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A weekly look at life on the Great Lakes, in 90 seconds or less, from IPR News.

Maritime Time: Floating Palaces

Boblo Boat S.S. Columbia at the Busy Bois Blanc Island Docks in Detroit at the Foot of Woodward Avenue in Detroit. It was built in Wyandotte, Mich., in 1902. (Photo: Don Harrison/Flickr)
Boblo Boat S.S. Columbia at the Busy Bois Blanc Island Docks in Detroit at the Foot of Woodward Avenue in Detroit. It was built in Wyandotte, Mich., in 1902. (Photo: Don Harrison/Flickr)

Floating palaces or steamboat cruises were the bougie… comfy way to travel the Great Lakes in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The history of steamboats was chronicled recently in a presentation by Joel Stone to the Leelanau Historical Society.

These elegant boats, described as moving cities, carried passengers from the ports of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and more, creating memories for millions and livelihoods for many.

Midway through the 20th century, most steamboat companies went into steep decline due to strict regulations put in place after the sinking of the Titanic. Sailors needed to be paid more, companies had to offer more protections for their workers and boats had to carry fewer people.

In the early 20th century, roads improved and people started traveling by car while freight moved to trains and other types of vessels. And steamboat cruises were mostly out of business by 1935.

Paintings depicting passengers living the high life can be seen at the Dawson Great Lakes Museum in Downtown Detroit.

Cruising the Great Lakes isn’t totally dead, though. Today, on Mackinac Island, the group “Cruise The Great Lakes” is announcing investments to make the area more desirable for cruise ships.

Cruise ships on the Great Lakes are expected to make nearly 600 port calls this year.

Tyler Thompson is a reporter at Interlochen Public Radio.