Benson Ford Ship House Exclusive Access Tour
Recently I attended the Travel Influencer workshop hosted on a unique ship house with the fabulous ladies from Social Influencer Media, LLC. Through this I was offered the incredibly awesome and completely exclusive opportunity to spend a few days on the history Benson Ford Ship House in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.
First of all – you need to know it is AWESOME. But secondly (and most importantly!) it is a PRIVATE residence and is NOT available for rent or tours! So please don’t try contacting the owners!
On the bright side, however, I took plenty of photos to share with you a little bit not only about the interesting history of the Benson Ford but also a glimpse inside so that you can see what it looks like today. You can find even more history and images here.
It all started back in 1924 when the Benson Ford ship (named for one of Henry Ford’s grandsons) was built and launched for the Ford Motor Company. It was designed and used for transporting iron ore and other materials across the Great Lakes. Twice in 1959 it ran aground.
It was then sold in 1981 to Frank J. Sullivan, renamed John Dykstra II, after being stripped for salvageable parts. Mr. Sullivan intended to use it as a barge but it never sailed again. In 1992 decided to try and turn into a bed & breakfast. When licensing couldn’t be properly acquired it was then resold 5 years later as a private residence.
The structure was once again renamed the Benson Ford and renovated to be lived in. This 4 story summer home is a whopping 7000 square feet and includes a garage, family room, 5 bedrooms, 5 full baths, dining room, living room, galley, and one of my favorites – the pilot house!
Although the ship house is not visible while on Put-in-Bay as it is a private residence you can catch a glimpse of this amazing piece of history as you approach the island far to the right while on the Miller Ferry which runs multiple times throughout the day and carries not only people but vehicles and other service trucks between the island and the mainland. (although golf carts are still the preferred method of travel on the island – I recommend E’s Put-in-Bay Golf Carts.)
You can also see it best perhaps by kayaking on Lake Erie directly in front of the ship house. No matter what angle you see it from it is still stunning.
Perhaps one of my favorite places on the ship as you can imagine was out on one of the many “balconies”. I spent my nights outside under the open sky watching the stars and listening to the waves crash against the rocks on shore. But let’s start our tour inside ……
As you tour through the ship it’s such an exciting and unique experience – and handsomely decorated – you tend to forget you’re in a ship. But the steep stairs remind you how difficult it would be to make it from top to bottom in poor weather on the seas! Let’s head up to the pilot house – the most unique location in this house and the highest level indoors.
A View Inside the Pilot House:
From what I can tell most – if not all – of the pilot house is original. It still has the old equipment, steering wheel and radio system in place.
It by far provides the most stunning view from inside the ship.
Heading Down a Level:
As we head back down to the next level exiting from the steep stairs (which appears to be a secret closet) we find ourselves inside the study. On this floor are 3 of the bedrooms and 2 bathrooms – one of which I slept in.
This was the room I slept in – small but cozy. The best part was being able to keep the heavy ship door open at night and listen to the waves crash off of Lake Erie! Most of the smaller bedrooms were similar in size and design.
What I love is that the ship house, although a private residence, has kept much of the design and decor original. Sometimes I felt more like I was walking through a museum!
Down one more level:
Here’s a glimpse into one of the larger bedrooms as we travel down another floor.
And although we spent most of our time in the spacious family room where a nice kitchenette and bar have been added I couldn’t help but peek in every nook and cranny of the ship!
Remember that this stunning piece of history is a private residence so if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of it head out in your kayak or peer off to the right of the Miller Ferry as you head onto the island. I’m so thankful to those who have a passion to live in such a unique location and keep an important part of history alive.
Martha Youstra says
Thank you for this great tour. I’ve seen the boat and was happy to hear the history.
You’re quite welcome! It’s so full of history!
Brooke Sanfilippo says
Lake Eerie?? Really? Do your research … it’s Lake Erie. A fact which I would assume the other 99.9% of the country is aware. Poor journalism at its finest!
