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USS Commodore (IX-7) circa the 1920s
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Class: COMMODORE (IX-7)
Design: Wooden cargo, 1875
Displacement (tons): 2,200 displ. est.
Dimensions (feet): 265.4' oa x 42.2' x 15.4' depth
Original Armament: None initially listed
Later armaments: 1-4"/50 2-3pdr (by 1924); 1-4"/50 1-3pdr (by 1929)
Speed (kts.): --
Propulsion (HP): --
||1 Sep 18
||Quayle & Sons
||1 Sep 18
||10 Mar 30
||11 Mar 30
In 1875 the shipyard of Quayle & Sons at Cleveland, Ohio, built the 2,082 ton (gross) 900 NHP (later 700 IHP) screw wooden freighter COMMODORE for the Western Transit Co. of Buffalo, N.Y. At the time of her completion she was said to be the largest vessel on fresh water. By the late 1890s the Western Transit Line was operating a fleet of 16 package freighters including COMMODORE between Buffalo and Chicago and Duluth.
In 1906, at the request of the Governor of the State of Illinois, an area of the navigable waters of Lake Michigan was set aside by the War Department as a site for an armory for the Illinois Naval Militia. It was found difficult to get an appropriation for an armory so the old freighter COMMODORE was secured, moved onto the site, and put into use as an armory. In 1911 or 1912 COMMODORE's home port as reported in merchant vessel registers was shifted from Buffalo to Chicago, although she remained privately owned.
In 1916 there was considerable agitation in connection with the filling in of the lake front and, in order to more fully establish the right to the area in question as an armory site, a bulkhead was built outside of the COMMODORE and the area within the bulkhead was filled in, planting the COMMODORE in a mud dock. At this time the ship was dropped from the merchant vessel register. Her commanding officer reported on 16 Sep 22 that she had been acquired about 1 Sep 18 from the Edward A. Evers Syndicate for $20,000. In 1921 the War Department authorized the Park Commission to fill in the lake front to the east of the retaining wall, putting COMMODORE wholly in park territory.
On 22 Feb 22 the Bureau of Construction and Repair recommended that COMMODORE be carried as a district craft, unclassified, and the Department directed this action for the Ships Data Book on 2 Mar 22 and for the Navy Register on 24 Apr 22. In 1922 the Navy Filing Manual assigned the symbol IX-7 to COMMODORE, but during the life of the ship this symbol was used solely for filing paperwork and not as a designator for the ship.
As of February 1929 the vessel was used as an armory by the nine fleet divisions and two headquarters divisions of the Naval Reserve in Chicago. The housed-over wooden freighter contained a drill hall measuring 150' x 40', and also had eight locker rooms in the hold, office space for the Area Commander, Battalion Commanders and Division Commanders, club rooms for the men, shooting gallery and many other provisions. For the past two years she had been leaking excessively through seams below ground level that were inaccessible to caulking and could not be definitely located. Fortunately a magnificent new armory was completing construction nearby and would be ready for occupancy in September 1929, at which time COMMODORE would no longer be required.
On 16 Nov 29 SecNav placed COMMODORE on the sale list, and three days later CNO directed Com-9 to decommission her. On 6 Mar 30 the ship's commanding officer reported that all government property except one 4" gun and a pump, probably the one that was constantly running in her hold, had been removed and that these two items would be removed within days. He recommended that the ship be considered vacated by the Naval Reserve on 10 Mar 33 and that she be sold on the earliest possible date. SecNav struck the ship from the Navy Register on 11 Mar 30. On 17 Jul 30 the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts reported that no bids had been received when the ship was authorized for sale and it appeared that the Navy would have to let a contract to have her removed, the estimated cost being around $3,500. On 13 Oct 30 the Commander of the 4th Naval Reserve Area, now in the new armory, informed Com-9 that the authorities in Chicago were asking every few days as to when the ship was to be removed as they wanted to start work on the new road that was to go through her present location. He guessed that lack of money was responsible for the delay and suggested that, as many members of the Naval Reserve were then out of work, a few be put on active duty to remove the vessel. On 23 Oct 30 the Bureau of Navigation granted authority for Com-9 to place nine enlisted reservists on training duty for a period of 60 days for the purpose of removing and disposing of the hulk. The hole was then to be made available to local contractors to fill with matter from excavation jobs elsewhere in the city. The ship was officially listed as demolished in January 1931.
||Ex wooden freighter COMMODORE, became Illinois Naval Militia armory 1906, on Navy List 1922, replaced by new armory and scrapped in place by unemployed Naval Reservists 1930-31.
Compiled: 20 Mar 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013