Once a proud vessel navigating the Great Lakes, the S.S. Keewatin spent six transformative months anchored at the Port of Hamilton, harbouring tales of maritime history.

Built in 1907 in Scotland, and one of the last Edwardian steamships in the world, the Keewatin was once part of the Canadian Pacific Railway Transcontinental transportation system. It served as a passenger ferry and cargo service vessel on the Great Lakes until 1965 when it was established as a museum ship in Port McNicholl.

While docked at HOPA Ports’ partner, Heddle Shipyards, the historic vessel underwent a major renovation. “We’re doing a lot of deck refurbishment, interior work, mainly cosmetic,” said Ted Kirkpatrick, Director of Business Development and Government Relations at Heddle Shipyards. “Friends of the Keewatin organization have done a tremendous job maintaining the engine room. If you go down there, it looks like you could fire it up and sail away,” he added.

Once at the heart of shipbuilding, Ontario has a profound cultural and historical connection to ship building and repair, but according to Kirkpatrick, a significant portion of this heritage has been lost in the past two decades. He says there is a gradual resurgence in preserving and reviving that history. “Having the Keewatin here is an important part of raising that awareness; to remind people that Ontario is very much a maritime culture. It’s important to have a vibrant port network and commercial shipping operators and the ship repair and ship building yards that support all that.”

“It’s been such a treat having the Keewatin here in port and seeing the tremendous work by Heddle Shipyards’ skilled tradespeople,” said Larissa Fenn, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at HOPA. “This project has been a great celebration of Hamilton’s maritime workforce, and the contribution this sector makes to Ontario’s economy.”

The Titanic-era steamship is now at its new home in Kingston where the Great Lakes Museum has plans to make it an exhibit.