The bridges along the North Branch used to be movable up to, and including, Belmont Avenue. Grebe Shipyard took advantage of this navigation channel because they built some fairly large boats. It used to specialize in building custom luxury wooden yachts. They used exotic woods like teak and mahogany.
And the mahogany was not just for interior use. This boat was listed for $134,500. The listing indicated the hull material was "Double Planked Mahogany" and the deck material was Teak.
|1964 55-foot Flushdeck Pilothouse
1965 55-foot Flushdeck
[Per a comment: this was the last boat built here.]
|The interior of the above 1964 boat
A Chicago Tribune article says the shipyard produced 200 luxury boats since it opened in 1926. But ShipBuildingHistory shows it producing boats since 1916. I reconciled these dates when I learned the company started in Milwaukee and then moved to Chicago. And it started with the name Great Lakes Boat Building.
|ChicagoMaritimeMuseum, 1 of many photos
"World War II was the Grebe yard's most prosperous time, building mostly wooden mine sweepers called YMS's for Yard Mine Sweepers. These small warships were used in the Pacific to clear Japanese magnetic mines before amphibious landings."
I found someone's recollection that it closed in 1995. [YachtForums, Jeff Ondrla]
A view to the east showing a shipyard on the west side of the North Branch of the Chicago River, just north of Belmont Avenue, on February 11, 1922. Some of the rides at Riverview Park are visible in the background.
MWRD posted on May 24, 2023
William Lafferty: This would not be the Grebe yard in 1921. Henry Grebe Company was initially formed as a yacht brokerage and marine surveying firm that year with an office on North Michigan. Henry Grebe also provided naval architecture service primarily to yachtsmen. Great Lakes Boat Building Corporation was organized at Milwaukee on 1 February 1916, capitalized at $200000, to build power boats at a yard constructed at Becher Street and the Kinnickinnic River, and Grebe, a native of Milwaukee, was originally associated with the firm until his move to Chicago. On 23 October 1923 a group of wealthy Chicago yachtsmen including Sinclair Oil's Sheldon Clark, Phil Wrigley, and lumberman Herman Hettler, took control of the firm and announced its intention to move it to Chicago. Hettler leased the firm the site of one of his former lumber yard docks on the North Branch at North Washtenaw for the new plant. Grebe became the de facto naval architect of the firm that continued to build boats as the Great Lakes Boat Building Corporation until at least 1938. Walter Beauvais was the resident naval architect when the firm was located in Milwaukee. Grebe was its president by 1930 and he consolidated the yard, brokerage, and naval architecture office under the name Henry C. Grebe & company in, I believe, 1939, then called in advertising the "Great Lakes yard of Henry C. Grebe & Company." After Grebe's death on 24 May 1952, his widow Marguerite took over management of the yard.
|Christopher Janisch posted
They were on the Chicago River @Belmont. You can see Riverview park in the background.
[William Mullican added some photos from and a link to these notes.]
Ray Schmid: I see the Comet roller coaster and the brick smoke stack of Lane Tech HS.
I first learned about this shipyard because they made minesweepers during WWII and the Navy installed machinery in the railroad swing bridges on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal so that they could be opened to allow the minesweepers to get to the ocean via the Mississippi River. (The St. Lawrence Seaway would not open until 1959. The Navy also shipped other ships from Great Lakes shipyards down the Mississippi River such as Manitowoc Submarines.) I dug through a lot of luxury yacht photos before I figured out how to search for photos of mine sweepers. A collection of photos of their yachts is at the end of these notes.
The Navy wanted to build ships inland to avoid German U-boats. Sometimes they built a shipyard from scratch like the LST shipyard in Seneca, IL. In the case of Grebe, they just had to change the product line. I can't determine if the hull of the YMS class of minesweepers was steel or wood. I remember reading that Grebe was chosen to build wooden minesweepers because of their expertise and tooling to make wooden hulls. But a reference indicates that magnetic mines, and thus wooden hulled minesweepers, were not developed until the Korean War.
