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75 Maritime Drive
Preserve the maritime heritage of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes.
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum was founded in 1968 as the Manitowoc Maritime Museum to ensure that the maritime heritage of Manitowoc and the Great Lakes would not be forgotten. Since it opened its doors to the public in 1969 the Museum has become home to one of the nation's most extensive collections of Great Lakes maritime history, original artifacts and nautical archeology. It is the only marilime Museum on the Great Lakes accredited by the American Association of Museums. In 1984, the Museum was singled out as the "most outstanding history museum in Wisconsin" by the State Historical Society of Wiscsonsin. Over the years the Museum's programs and exhibits have received numerous awards from federal and state agencies. More recently in 1993, Wisc onsin Trails magazine named it the "Best Small Museum in Wisconsin."
In 1847, the first wooden sailing ship built in Manitowoc was launched and a tradition of shipbuilding was born. 1852 saw the launch of the first Clipper Schooner built on the Great- Lakes. Manitowoc's prowess as a shipbuilding and commercial center quickly spread and the port became known as the "Clipper City" because it was an extremely busy port with a thriving shipbuilding industry. By 1900, more than 200 schooners, tugs and steamers had been built there. Between 1850- 1880 there were as many as ten major shipbuilders in the city of Manitowoc. One of the old main docks is now, appropriately, the location of the Wisconsig Maritime Museum.
The heyday of Manitowoc shipbuilding was during World War II when 28 submarines were built. In fact, more than 100 vessels including landing craft, minesweepers and submarine chasers were constructed for the war. Manitowoc remained the center of shipbuilding in Wisconsin until 1970, when its largest shipbuilder moved to Sturgeon Bay because the river and port was too small to construct 1,000 foot freighters.
The Museum was founded by former submariners and civic leaders who wanted to bring a World War II submarine to Manitowoc to commemorate the role the city played in building submarines and supporting the war effort. In 1970, the U.S. Navy donated the USS COBIA to the Museum, which is the same type of submarine constructed in Manitowoc during the war. The COBIA is permanently berthed in the river adjacent to the Museum, and thousands of visitors tour her each year. The USS COBIA was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In the mid-70s, the emphasis of the Museum was expanded to include the maritime history of the Great Lakes including vessel construction, transportation and commerce over the past 140 years. The 1980s marked a successful capital campaign which raised $2.5 million to construct a new facility, and in 1987 the Museum opened at its present location at 75 Maritime Drive.
Over the last 20 years the Museum, which is still growing, has become a major tourist attraction drawing visitors from all over the state, the region, the country and the world. In order to more accurately reflect the scope of the Museum's growing Great Lakes maritime collections and its broad-based popularity, the Museum's membership voted in 1994 to change its name from the Manitowoc Maritime Museum to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum.
The Museum is home to professionally designed exhibits and displays which revolve around 1 9th and 20th century Great Lakes maritime history. Permanent displays include an authentic reproduction of the midship section of "The Clipper City," a schooner which was built in Manitowoc in 1854; a life-size port scene depicting Manitowoc at the turn of the century; passenger ship interiors; original artifacts and ships ' engines. One of the most popular exhibits is the model ship gallery. A special treal for young and old alike, it features finely detailed model ships of yesteryear and today.
Each year, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum unveils a new and special exhibit. The special major exhibit currently on display is entitled: "United for Victory: At Home and Under the Sea," which chronicles Wisconsin's contribution on the homefront during World War II and Manitowoc submarines at war. Past displays have featured Great Lakes shipwrecks, Wisconsin's outboard industry and the Golden Age of Toy Boats. The Museum has a 7,000 volume library featuring a wealth of historical information on the upper Great Lakes_books, periodicals, diaries and scrapbooks. The library also houses an extensive photograph collection_some 20,000 photographs are available for study and research.
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is a vital part of the community. Each year it co-sponsors special events like the annual Riverwalk Festival which draws over 20,000 people. The staffat the Museum has organized visits by tall ships, an annual model ships and boats contest, the annual Maritime Bay Photography Contest, many submarine crew reunions and numerous workshops and programs.
Those who visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum perceive.it as a "world class" institution. It is uniquely positioned as an educational institution to help preserve our past while playing a major role in enhancing Wisconsin's economic vitality and tourism industry.
The Manitowoc Maritime Museum is justly proud of its display of model ships... and the workshop where skilled craftsmen build them. You'll see accurate scale models of ships, old and new... some with literally thousands of hours of work involved to make each ship authentic in detail. . . a memorable exhibit area you'll enjoy immensely!
We've packed over 100 years of Great Lakes Maritime history into the new Manitowoc Maritime Museum!
It's a fascinating, entertaining, educational adventure into everything from sailing ships to modern Great Lakes ships and shipping. . . WWII submarines and maritime treasures.
OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK - YEAR ROUND (Closed major holidays)
Submarine Tours USS COBIA tours are conducted by Tour Guides 7 days a week throughout the year, weather permitting. The 45 minute Submarine Tours are held until 5:00pm during summer hours and until 3:00pm during the winter hours. Hours are subject to change.
(effective January 1, 2004)
Rates include access to both the Museum and USS COBIA submarine:
offers discounted admission
rates to families, senior citizens, AAA members, World War II submarine
veterans, and active-duty and veteran servicepersons from any branch of
Group Tour Rates
Reduced rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Please reserve your group tour four weeks in advance. To schedule your tour or for more information, contact the Museum at 920-684-0218.
Group Tour Rate:
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