where she had been a floating museum since 1967. Eric Conroy had become a close friend of the American owner RJ PETERSON and worked as a volunteer travelling dozens of times from Toronto. He knew of Gil’s interest in buying Keewatin but the time needed to be right. Eric wrote a book on Keewatin in the winter of 2011 and sent a copy to Gil. Gil’s reaction started a series of meetings with Eric and RJ that ended in Gil purchasing the Keewatin through his development company Skyline Investments.
Since August 2011, Gil has worked with the Township of Tay where Port McNicoll is located to get zoning, planning and a great location for the grand ship. She will sit at the foot of a three acre park, the gem in the crown of a modern deep water marina and act as a silent sentinel for the new town of Port McNicoll. The “Kee” is now a “not for profit” charitable foundation and is operated by a group of volunteers known as THE FRIENDS OF KEEWATIN. This group is open to anyone who would like to contribute energy and support so Keewatin will see another 100 years back where she belongs in her home port of Port McNicoll.