A Look Back At Sault Ste. Marie History
“The Valley Camp the SS Valley Camp it was turned into a museum,” explained Paul Sabourin, the museum curator.
Since 1968 – hundreds of thousands of people have walked through the Valley Camp, experiencing more than 100 historical exhibits.
“This section here is congregated with all the US Coast Guard artifacts which you see right behind me is a model of the Mackinaw,” he said. “Next and behind there’s a model of the life raft and a life boat from the US Coast Guard, a 36-footer,”
There’s also a tank with local fish swimming in water continuously pumped from the St. Mary’s River.
Walking around the Valley Camp you’ll see history in front of you, behind you, next to you, and above you.
“The hatch covers will be open and coal will be poured into the cargo hole, there would be 10,000 tons of coal that was then shifted from the docs into the cargo hole,” he said.
It used to burn 50 tons of coal per day.
Paul has passionately provided tours for nearly a decade at the Valley Camp.
The history here however – originates a lot farther back — with a special anniversary this year.
“Well the 350th anniversary, is commemoration of what happened 350 years ago, the establishment of the city of Sault Ste. Marie,” he explained.
A lot has happened since then, including the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
“She sailed the great lakes from 1958 until that faithful night in 1975,” he said.
The Soo Historic Site was able to salvage two lifeboats that washed up on shore, empty.
All 29 sailors on board died that night, to this day, a maritime mystery.
“It is inconceivable that a ship that size would go down,” he said.
Cable control underwater vehicles were lowered to take pictures of what the ship looks like.
They determined the Fitz broke into three pieces underwater and still lays at the bottom of Lake Superior.
“Any of the ships that are on the great lakes right now do not sail on top where the Fitz is resting,” he said.
Paul says visitors typically spend the most time at this exhibit before moving to the back of the boat to see this engine up close.
People of all ages and backgrounds share one thing in common when they come to the Valley Camp.
“The see the History of Sault Ste. Marie, this is the birthplace of the State of Michigan, this is the first permanent establishment of Michigan,” he said.
And if you’re lucky, you might have a front row seat to see the freighters passing by in the Soo Locks.
“We are celebrating that particular history and the glory that attaches itself to it and its history made alive here in Sault Ste. Marie.