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Shipbuilding was Lorain's earliest industry, brought by Connecticut shipbuilders Augustus Jones and William Murdock, who launched their first wooden vessel on the Black River in 1819. Cleveland Shipbuilding began operations at the Lorain shipyard in 1898 and built the first steel hulled ship on the Great Lakes. After acquiring several ship building companies within the Great Lakes, Cleveland Shipbuilding became American Shipbuilding in 1900.

Shipyards Historic Marker

Sky, Cloud, Plant, Water

Shipyards Historic Marker

Sky, Cloud, Plant, Leaf

USS Lorain launch, 1944

Water, Vehicle, Boat, Watercraft

American Shipbuilding Yard; Lorain, Ohio

Water, Infrastructure, Vehicle, Watercraft

Paul R. Tregurtha

Water, Sky, Naval architecture, Boat

Prior to World War II, the American Shipbuilding Company was the leading shipbuilder in the Great Lakes region. It began as Cleveland Shipbuilding in 1888, named after the city in which it was based, but moved its yard to Lorain on the East side of the Black River. After acquiring Toledo Shipbuilding, West Bay Shipbuilding (Michigan), and Superior Shipbuilding (Wisconsin), Cleveland Shipbuilding changed its name to American Shipbuilding (AmShip) in 1900.

Between 1941 and 1944, the Lorain shipyard built approximately 35 ships for the U.S. Navy including net tenders, patrol crafts, and minesweepers. The USS Lorain was launched in 1944 as an anti-submarine and escort vessel for troop ships in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1958 and 1959, the U.S. Navy commissioned two landing ships subsequently christened the Lorain County (LST1177) and Wood County (LST 1178). The USS Lorain County was designed to carry troops, tanks, and equipment and land them on the beaches of enemy territory. Of course, AmShip also built Lake Freighters, Tugs, Tankers, Cargo Ships, Passenger Ships for various companies to transport goods and people around the Great Lakes. They built many famous vessels and designed many firsts which later became standard design features in the industry.

In February of 1981, American Shipbuilding launched its last vessel, christened the William J. De Lancey (Republic Steel's chairman), which was built specifically for carrying ore for Republic Steel from Lake Superior ports to their mill in Indiana and Lorain, Ohio. At 1,013 feet, she is still the largest ship operating on the Great Lakes. The ship was rechristened Paul R. Tregurtha in 1990 to honor owner Interlake Steamship Company's Vice Chairman.

Over its nearly nine decades in Lorain, the shipbuilding industry became a fixture of Lorain's character. AmShip's celebrated history would include control and eventually closure by New York Yankees owner and AmShip board chairman, George Steinbrenner. When the company's union workers refused any more concessions, Steinbrenner moved shipbuilding work from Lorain to Tampa in 1983, leaving over 1,500 people without a job just weeks before Christmas.

Dubelko, Jim. American Ship Building Co., Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Accessed January 1st 2022.

Wharton, George. Great Lakes Fleet Page Vessel Feature - Paul R. Tregurtha, Boatnerd. Accessed January 1st 2022.

Black River Historical Society. Images of America: Lorain, Ohio. Charleston, SC. Arcadia Publishing, 1999.

Isikoff, Michael. Steinbrenner's Hardball Game, Washington Post. February 5th 1984. Accessed January 1st 2022.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Jen Neuhaus

Jen Neuhaus