By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Drivers traversing the Dix Avenue drawbridge may do double takes for the foreseeable future, as one of the two original Boblo boats has been docked in the Rouge River since Nov. 4 for restoration work.
The 105-year-old SS Ste. Claire was moved from Ecorse to its current location on the Dearborn-Detroit border.
The second Boblo boat, SS Columbia, is in New York on the Hudson River Valley and is undergoing restoration as well.
Both boats are designated National Historic Landmarks by the National Parks Service.
The ferry steamer now sits at the dock near the intersection of Dix Avenue and Dearborn Road in Detroit where its restoration work will continue.
The move came after the owner at Great Lakes Steel, the former location, decided to use the space on the shoreline. Paul Russo, president of SteelPro, offered the dock so the boat could be moved.
The boat was built in 1910 by Toledo Shipbuilding and can hold more than 2,000 passengers.
The 200-foot-ferry once served as transportation for families from Detroit to Boblo amusement park on Bios Blanc Island on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. The amusement park opened in 1898 and closed after almost 100 years in 1993.
Henry Ford Hospital doctors and co-owners Ron Kattoo, 47, and Saqib Nakadar, 37, purchased the boat in 2007 for $250,000. They aim to bring back the boat so friends and family can share memories with their children.
“I hope the boat restoration will give families an opportunity to relive their memories and create new ones with this generation,” Nakadar said. “The boat is an important part of the area’s history.”
The boat is in need of work to restore it to its former glory after about 20 years of decay.
The project has raised more than $500,000 so far with $1.5 million needed to get through the first phase of work. The total cost for restoration could total about $10 million.
Once work is completed, the ferry will be placed in a public area and where events can be hosted.
Kattoo and Nakadar have set up a website, bobloboat.com, for the boat’s restoration where those interested can donate money to the project or volunteer.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at email@example.com.)