Displacement is 270 British tonnes, length is 136', and the crew was 32 men. It had 2 shafts and 2000 hp. 494 ships of this class were built, which was, by far, the largest class.
YMS-84 was the first minesweeper built at Grebe. It was order 4-1-1941, the hull was laid down 6-2-1941, it was launched 3-3-1942, and it was commissioned 5-23-1942 [YMS-84]. I assume the period between launch and commissioning is when it made its trip between the North Branch of the Chicago River to the Gulf of Mexico. The last, and 25th, minesweeper built for the Navy by Grebe was YMS-421. It was ordered 7-21-1943 and commissioned 3-3-1945.
|Neil Gale posted
The Henry C. Grebe & Co. Inc. Shipyard was on the Chicago River at Belmont Avenue Building U.S. Navy Ships, across from Riverview Park, that built over 50 Navy Ships.
The shipyard’s existence was the reason that moveable bridges were kept in place on the north branch of the Chicago River. Lots of pictures and a great story to boot! Who knew?
CLICK TO READ ─► https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/.../henry-c-grebe...
The YMS-84 was laid down on June 2, 1941, by Henry C. Grebe and Co., Chicago, IL. Launched March 3, 1942, and was completed May 23, 1942. The USS YMS-84 was a YMS-1 Class Auxiliary Motor Minesweeper built for the United States Navy and commissioned into service in May 1942. Notable for being the first US Navy Vessel built in Illinois during the Second World War, the YMS-84 and her crew steamed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and then into the Gulf of Mexico, where she began training and convoy escort duties through early 1943.
It struck me that minesweepers are one of the few military assets that continue to do their primary job after a war is won. A lot of mines had to be removed from the English Channel. During the war, they just cleared lanes across the channel.
During the Korean War, they built 3 more that were delivered in 1953-54. [ShipBuildingHistory] So the photo below would be of one of the three ships for the Korean War. During WWII, they also built 20 tugs, and in 1945 they delivered four water tankers that had a displacement of 440 tons and were 174' long. [ShipBuildingHistory]
U.S. Navy minesweeper under construction at Henry C. Grebe & Co. shipyard on the west bank of the North Branch of the Chicago River, June 1952.
[We can see they built them from the bow backwards. I don't see any cranes big enough to lift in pre-built modules like they developed for Liberty Ships.]
|Photo from MaritimeMuseum
|1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The North Branch of the Chicago River, looking north from the west side of the Belmont Avenue Bridge, showing boats and a ship repair yard on May 27, 1920.
Charles M. LaBow: Also, in the distance, the smokestacks of the Commonwealth Edison, Northwestern Generating Station and the lift structure of the Shoot-the-Chutes at Riverview Park.
The North Branch of the Chicago River, looking north from the west side of the Belmont Avenue bridge showing a shipyard and boats on October 8, 1925.
|Lance Grey commented on MWRD's post
Smokestacks of Northwest Power station @ Roscoe & California seen in lots of Riverview pics. Grebe shipyard did major work for the Navy.
Lance Grey Grebe's main business was custom luxury wooden yachts.
They built 25 of the 494 YMS class minesweepers built for WWII. They had steel hulls because magnetic mines, and wooden hulled minesweepers, were not developed until the Korea War.
|Lance Grey commented on Dennis' comment
Thanks for the reminder, Dennis; The pic I put with the line of ships was probably a courtesy stop for a Photo-Op. I've seen this one posted by Riverview too. Otherwise just the abandoned houseboat junkers.
