The Chicago Maritime Museum is now open Tuesday through Saturday at the Bridgeport Art Center.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Chicago Maritime Museum: Thoughts on beginning of permanent home

SHARE Chicago Maritime Museum: Thoughts on beginning of permanent home
SHARE Chicago Maritime Museum: Thoughts on beginning of permanent home

Sitting on the east shore of Bubbly Creek may be a small beginning for the new permanent location for the Chicago Maritime Museum, but it is a good location.

For now.

I think the museum will eventually belong at either Navy Pier or Northerly Island.

But let’s celebrate today as the official opening in the lower level of the Bridgeport Art Center on the northeast corner of 35th Street and Bubbly Creek. Thursday morning I went to the media preview, small in its own right.

It’s a small beginning, but as somebody who has heard talk of a permanent home for the museum for decades, it was pretty cool to see.

If you are wondering, the opening was delayed some months and so they decided that it made sense to tie it into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series coming to Chicago.

“That would be a good idea,” said Jerry Thomas, CMM president.

And a pair of high-end tickets for the America’s Cup doings next weekend were part of the opening day Saturday for CMM.

Thomas and Dirk Lohan, CMM vice president and the designer of the Nicholas J. Melas Centennial Fountain (water cannon) on the main stem of the Chicago River, gave a proud tour of the museum Thursday.

One of Ralph Frese’s canoes on display at the Chicago Maritime Museum.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

One of Ralph Frese’s canoes on display at the Chicago Maritime Museum.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Seven canoes from the late Ralph Frese of Chicagoland Canoe Base are central to the museum. He donated over 100 of them to CMM. I asked if the others were being stored in the building. No, they are stored at Crowley’s Yacht Yard on 95th on the Southeast Side. So there will be plenty of new stuff to view over the years, both from Frese and others.

And a famous saying of Frese’s is featured in one exhibit: “In canoeing, we have the only trail in nature that leaves no trace.”

Frese’s canoes may be central, but there’s other cool stuff.

Bill Ballenger made many of the large intricate ship models featured in the museum

The only remaining diving suit from the Eastland disaster is kept in a climate-controlled case.

While wandering around, I stepped out a back door and looked at Bubbly Creek. It sure looked to me like it could easily be made into a docking area.

Bubbly Creek by the Chicago Maritime Museum.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Bubbly Creek by the Chicago Maritime Museum.
Credit: Dale Bowman

I ran back inside, hoping that Thomas and Lohan were still there. They were. I was assuming correctly. They are trying to get the necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One other option would be to have canoes/kayaks launch from there.

Being by the water offers ageless options. It also captures how connected the history of Chicago is to water.

The museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for 12-21, and free for 11 and younger. If you want my two cents, I think buying the yearly membership at $35 is the way to go.

Click here for more info.

Some beautiful open space at the Bridgeport Art Center.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman

Some beautiful open space at the Bridgeport Art Center.
Credit: Dale Bowman

In one other aside, the Bridgeport Art Center is one helluva space as witnessed by the photograph to the left

I got there early Thursday for the preview and one of the artists let me in and another gave me a partial tour. I think the space has all kinds of potential.

Below is the opening day press release for CMM:

Chicago Maritime Museum opens new permanent location Visitors can learn about Chicago’s maritime roots For Immediate Release Chicago, IL – June 2, 2016 – The Chicago Maritime Museum held a media preview of its new permanent location in the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th Street in Chicago on the Bubbly Creek branch of the Chicago River. The museum will officially open to the public on Saturday, June 4, 2016. The grand opening co-sponsors include the Chicago Cultural Mile Association and the America’s Cup World Series Chicago. The Chicago Maritime Museum aims to become recognized as the leading authority on our waterways and their significance to Chicago and the world in the past, present and future, according to Dirk Lohan, Vice President of the Chicago Maritime Museum. It is a fact that the waterways in our region determined the location of the city of Chicago andimpacted our history, he continued. Since 1982, the Chicago Maritime Museum has collected items that commemorate Chicago’s maritime history. More than 6,000 items have been collected including watercraft, models, articles, books, displays, art, images and artifacts. Seldom does a week pass without an addition to the collection that contributes to understanding Chicago’s maritime history, said Lohan. The new Bridgeport museum displays maritime history chronologically, beginning with French fur traders, the era of sail on the Great Lakes, steam-powered vessels, modern commercial vessels, recreational sailing and ending with the Ralph Frese canoe collection. In fact, it is impossible to comprehend the existence of Chicago or the State of Illinois as we know it, without its maritime roots. For example, on the eve of statehood in 1818,Illinois moved its northern boundary sixty-one miles north to include the southern tip of Lake Michigan so that one state could control the vital link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system, Lohan added.Our maritime history links Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, Lake Calumet, as well as beaches, deep tunnels, and pumping stations. It involves many nationalities and ethnicities including Native American canoeists, Norwegian schoonermen, Bohemian and African-American lumber shovers and recreational boaters, he said. As the central depository of maritime history, the Chicago Maritime Museum has saved and preserved items and records that would have been lost with the passing of each generation. Because of those items and records, the museum can share the history of maritime Chicago and the dramatic story of urban growth and regional transformation. We can tell the story of how the docks in Chicago welcomed immigrants from Europe and helped slaves escape to Canada, said Jerry Thomas, President of the Chicago Maritime Museum We can share the significance of Chicago’s waterways to commerce and the military and sadly, we can recall the tragedy of the S.S. Eastland, when more than 800 lives were lost only a few feet from shore, Thomas concluded. The Chicago Maritime Museum will share its treasures and its maritime history when it opens its doors to the public at its new Bridgeport location on Saturday, June 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To further celebrate the opening, visitors to the Museum’s grand opening can participate in a free raffle to win a pair of Chicago Club Elite Hospitality passes to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series final on Sunday, June 12th. A $2,500 value, winners of the tickets will have access to exclusive race viewing areas, interactive engagements and displays, premium food and beverages, special gifts and more…all in a luxurious environment befitting the level of this prestigious international competition.

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