Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Located on Strand Drive on Belle Isle, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is dedicated to showcasing the story of the Great Lakes, with a special emphasis on Detroit’s role in regional and national maritime history. Visitors to this 16,000 square foot museum enjoy exhibits that tell more than 300 years of the region’s rich maritime history, from the shipping fleets that rule the waterways to the varied roles that the Great Lakes and the Detroit River have played in our region’s industrial and social history. 

In 1949, the Detroit Historical Commission opened the Museum of Great Lakes History aboard the landed wood schooner J.T. Wing, which was the last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lakes. By 1956, however, the museum was closed due to the deteriorating condition of the ship. Deemed too fragile to move, the J.T. Wing was burned under close supervision on November 3, 1956. Shortly thereafter, the Dossin family generously stepped forward with funds for a new maritime museum, and on July 24, 1960, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum opened on the J.T. Wing’s former Belle Isle site. 

Several additions and improvements were made over the years. In 1963, a pavilion housing the Miss Pepsi, a championship hydroplane raced by the Dossin family from 1950-1956, was constructed next to the museum’s entrance. Next came the Gothic Room, the smoking lounge from the City of Detroit III passenger steamship. After careful restoration of the smoke-stained wood accents, it was installed as a stunning entrance to the museum. In 1991, the pilothouse from the S.S. William Clay Ford was installed facing out into the Detroit River. This bulk carrier freighter transported iron ore and coal down the Great Lakes for more than three decades, and was one of the ships that searched for survivors following the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald’s sinking. 

In 2007, the Detroit Historical Society funded a series of improvements to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. In addition to several infrastructure improvements, a variety of new and refreshed exhibits were opened. In 2020, a new outdoor plaza was finished, providing new gathering spaces as well as new homes for some of the museum’s outdoor treasures, like the bow anchor of the Edmund Fitzgerald, recovered from the Detroit River in 1992.

In addition, the museum also features a variety of changing exhibits and attractions, as well as films, lectures and other programs. Among the rotating offerings are selections from the museum’s extensive collection of Great Lakes ship models. 



Dossin Great Lakes Museum photo

Miss Pepsi on display in the Dossin

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