The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston is pleased to announce the S.S. Keewatin will be joining the Museum’s collection this fall!
This historic ship, which is the last of its kind, will be integrated into our extensive transportation collection covering the history of the Great Lakes. We’re thankful to our many supportive donors, volunteers, staff, and board members in helping us save this important artifact, and we look forward to introducing the ship to Kingston soon!
Facts About The Kee
- The Keewatin is an Edwardian-era (Titanic-era) steamliner formerly owned by CP Rail and built in 1907 by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd. of Glasgow, Scotland.
- CP Rail steamships such as ‘The Kee’ ferried tourists, settlers, and cargo throughout the Great Lakes until their retirement in the 1960s. This ship is the last of its kind, with its sister ship having been scrapped in 1970 following a fire.
- The ship appeared on CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries, episode 701, and was featured on a 2020 Royal Canadian Mint coin. Its history has been documented in two books.
- There have been multiple books written about The Kee with additional information on its technical specifications and history. We look forward to sharing this information and our own research once the ship arrives in Kingston. Join our mailing list for the latest information on our planning and preparation for the Keewatin’s arrival or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
- The Kee will be undergoing repairs this spring and summer before arriving at its new home in the Museum’s drydock this fall.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Museum acquiring the Keewatin?
The story of the S.S. Keewatin and its sister ships is a story of Canada’s creation as a country and how the Great Lakes were used for transportation in the 20th century. It is vital that the ship, which is the last of its kind, be preserved for current and future generations. The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes has both the expertise and funding to be able to do this. In fact, we’ve raised several million dollars from our generous supporters to fund refurbishments, renovations, and towing of the Keewatin.
The ship will be integrated into our extensive transportation collection covering the past two hundred years of Great Lakes history and we look forward to sharing the story of the Kee and the people who worked aboard, who took trips, and the many other facets of its important history.
Who donated The Kee to the Marine Museum?
The Keewatin was previously owned by Skyline Investments. They sought to donate it to a charity approved by Canadian Heritage that had the resources to care for the ship and was qualified to ensure the long-term preservation of Canadian cultural property such as the Kee.
Prior to Skyline’s purchase, it was owned by RJ and Diane Peterson of Douglas, Michigan, who purchased it from CP Rail upon the ship’s retirement. We’re grateful to all of the Kee’s past owners, as well as dedicated volunteers such as the Friends of Keewatin, for their efforts to preserve the ship. The story of the Keewatin and those who played a role in its creation and care will be documented and shared in the Museum once the Keewatin exhibits are completed.
We are also grateful to our many supportive members, donors, volunteers, staff, and Board Members in helping us preserve this important artifact.
What about the artefacts aboard the Keewatin?
We appreciate all those who have donated artifacts to the RJ and Diane Peterson Keewatin Foundation for display aboard the Keewatin. Those who are content to keep the artifact with the ship do not need to take any action. The artifacts will continue to be used and preserved as part of the ship’s museum programming. As part of our programming, we will broadly recognize that artifacts on-board the Keewatin have been donated by families, supporters, and fans of the Keewatin.
We will be communicating further with those who wish to request return of a family heirloom. In the interim, please begin gathering any proof of ownership you may possess. Note that, due to rules governing charities in Canada, we cannot return artifacts in situations where the donor has received a charitable tax receipt.
When will the Keewatin arrive in Kingston?
The ship will be undergoing repairs this spring and summer before arriving at its new home in the Museum’s dry dock this fall. We will share more updates through our website, social media channels, email newsletter, and local media once the ship is enroute.
How can I help prepare for the Keewatin's arrival in Kingston?
If you’re interested in volunteering with our Museum, please email us, phone us, or stop by during business hours. Thank you for your interest!
In addition, if you or family members have stories or artifacts from the Keewatin or its sister ship, S.S. Assiniboia, we’d love to know! It was not uncommon for people to get married, celebrate honeymoons, or take other special or memorable trips aboard these ships, and the ships were also homes to several meaningful careers. We would love to include your family story in our future exhibits.
Please complete our Volunteer Application Form here.
Why isn't the ship arriving until the autumn of 2023
While the Museum has all of the necessary permits and approvals to move the ship, and the ship is in good condition for a move, there’s much to do before the ship arrives! We will spend this time collecting stories, documenting artifacts, and refurbishing some areas of the ship.
We are also awaiting the melting of ice on the Georgian Bay before moving the ship from Port McNicoll.
Is it safe to move the Keewatin from Port McNicoll
Yes. Though the ship requires some refurbishment, the hull is in good condition. It was inspected by a shipyard prior to the Museum’s acquisition, and the team assembled by the Museum has significant expertise in marine surveying.
To ensure the trip is as safe as possible, the Museum is waiting for the ice to clear on the Georgian Bay before moving it. We intend to move it in the last week of April or early May 2023.
What sorts of activities and services will the Museum offer aboard the Keewatin?
What happened to the Museum's previous ship?
The Marine Museum left its current location in 2016 when the building was sold by the Federal Government of Canada (who had leased the building to us). Note that the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston is an independent not-for-profit that is primarily funded through donations and cultural programs.
When the building was sold, we were without a location to park the CCGS Alexander Henry and were forced to part ways with it. It is now in Thunder Bay, where it was originally constructed, and being cared for by the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society. Funding to relocate and preserve the Alexander Henry was provided by the City of Kingston, the City of Thunder Bay, and private donors. Relocating the ship was the most affordable option at the time and was preferable to sinking it or scapping it.
In 2019, we were able to acquire the funds to purchase our original building when the developer who had purchased the property sold it. We have been seeking a museum ship for our dry dock since that time. The Kee is a unique, highly desirable, and valuable artifact and, since the Museum now owns its current building with its historic dry dock, we do not foresee a similar situation occurring again.
What is the cost to relocate the Keewatin and who is paying?
Who may I contact with further questions?