The Ship Residence, Put-In-Bay, Ohio

High upon a promontory on South Bass Island in Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, sits the Owners and Captains Quarters of the former Great Lakes Shipping Boat, The Benson Ford. The boat was built by Henry Ford and named after his grandson many years ago. After fifty years of service on the Great Lakes, the Benson Ford was scheduled in 1986 to be scrapped at the Port of Cleveland, Ohio. On the top front section of the boat were the walnut paneled state rooms, dining room, galley, and passenger lounge designed by Henry Ford for his own pleasure while traversing the Great Lakes on business. This is when an Ohio husband and wife stepped in realizing that these elegant quarters would be a magnificent residence, if they could only be removed from the rest of the ship and brought to land. After many days with torches and cranes, the Quarters were removed from the ship and floated by barge some sixty miles west to the tranquil island of South Bass Island. Additional cranes were needed to lift the Quarters off the barge at the Island up a steep eighteen foot promontory to its final site on solid bedrock on a single family home lot. The Quarters became The Ship Residence, a private home on South Bass Island. (from Dutton Auction and Realty Co.)

(Photo credit Donna Baker via

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

24 thoughts on “The Ship Residence, Put-In-Bay, Ohio”

  1. The ship was built 1952 by DeFoe Shipbuilding in Bay City, MI. Its original name was Richard M. Marshall, and was later renamed as it changed hands. Joeseph S. Wood, John Dykstra, and finally Benson Ford.
    The second Great Lakes freighter built by Defoe was the 644′ long S/S Richard M. Marshall (Defoe hull #00424) which was constructed in 1953 for the Great Lakes Steamship Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. She was a near twin to her predecessor (Charles L. Hutchinson) in size and capacity both having approximate dimensions of 640′ long, 67′ wide, 35′ deep, and a cargo capacity of approximately 18,500 tons. In December, 1956, Great Lakes Steamship started the process of selling off their fleet, and the Marshall was sold to The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. Starting with the 1957 season, Northwestern Mutual chartered the ship to the Wilson Marine Transit Company of Cleveland, Ohio, who in turn renamed the vessel Joseph S. Wood. In 1966, the charter agreement between Wilson and Northwestern Mutual was canceled, and the vessel was sold to the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, for $4.3 million (US). Ford renamed the ship John Dykstra and she resumed trading on the Great Lakes on May 11, 1966. In 1983, Ford renamed the ship Benson Ford (2) after the retirement of the original S/S Benson Ford.

  2. a strange and amazing residence, i d love to do a little detour when i shall travel to Ohio next summer

  3. Hi Peter- I happen to come upon this from another link. Boy this brings back memories. When I lived/sailed in Cleveland, Lydia Sullivan was a very good friend of one of the guys I sailed with. During the late 80s, early 90s we would go up and have “freighter parties” at the house. They were some fun parties with the Hat Trick crew!

  4. We just happened to be there boating and watched cranes and moving company place it in its current location. What an awesome home!

  5. I remember seeing your boat as we boated the great lakes 30 years ago.

    We will be visiting Put in Bay in Ausust and would love to see it again.

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