The Detroit Ferry Company and the Windsor Ferry company consolidated in 1877 as the Detroit and Windsor Ferry Company combining the steamers HOPE (built in 1870  VICTORIA (1872), FORTUNE (1875) and EXCELSIOR (1876)  under one  administration. Later steamers were GARLAND (1880), SAPPHO  (1883, formerly of the Walkerville and Detroit Ferry Company), PROMISE (1892), PLEASURE (1894), BRITANNIA (1906), LASALLE (1922) CADILLAC (1928), and two created for and dedicated to the "Bob-Lo" run, COLUMBIA built in 1902 and STE. CLAIRE, built in 1910, both designed by Frank E. Kirby.  The very first steamer to carry picnickers to the island was the steamer PROMISE.

 

In 1878 the Detroit Dry Dock Company purchased the assets of the association and in 1883 sold them to a group headed by Captain John Pridgeon.  When the City of Detroit turned Belle Isle into a playground the Ferry Company added the new route and changed the name to Detroit, Belle Isle and Windsor Ferry Company.  In 1891 Walter F. Campbell (one of the original members of the 1877 association) and associates gained control of the company.  It remained in the hands of Campbell and his managerial successors until 1939. 

River Ferries From Hand to Steam originally published in 1910

Detroit, Belle Isle & Windsor Ferry Company, The History of the Great Lakes

Bob-Lo Steamers Vessel Ownership

My gratitude to William Worden for his assistance compiling the ownership data.
1901-1938 Detroit, Belle Isle and Windsor Ferry Company
1939-1941 Bob-Lo Steamers
1941-1948  Bob-Lo Excursion Co.
1949-1979  The Bob-Lo Company
1979-1983 7 member group which filed for bankruptcy
1983-1988 AAA of Michigan
1989-1991 IBC International Broadcasting Company
1991-1995 Baha Beach Club
1995-1996 Lansdowne Night Clubs Inc.
1996 Both vessels Steamer Ste. Claire Foundation
Ste. Claire 1996-2001 Steamer Ste. Claire Foundation
Columbia 1996-2006 Steamer Columbia Foundation
Ste. Claire 2001-2006 Diane Evon and John Belko
Columbia 2006 to present The S.S. Columbia Project
Ste. Claire 2006 to present The Maximus Corporation
FACTS AND CURRENT INFORMATION

The steamers Columbia  and Ste. Claire represent the typical propeller-driven excursion steamer of the turn of the century, a type once found in many parts of the country. Excursion steamers are steamships built primarily for passengers for day trips.  Columbia and her running mate  Ste. Claire represent the "ocean-going" type of excursion vessel although they were used on lakes.

 

The steamer Columbia and Ste. Claire  are the last two remaining classic excursion steamers in the country; and the last essentially unaltered passenger ships designed by Frank E. Kirby; and for their essentially unaltered propulsion machinery of a type becoming increasingly rare ; as the two last vessels of the Detroit and Windsor Ferry Co.; as two of the few surviving vessels built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company, and for their unaltered propulsion machinery, which is of a rare type. Columbia is the oldest passenger steamer in the United States, excepting vessels properly classed as ferries. Columbia and her running-mate Ste. Claire  are the last two steamers of their type with integrity left in the United States. The pair shared their original run from Detroit to Bob-Lo Island for 74 years Ste. Claire and 81 years Columbia, a record of service on a single run unequalled in U. S. maritime history.

 

Columbia is docked at the Great Lakes Steel dock in Ecorse Michigan where she has been laid up since 1991.  The Steamer Columbia Foundation had a goal of returning the ship to service on the Detroit river by 2002, sadly that effort was unsuccessful. In 2002 I formed the non-profit 501c 3 group The Friends of the Bob-Lo Boat Columbia in an effort to keep Columbia in Detroit and return her to service.  On January 8, 2003 the National Trust Loan staff and the National Trust Loan Committee voted to consider a New York maritime preservation group. This groups plan is to restore her and return her to service on the Hudson River in New York.  Late 2003, The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy announces proposal to return her to service on the Detroit river pending a feasibility study which was conducted in 2004. After looking into the possibilities of running the Columbia as a money making tour boat in the Detroit River the conservancy's board last month voted to end its support for the boat. Summer 2006 the New York group "The Columbia project acquires the Columbia and plans to move her to New York for service on the Hudson River.  She is still in her slip located in Ecorse as of 10-23-10 where work is being performed to ready her for her trip to New York.  You may read more on the S.S. Columbia Project web site.

 

Ste. Claire is currently docked in Ecorse Michigan where she is in the third year of her restoration by volunteers and the Maximus Corporation.

 

Any additional information or photos that are submitted will be posted on the site. This site is dedicated to Columbia and Ste. Claire and the men and women who served aboard these two wonderful ships for 81 years.

Portions of this text was taken from When Detroit Ruled the Waves, by Michael Dixon, the State of Michigan Historic preservation web site and the Steamer Columbia and Bob-Lo Boat Ste. Claire web sites.