Since I wrote to you last, I have given a number of interviews that have highlighted the Museum’s progress to acquire the SS Keewatin
, the last surviving Edwardian era (i.e., Titanic era) passenger steamship in the world. She is a magnificent ship and the Museum has the Dry Dock, the conservation expertise and the sound business plan she deserves to preserve her for posterity. If the stars align and we are successful in acquiring her, she will undoubtedly be a major attraction for the Museum and for Kingston.
As you may have heard, she currently resides in Port McNicoll, Georgian Bay, her original home port. There has been a rising crescendo from Port McNicoll in the media protesting the potential loss of the Keewatin to the Marine Museum. Here is some background you should be aware of.
The Marine Museum are not unscrupulous opportunists trying to take advantage of the good citizens and keen supporters of the Keewatin in Port McNicoll. They do not own the ship. It is owned by a corporation called Skyline Investments Inc. that has kept the ship afloat financially ever since they brought it to Port McNicoll in 2012. Skyline offered to donate the ship to the “Friends of Keewatin”, a not-for-profit that was established to maintain the ship and run it as a tourist attraction.
In return, Skyline asked the Friends to devise a preservation and business plan for the ship that would meet the criteria of Canadian Heritage. Once these criteria were met, Skyline would benefit from a handsome tax deduction for donating Canadian Cultural Property.
The Friends made their application to Canadian Heritage and long story short, they were rejected, owing to many deficiencies in their plans to preserve the ship. Meanwhile the Marine Museum miraculously received a donation that enabled us to acquire our historic site. A unique conjunction of circumstances presented itself.
In the fall of 2019, the Museum was in need of a new Museum Ship to replace Alexander Henry
(now a Museum Ship in Thunder Bay), and Skyline and "Friends of Keewatin" were in need of a new home for SS Keewatin. After initial phone calls, the Friends made an impassioned presentation to our Board, urging us to provide a viable home and future for the Keewatin.
Our Board deliberated long and hard. We had the Dry Dock, to physically accommodate the ship, a major plus (especially once the ship is on blocks in the drained Dry Dock). Check. And we had the experience and financial stability to take on the conservation, preservation and curation responsibilities. Check. We had the City on side. Check. Kingston’s tourism-based economy was a good fit, and the business plan made sense. Check. Most importantly, we were and are the Marine Museum of ALL the Great Lakes. Check. So we decided yes.
And so here we are, having invested over a year and hundreds of hours of research and preservation and conservation planning, deep into the application process with Canadian Heritage. They are reviewing our voluminous application, accompanied by hundreds of photos (taken while surveying the ship over five days last winter) and we are hopeful our efforts will be rewarded.
We are still a long way from the finish line, but unless we are blown off course, we will get there. It could be this summer, or early fall – beyond would be too treacherous – or next spring, but with luck and prodigious effort and good management, our ship will come in!