The STEAMSHIP WILLIAM G. MATHER MUSEUM, once the flagship of the Cleveland-Cliffs fleet, later served as a floating museum operated by the GREAT LAKES HISTORICAL SOCIETY at Cleveland's NORTH COAST HARBOR. The Mather was built in 1925 in River Rouge, MI, by the Great Lakes Engineering Works for the Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Co. (see CLEVELAND-CLIFFS IRON CO.). It was named for one of Cleveland's leading industrialists and philanthropists. The ship, with a length of 618' and a capacity of 14,000 long tons, was at one time one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes. It carried ore, coal, stone, and grain around the Great Lakes.
After active service and before being brought to Cleveland, the ship was laid up in Toledo's harbor. In 1987 Cleveland-Cliffs donated it, the last of their Great Lakes vessels, to the Great Lakes Historical Society. Under the Society's direction approx. $800,000 of work took place over the next 4 years to restore the ship as well as to convert the vessel into a floating ship museum and educational facility. In May 1991 the ship became North Coast Harbor's first permanent new attraction when it was docked at the E. 9th St. pier. At that time it was one of only 4 ore freighter museums on the Great Lakes.
In Sept. 1994 the Great Lakes Historical Society divested itself of the museum. Amid a groundswell of local support to keep the Mather in Cleveland, the Harbor Heritage Society was created to negotiate a new lease agreement with the city. Incorporated in June 1995, Harbor Heritage formally acquired the Mather on 22 July 1995, and in 1996 continued to oversee the Mather's ongoing restoration, promotion, and development as a historic vessel.
From 1995-2006, the Harbor Heritage Society owned and operated the Mather Museum. In 2005, the Mather was moved from its East Ninth Street Pier berth to a permanent berth on Dock 32, 800 feet due west and just north of the GREAT LAKES SCIENCE CENTER, officially becoming part of the center in 2006. In 2007, a permanent all-weather connector from the Science Center to the Mather was constructed to encourage visitors to visit both venues.