The S. S. CANADIANA was a passenger steam ship which had a brief, but interesting connection to Cleveland.  It was designed by Frank E. Kirby and built by the Buffalo Dry Dock Company of Buffalo, New York in 1910.   It was the last commercial passenger ship to be built in Buffalo. The Canadiana measured 215 feet long and weighed in at 974 tons. Powered by a 20 foot tall triple-expansion steam engine it had three passenger decks and featured a large dance hall on the second deck where big bands such as Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played. From 1910 to 1956 it operated as a showboat and a ferry between Buffalo, New York and the Crystal Beach Amusement Park at Crystal Beach, Ontario, making it a fixture of LAKE TRANSPORTATION for over 40 years.

With revenues declining by the 1950s, the Canadiana’s retirement was hastened when a fight broke out onboard on 30 May 1956. Dubbed “The Crystal Beach Boat Race Riot,” fighting between teenagers broke out on May 28 at Crystal Beach Amusement Park and continuing onto the Canadiana’s return voyage to Buffalo two days later. The ship was retired from the Crystal Beach circuit later that year.

Following retirement, the ship changed ownership numerous times over the next two decades. In 1960 it was towed to Cleveland and operated under Pleasurama Excursion Lines Inc., and was slated to be renamed the Pleasurama, before being sold to S. Parella of Cleveland in 1966. The ship was then bought and sold around six times during the period of 1966 - 1968, moving between the ports of Buffalo, Fairport, and Cleveland before being bought by Jim Vinci of Cleveland in June 1968. Vinci was the owner of Diamond Jim’s restaurant in the Flats. It was moored in the FLATS at W. Third and Stone’s Levy where Vinci proposed converting it into a floating restaurant. This plan never came to fruition. On 17 February 1982 the Canadiana sank to the bottom of the CUYAHOGA RIVER in less than 20 minutes, with water reaching up to its first deck.

The following year, the ship was refloated and towed to Ashtabula, Ohio.  A group, the “Friends of the Canadiana” formed in order to restore the ship to service. In 1984 the ship was towed to Buffalo where it was eventually stripped for restoration and in 1988 towed to Port Colborne, Ontario for dry-docking.

In 1993 the “Friends of the Canadiana” became the “The S.S. Canadiana Preservation Society, Inc.”.  In 1994 the Society secured a $400,000 grant for restoration,but the grant was withdrawn the following year. In 2004 the ship was scrapped.  Parts of the Canadiana were salvaged, including the engine, which was displayed at the 50th anniversary rally of the Western New York Gas & Steam Engine Association, as well as some of the interior fixtures such as a wooden buffet now at the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum.  Other parts, including several lights from the ship found their way into a nightclub in the Flats.

Kelsey Rogers


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