Ah yes – thank you for pointing out the one typo I had in my post. I can always count on the internet to be my editors! I think there’s a great lesson here for both of us. Perhaps I shouldn’t be working so hard through the night as I recall my journeys and perhaps you should learn not to be so disheveled over a simple typo. I fear for your health if something so small makes you so angry. Best wishes to you.
Miles Brock says
Nice retort. I love seeing the inside myself, my wife and I have been past there a number of times on the ferry. A trip I’m sure you’d love is Hwy 61 from Duluth Mn to Grand Marais Mn. Many State Parks and waterfalls and so beautiful
Oh man I’m a sucker for waterfalls! Thank you for the suggestion! I’m hoping to make it back out that way next summer and I’ve made note of those locations to check out. I appreciate the suggestion!
Diane Herd says
I love all the hustory about Put-In-Bay! I love history about the Victory Hotel that burned many years ago! Nothing left but the fresh water pool, which is overgrown and now fenced in.
Oh wow I need to research that! How fascinating!
Jenn K. says
Thanks for the view of the wonderful history on Lake Erie.
Lake Erie can be “Eerie!” Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Jenn K. says
Simmer down Brooke life is too short.
John E Rees says
One view that is rarely depicted is the backside of the house. A good aerial view is at http://www.putinbayphotos.com/freighter/160606pib02-800.jpg
Maeilyn Baker Mellon says
Fascinating & illuminating ‘inside’.
Thank you for sharing that. My sister lives on Put-In-Bay and I’ve been past that so many times and wondered what it looked like. Very beautiful!
You can also take the Jet Express out of Port Clinton and see it on every trip.
Karen Heuser says
Thank you for that view inside of the Benson Ford ship! I have always wondered about that. Over on Kelley’s Island, back by the boat dock at the state park, on the Loop path – there is some interesting remnants of the old quarry railroad (I think) . It looks like a set from an end of the world movie . Kind of creepy, but very peaceful and quiet. Make sure you wear mosquito spray, they are thick back there!! I love Kelley’s Island, it is my happy place that I go to when I need to escape my reality. 🙂 Happy Trails!!
marilyn baker mellon says
About a mile S on this shoreline, on the opposite side of the Island from the town-side, is my family’s summer cottage , now & the past 60 + yrs., & therefore a path I have walked even before this structure existed there, but rather as a ‘ship-house on top of a ship . I haven’t been inside nor is it open to sightseers. I have walked by it as have others visiting there. My email address was created because of the ‘Island’ in Ohio off the shore near Toledo, Ohio, on shore.
Ashlyn Blake says
I knew one of the owners of one of the companies that did the electrical work on this residence. He shared pictures of the entire rehab. Fascinating. I look forward to seeing this every time I travel Lake Erie Islands area.
Thank you so much for sharing!
You’re very welcome! It’s an amazing place!
Great tour thanks! I have been to the island many times and I worked for Ford Motor Co. So I was familiar with the ship and how it got there but always wondered what it looked like inside. I know this trip was quite a few years ago but hopefully while you were on the island you managed to visit the underground caves. Also on the nearby Kellys island there is a huge glacier groves area. Also a great island trip is Mackinaw Island that lies between upper and lower Michigan in lake Huron. That’s a great trip and step back in time. No vehicles are allowed on the island (besides emergency) so its bicycles or horse and buggy. Plus the grand hotel built in 1887 has the worlds longest porch. Go West and on Lake Michigan is sleeping bear sand dunes with 600 ft sand dunes that drop into the water. Go over the bridge into upper Michigan and just East of Munising off Lake Superior is Miners beach with an upper overlook that would make you think its a Caribbean island. The water is crystal clear and turquoise in color. Also very cold as the lake is huge and deep and North. We swam there in July and the water was 52 deg. Its the warmest in like Sept. Lots of great stops along the great lakes. Enjoy!
These are fantastic suggestions! Thank you! We had a fantastic time in Munising at the different boat tours (Shipwrecks & Pictured Rocks) and they were such a highlight for us!