Thursday, January 22, 2015


Detroit Harbor scene.  In foreground, the Standard Oil pier,
later Hansen Oil, and as of late 2014, Ferry Line north dock
Behind that is the former Cornell dock, now Island Outpost,
with Chris Andersen and his freight boat Wisconsin.
(photo taken in 1949 by Bob Williams)
In the background are several abandoned vessels in the shallows,
near what was the Chambers dock, now  the location of the Town's
launch ramps and the Island Clipper pier.

- Washington Island, Wisconsin

Like many waterfronts, Detroit Harbor changed over time, but many of those same appendages that were fishing or freight piers years ago remain in place, raised up and shored up over time as better materials and construction techniques, and capital to make improvements became available.

The dock in the foreground was owned at one time by Standard Oil.  It looks quite trim, capped with concrete, and it was used as a platform for unloading barrels of petroleum products, as well as transfer and other freight from the Anderson Transit's American Girl and barge Oil Queen.  (The Island Electric Co-op, with diesels placed into service in 1946, was using several hundred thousand gallons of diesel annually, and the Oil Queen helped to fill the tanks that kept those engines working.)

In the 1960s a good portion of the Standard Oil pier was enclosed with steel, with sheets driven outside the existing timber cribs.

Over time, the timbers that made up the old pier deteriorated, and so have the steel tie-backs and whaler supports that hold the sheets from tipping outward shown significant corrosion.  Much of the pier's interior wooden cribs and steel tie backs will need removal, or replacing, in a shoring up process designed to strengthen the dock before new fill and a concrete cap are added.

Detroit Harbor is frozen solid, and has been for the past
several weeks.   Here, Rich Ellefson and Joel Gunnlaugsson
are shown on the pier.   Several openings were made along
the pier face for examination of existing
dock structure.

Steel arrived Monday by semi, and work is now underway, much of it undertaken by ferry crew as a winter project.  So far, they've been favored with mild and sunny January weather.   Tom Jordan, Island contractor, has some of his equipment on site to help break up the old concrete cap into smaller pieces, eventually to be trucked away.  Mike Kahr of Death's Door Marine will bring a larger machine later today, for driving sheets into the bottom.   This is an ideal time of year to get this sort of work done, as all of it can be done from the existing pier structure - and of course, there are few, if any, onlookers to get underfoot.

Con McDonald (L) and Tully Ellefson
cut steel for new dock brackets to support
tire fenders.      
With mild weather and relatively modest winds, recent ferry crossings have been excellent.

Other than a few fishermen on weekends, traffic is made up primarily of service providers, suppliers and Islanders who need to travel back and forth.

-  Dick Purinton

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