Sam Johnson posted 14 photos with the comment:
THE HENRY C. GREBE & CO. INC. SHIPYARD WAS ON THE CHICAGO RIVER AT BELMONT AVENUE BUILDING U.S. NAVY SHIPS.In 1926, Milwaukee's former "Great Lakes Boat Building Corporation" became the "Henry C. Grebe & Co. Inc. Shipyard" and moved to Chicago. The shipyard was over eight acres on the north branch of the Chicago River at 3250 North Washtenaw Avenue, across the river from the famous Riverview Park [also here].Before World War II, Grebe (Gree-be) produced sail yachts and powerboats for exclusive clientele.During WWII, Grebe built various wood and steel vessels for the Navy. The yard had cranes to lift 50 tons and a complete inter-yard rail system throughout. There was storage for 400 yachts.During the war, the shipyard built over 56 ships, wood, and steel, for the U.S. Navy, including 21 tugboats, 4 tankers, and 28 minesweepers (aka auxiliary motor minesweepers). These vessels were used in detecting mines laid by enemy submarines, and their wooden hulls helped prevent the explosion of nearby magnetic-triggered mines.This is a 1943 panorama of the Grebe Shipyard, which operated from 1926 to 1994. The former Riverview Park is visible in the background of this photograph. In the foreground, several U.S. Navy vessels are under construction.Rumor has it that Grebe built PT boats (small patrol boats, the most famous, PT-109, was commanded by Lieutenant John F. Kennedy). According to the Chicago Maritime Museum, which holds the Grebe archives, they never built PT boats.The shipyard's existence was why moveable bridges were kept in place on the north branch of the Chicago River because the bridges needed to open to let the Grebe-built craft to lake Michigan.Grebe shipyard looking east across Chicago River. Note Riverview Park's rides, Shoot the Chutes and The Bobs roller coaster in the background, circa 1928.📷The YMS-84 was laid down on June 2, 1941, by Henry C. Grebe and Co., Chicago, IL. Launched March 3, 1942, and was completed May 23, 1942. The USS YMS-84 was a YMS-1 Class Auxiliary Motor Minesweeper built for the United States Navy and commissioned into service in May 1942. Notable for being the first US Navy Vessel built in Illinois during the Second World War, the YMS-84 and her crew steamed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and then into the Gulf of Mexico, where she began training and convoy escort duties through early 1943.After the war, Grebe returned his business to mostly building pleasure craft for such Chicago luminaries as Philip Wrigley and Sterling Morton of Morton Salt. They also made some powerboats for the Chicago Police Department.When Grebe passed away in 1952, his widow Marguerite took over operations, which was unusual enough to merit a couple of newspaper articles about her. As time went on, the interest in these high-end yachts waned. She ran the company until they completed their last boat in 1972. The company continued to operate at the site until 1994, providing boat maintenance and storage. The land was worth more than the business.Today the site is occupied by the Belmont River Club townhomes.Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.Presented by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. at 3/25/2020 07:14:00 PM
Sam Johnson shared
|5 and 6 was a duplicate
A sampling of the Grebe yachts. Except for the Wanigan III at the end, I have sorted the photos into chronological order.
|Lock Lomond, 1948, 67 foot
|Full Moon, 1948
|1950 55-foot flushdeck
|Millie Jean, 1959
[Note a comment below: "the photo of the Millie Jean is from my personal collection, and is signed by the yard Superintendent then, Corey Berg-Olsen who was not only my boss but a personal friend."]
|Lady Grebe, 1961, 48-foot yacht with a mahogany deck
I don't know how permanent sales links are. So this Wanigan III link is an experiment: a 1949 76-foot yacht. The link accesses a lot of interior shots, including the engine room and crew bunks. I did copy a couple of photos in case the link breaks.
An article about Jerry Lewis selling his 1959 65-foot Grebe yacht also has three interior shots as well as a 3/4 exterior view.
|In case the link does break, I saved this image.
|In case the link does break, I also saved this image.
Bonus, the view on the other side of Belmont Ave. Bridge
|MWRD posted on Apr 17, 2023
A view to the south from the Belmont Avenue bridge showing a view of boats and a shipyard on the North Branch of the Chicago River on May 27, 1920.
Terry Gregory: These are houseboats and the North Branch of the river was called Houseboat City.
|Dennis DeBruler commented on MWRD's Apr 17, 2023 post
The Grebe shipyard was north of Belmont Ave. Here are a couple of MWRD photos of that view. The first one includes the top of a ride at Riverview Park.
The bridge in the background is for Western Avenue. Back then, it had a Chicago-style trunnion bridge.
I agree that the house in the photo is at Campbell and W. Fletcher Streets.