The predecessor of the Lake Express ferry still exists as a floating museum

The predecessor of the Lake Express ferry still exists as a floating museum

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Milwaukee’s Lake Express Ferry may be the fastest ship to routinely cross Lake Michigan, but it is certainly not the first.

In fact, when you arrive in Muskegon, Mich., you pass the predecessor to the Lake Express — the Milwaukee Clipper — docked permanently in the shadow of the new ferry.

It may need a little work on the outside, but it has potential. Meanwhile, restoration work is underway on the inside of the Milwaukee Clipper. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

“The six-story ship – a National Historic Landmark – currently operates as a museum and offers tours on a daily basis. It is maintained and operated by a nonprofit group and relies heavily on donations and volunteers,” writes OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo.

The Clipper was built in 1904 and was previously named “The Juanita.” The freighter was built with a long and narrow profile to easily maneuver through the Soo Locks. In the 1940s, it was moved to Milwaukee and, after being used for WWII efforts, carried passengers — 900 at a time — and their cars between Milwaukee and Muskegon for decades.

The ballroom bar. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

On this week’s podcast, Bobby takes us inside the ship and explains the many details that were restored in the floating museum, including the original soda fountain and dance floor, and the nonprofit’s efforts to continue the Art Deco rehabilitation.

We also talk about the how a random washing machine on board earned the nickname “the love machine” for sparking romance between crew members.

Listen below and follow this link to read Bobby’s complete story at OnMilwaukee.

The dance floor. Photo credit: Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.

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