Northern Michigan Park to be home of “Aha”

Harbor Springs – A 130-year-old ship is being restored with plans to move it to a city park in northern Michigan. The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and the Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway are working together on restoring the Aha, the Petoskey News-Review reported. Once the work is done, the vessel is expected to be taken to Shay Park in downtown Harbor Springs, about 300 miles northwest of Detroit.

(In this image provided by the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society, students from the

Industrial Arts Institute make welding repairs to the boat Aha in Onaway.)

The all-steel ship was built in 1891 by Harbor Springs resident Ephraim Shay. It was being towed to storage in the 1930s when the ship began to take on water and was beached at a creek within a state park, according to the newspaper.

It lay abandoned there for decades. In 2003, the vessel was returned to Harbor Springs and placed outside the city’s Public Works building where it continued to rust. Restoration talks began in 2019 and the Aha was moved to the Industrial Arts Institute where students have been working to repair and restore the boat.

In Shay Park, the Aha would be across the street from the Hexagon House which was designed by Ephraim Shay. The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and Andrew J. Blackbird Museum are nearby.

“Shay Park having this vessel there would just provide another attraction for out-of-towners but also as a meaningful attraction for in-towners,” said city manager Victor Sinadinoski.

The boat will be totally enclosed and could receive no damage worse than what it has endured over the last 100 years, including damage and vandalism, said Tom Moran, chief executive of Moran Iron Works and volunteer project manager for the Aha. The Harbor Springs City Council approved a request by the historical society to move the boat to Shay Park, but that has to be reviewed by the city’s planning commission.

“It’s a great thing for our community,” Sinadinoski said. “Just a small touch, but it will be an addition to the community that will just provide more substance of things to do and some more meaningful history.”

The society thanks the Stella Maris Fund, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation, Great Lakes Energy People Fund and Irish Boat Shop for their leadership gifts.