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The S.S. Eastland Disaster - Chicago, Illinois

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

In November of 2019, we traveled to Chicago, Illinois and our hotel was on the banks of the Chicago river. We learned more about the disaster when we visited the Chicago History Museum, but wanted to do a bit more research for ourselves.

The location of the disaster is currently marked by a historical marker. If you make your way to the LaSalle Street Bridge, the location is right there across from the Reid Murdoch Center (which was a building that was there in 1915).

Like I mentioned in the opening, we learned more details about the Eastland Disaster when we went to the Chicago History Museum and saw the display that they had about the tragedy. Marianne first heard about this during her tour to the Englewood Post office when we were in Chicago in April of 2018, but we really didn't dive into the research about it until now. The following are some photos of the display at the museum.

The SS Eastland was a passenger ship based in Chicago and used for tours. On July 24, 1915, the ship rolled over onto her side while tied to a dock in the Chicago River. A total of 844 passengers and crew were killed in what was the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

After the disaster, Eastland was salvaged and sold to the United States Navy. After restorations and modifications, Eastland was designated a gunboat and renamed USS Wilmette. She was used primarily as a training vessel on the Great Lakes, and was scrapped after World War II. (Wikipedia)

We realized that we actually was pretty close to this location when we recently stayed in Chicago, but we didn't get a chance at the time to go down to the actual spot. If you caught our Vlog video we did about Chicago, there was a time-lapse that we had in the video. That time lapse from shooting out our hotel window towards the direction up the Chicago River of the Eastland disaster location. Turns out, we were actually within walking distance at the time, but didn't even realize that we were. We will make sure to go there when we return to Chicago again in the future; however, we did decide to focus a segment of our live stream show about the disaster. You can catch the replay of that in the following video.

While researching the information for our show and for this blog post, we found some interesting resources that you might be interested in as well. The following animation video was produced by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society that demonstrates what happened to the ship while it was tied to the dock on the morning of July 24, 1915.

The following websites contain some great information about the disaster as well that can be supplemented with information that you can find on Wikipedia too. Click on the images (or links) below to connect to the associated websites.

  • Eastland Disaster Historical Society - Contains detailed information about the disaster including family histories of those who were on board.

  • Chicago Tribune - Webpage showing some newly discovered lost photographs from the day of the disaster, some of which were not originally developed. These photographs are candid (non-posed) photos and they document the day and aftermath.

  • - Has some detailed information about the paranormal activity that many report even today that is believed to be related to the disaster.

Let us know down in the comments if you have heard about this event before, or if you have been to or plan on going to the disaster location down in the future.

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