Hulett display at North Coast Harbor gains steam

A piece of Cleveland’s industrial history may take its place soon at North Coast Harbor. Developers and a group interested in preserving the historic Huletts that once loomed over Cleveland’s port have inched one step closer to their plan for a memorial.


The Cleveland City Planning Commission’s Landmark Commission unanimously approved a preferred concept plan Aug. 22 to display a 60-foot-tall arm and bucket seat from the early 20th century Huletts and educate visitors on their place in Cleveland’s steel and iron ore industry.


“They are the only remnants of Huletts anywhere,” says Tim Donovan, executive director of Canalway Partners. They are part of the Hulett Working Group that includes Richard Pace of Cumberland Development (which is creating a mixed-use lakefront development at North Coast Harbor), and Environmental Design Group, which is working on the design aspects. “[The Huletts] opened up places like Cleveland to become steel cities­—going from days to hours in the way ore was unloaded [from ships].”


Invented in 1898 by George Hulett in Conneaut, Ohio, about 70 Huletts were built. Many were put to use on the shores of the Great Lakes, changing the way ore was unloaded.


“The operator would ride the bucket like a roller coaster into the bowels of ships and load 17 tons of iron ore like dinosaurs,” says Donovan. “This is really a story about historic preservation of industrial artifacts.”


North Coast Harbor would be a perfect location, close to the steamship William G. Mather, which delivered iron ore and coal to Cleveland’s steel mills in its time, Donovan says.


The planned display would illustrate how these monsters worked on the shores of Lake Erie and give historical information on their place in history and contribution to Cleveland’s industrial rise, Donovan says. “They will be positioned in a way to emulate the way Huletts would get into a ship,” he says. “It mimics what you would see on the Mather. We’re going back to from where we came.”


By 1992, self-unloading ships made the Huletts obsolete, and most were destroyed.


In Cleveland, however, the Cleveland Port Authority retained two Huletts that are designated as Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarks by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, disassembling them and storing them.


The nonprofit Canalway Partners entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, Ohio State Preservation Office, the Port Authority, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for the preservation and relocation of the two remaining disassembled Huletts, which are stored in the Port Authority’s Cleveland Bulk Terminal dock at Whiskey Island.


The Aug. 22 presentation to the Landmarks Commission marks two decades of debate on what to do with the Huletts, says Jim Ridge, Canalway Partners’ brand manager. The group raised $250,000 for the cost of dismantling and storing the Huletts, he says. The Port Authority matched that money for the cost of erecting and displaying the remaining parts.


After the initial approval, Ridge says the group will appear before the Landmarks Commission again with final designs sometime in January.


There are no estimates on the final cost of the project, Ridge says, but the Port Authority has imposed a three-year time limit on it. “The clock started last August,” he says. “We’re on a good track now and we’re keeping our deadlines. It’s been 20 years. It’s time to wrap it up and move forward. I think we have a good plan.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.