Steamship City of Detroit III - A Floating Masterpiece

One of the Largest Sidewheel Steamships on the Great Lakes

City of Detroit III Underway
City of Detroit III - Underway- Library of Congress

In Thumbwind's popular post;  Great Lakes Cruising History – Luxurious Times, it pointed out that by the 1870s competition was forcing shipping  companies to go beyond the bare bones of transport and create an experience for the travelling passenger or tourist. By the early 1900s the golden era of steamship travel was in full swing and the race to put larger ships into service was evident.

The City of Detroit III was part of the Detroit & Cleveland Steamboat Line. The steamer was designed and built in 1911 by Frank E. Kirby. Kirby was considered  the greatest naval architect of the Great Lakes. Called the "D-3" the ship operated from May 1912 until 1950.

D-III Ran from Detroit to Buffalo New York - Library of Congress

The ship was built by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company in Wyandotte, Michigan and launched on Oct. 7, 1911. Costing an estimated $1.5 million, ($32m today) it was the largest paddle wheel ship on the Great Lakes at the time.  Standing over 50 feet high with a hull length of 455 feet. The paddle wheel was about 30 feet across and 8 feet wide. 

A Luxurious Interior Matching Ocean Liners - the Gothic Room

One of the highlights of the ship was the mens smoking lounge call the Gothic Room. Situated around one of the smoke stacks the work and glass made the lounge a standout for the travelling public.

D-III's Gothic Room Salon Lounge
D-III's Gothic Room Salon Lounge - Library of Congress


D-III's Gothic Room Fore Deck with Chandler  - Library of Congress
D-III's Gothic Room Fore Deck with Chandler  - Library of Congress


Tiffany Stained Glass of de LaSalle - Library of Congress

A highlight of the interior is a stained-glass window cromerating RenĂ©-Robert Cavelier de LaSalle’s landing in Detroit. The lounge also contained a pipe organ and fireplaces for chilly days. 

The Staterooms Elegance on the Great Lakes


For overnight trips between Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo state rooms were available.  There were 25 parlor staterooms each with its own bathroom and veranda. Trimmed in local hardwoods and equipped with state of the art electric fans and lights. It was a first class accommodation in by today's standards.

City of Detroit III Presidents Stateroom - Library of Congress


D-III also had 21 semi-parlors with private baths and 477 small staterooms. Travelers in the small rooms would have a bunk and share a bathroom.

The Palm Court

The Palm Court offered travellers an open sheltered area to get out of the chill and wind of the outside decks.

City of Detroit III Palm Court
City of Detroit III Palm Court Looking Aft - Library of Congress

Located in the upper deck in the stern, it was furnished with wicker chairs and decorated with fresh flowers and an ivy-covered trellis with leaded glass along the upper sconces of the walls.

City of Detroit III Palm Court Looking Forward
City of Detroit III Palm Court Looking Forward - Library of Congress

The Grand Salon

Boarding passengers would pass through the Grand Salon on their way to their assigned state rooms.

City of Detroit III Grand Salon Foreward
City of Detroit III Grand Salon Foreward - Library of Congress

Two grand staircases on each end were graced with large classical paintings topped with a frieze.

City of Detroit III Grand Salon Ceiling
City of Detroit III Grand Salon  Ceiling - Library of Congress

On the fore end, with two prone women with tridents. The walls hosted smaller painting of nymphs and angels.

City of Detroit III Grand Salon Aft
City of Detroit III Grand Salon Aft - Library of Congress

Noted  muralist William de Leftwich Dodge lead the effort beautify the salon using mythical characters and soft colors that brightened the interior.

City of Detroit III - Mural
City of Detroit III Grand Salon Mural of Siren with Pan - Library of Congress

The focal point of the Salon was a mural of Siren with Pan. Dodge created the Siren mural inspired after beauty of America's first supermodel, Audrey Munson

On Deck of the City of Detroit III

City of Detroit III - Pilot House
City of Detroit III Pilot House - Library of Congress

City of Detroit III - Hurricane Deck
City of Detroit III - Hurricane Deck - Library of Congress




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