Michael Kersey, left, and Mark Kersey put the finishing touches on the smokestack of the S.S. Willis B. Boyer. The Boyer will be rechristened Friday morning as the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker.
The smell of fresh paint was distinct in the breeze on a sultry afternoon last week near the soon-to-be-former Willis B. Boyer museum ship, accompanied by the drone of a vacuum truck inhaling grit from sandblasting on the century-old freighter's deck.
On that afternoon, the freighter bore two names -- that of the Boyer, the name Toledoans have known at least since it was first moored at International Park in 1986, if not longer; and of Col. James M. Schoonmaker, the name under which the ship was christened a century ago in honor of a prominent customer of the Shenango Furnace Co., its original operator.
Friday, the vessel is again known as the Schoonmaker. Paul LaMarre III, the museum ship's executive director, had hoped to have the entire vessel sandblasted and fully repainted into the green-and-orange livery of Shenango Furnace in time for a rechristening ceremony Friday morning, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
Toledo's unusually wet spring -- April was the second-rainiest on record, while May tied for ninth place on the National Weather Service list -- slowed the painting work to the point that the cosmetic restoration is expected to take a month longer than planned.
As of Thursday morning, the Boyer/Schoonmaker was about 65 percent repainted -- the name of the Boyer now gone -- but Mr. LaMarre said that would be more than enough to accommodate the rechristening ceremony during which James M. Schoonmaker II, grandson of the freighter's original namesake, and his wife, Treecie, smashed a bottle of champagne across the vessel's bow.
The ceremony Friday morning was timed to occur precisely one century after the Schoonmaker's original christening in Toledo. It was then the largest freighter in the world, and on the following Oct. 9 it loaded its first cargo, a record-setting load of coal, at the same dock where it now is moored.
"It is so significant to Great Lakes history," Mr. LaMarre said. "The day that the Schoonmaker name was painted, it finally felt like we were almost there. Saving the queen is one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced."
The Schoonmaker will be open all weekend for free public tours of the areas where restoration has been completed, including the pilothouse and forward cabins.
The rechristened S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker will be open for public tours Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Joining Colonel Schoonmaker's grandson in attendance were William P. Snyder III, the grandson of William P. Snyder, who was president 100 years ago of the Shenango Furnace Co. and chose the ship's name, and Willis B. Boyer II, the son of a Republic Steel executive for whom the freighter was later renamed.
The freighter sailed as the Schoonmaker until 1969, when it was purchased by Cleveland Cliffs and renamed in honor of the elder Mr. Boyer, whose firm was a major Cleveland Cliffs customer.
The City of Toledo purchased the Boyer from Cleveland Cliffs in 1986 after it had been laid up for six years, but in 2007 the city declared it could no longer afford to provide pay for a caretaker, much less the cost of needed maintenance.
The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority stepped in and agreed to hire Mr. LaMarre as a member of its staff while he arranged a fund-raising and promotional campaign to put the freighter on a more stable financial footing.
The weather delays that "significantly delayed our progress" toward restoring the Schoonmaker have had an unanticipated benefit, Mr. LaMarre said: The incomplete work provides "a very vivid before-and-after" of what the vessel looked like when the work began.
"The very deteriorated Boyer visually tells the story," he said.
The weather delay also is the reason plans for on-board boxing matches Saturday, to commemorate a 1919 heavyweight championship bout in Toledo pitting Jess Willard and Jack Dempsey, were abandoned.
"We had to focus on the centennial of the ship. It has taken every ounce of energy," Mr. LaMarre said. "There will be wet paint on the vessel when people come aboard."
The ship's existence as the Boyer will not be erased from history -- but will be chronicled in on-board exhibits.
The Schoonmaker's hours for public tours will be noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Its events for the weekend will conclude Sunday evening with an Independence Day fireworks display co-sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo Club, Mr. LaMarre said. No Schoonmaker tours will be available Monday.
Also participating in the Schoonmaker's centennial celebration is the Schooner Lynx, a re-creation of a War of 1812-era privateer or naval schooner, which arrived in Toledo at lunchtime Thursday and will be open for public tours and cruises through Monday.
Lynx deck tours will be offered from 10 to 11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Admission is $5, with accompanied children 12 and under allowed on board for free.
Two-hour "Sailaway" cruises will be offered at 2:30 p.m. Friday through Monday, plus an additional sailing at 5:30 p.m. Monday, with fares of $55 for adults, $45 for seniors and military, and $30 for children 12 and under.
The Lynx will be docked in International Park, 26 Main St., near the restored Schoonmaker.
The re-created privateer Lynx arrived in Toledo at lunchtime Thursday to participate in the centennial restoration of the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker. The Lynx will be open for tours and cruises through Monday.
Col. James M. Schoonmaker was a Pittsburgh businessman who had been the youngest colonel in the Civil War. He was a second lieutenant, commanding a cavalry brigade in the Union Army of the Shenandoah under the command of General Philip Sheridan. Mr. Schoonmaker achieved the rank of colonel and was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.
When the brigade was mustered out of service, he returned to his home city and entered business with his father. He became a director of the Mellon National Bank and the Union Savings Bank, and was also vice president of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad.
His grandson, also a successful businessman, donated $100,000 to the vessel's restoration on the condition that its original name be reinstated.
After this weekend's rechristening events, the Schoonmaker is to close to the public for the rest of July to allow its repainting to be completed.
The project has relied heavily on donated materials. PPG Protective and Marine Coatings provided custom-mixed dark green and orange paint at cost to match the original Shenango Furnace Co. colors, Mr. LaMarre said. The company also provided other paint, valued at about $80,000, for free.
Ed Branstutter, the owner of P&W Painting Contractors, said that by the time the Schoonmaker is finished, about 8,431 man-hours of painting will have been donated by his company.
Other donors of materials, equipment, or manpower have included Seaway Scaffold & Equipment Co., the George Gradel Co., Harsco Minerals, Warner Petroleum Corp., Precision Environmental Co., Samsel Supply Co., Toledo Shredding, Painters Local 7, Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, and Boilermakers Local 85.
Among on-board exhibits will be the Schoonmaker's guest register from 1911 to 1967, donated by Mr. Snyder III.
The book features the names and hometowns of guests fortunate enough to ride the ship, many of whom wrote poetic or lyric comments about their trips next to their names.
Chris Gillcrist, director of the Great Lakes Historical Society, said such guest registers are extremely rare -- while the historical society has hundreds of ships' pilothouse, engine room, and financial logs in its collection of historic documents, it has only two other guest registers.
The historical society, currently headquartered in Vermilion, Ohio, has arranged with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to move to the Toledo Maritime Center off Front Street near I-280. The Schoonmaker is to be moved to a dredged slip next to that building in time for the society's opening of its new museum there, scheduled for May 1, 2013.
Its home port, to be painted on the ship, will be listed as Toledo.
Blade Staff Writer Sara Felsenstein contributed to this report.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6194.
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