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Columbia was constructed in Wyandotte, Michigan in 1902, and Ste. Claire was constructed in Toledo, Ohio in 1910. The naval architect Frank Kirby designed a new girder system for Columbia that allowed for the spans needed for a dance floor, thus Columbia was the first steamboat in the US with a proper ballroom. Columbia influenced the design of excursion steamers including Americana, Canadiana, Ste. Claire, Put-in-bay, Peter Stuyvesant, and Catalina throughout the US. Columbia and Ste. Claire were originally joined by a third, SS Britannia, built in 1906. During their heyday, Columbia and Ste. Claire sailed down the Detroit River from downtown Detroit to Bois Blanc Island, a Canadian island that was home to an amuseument park built as a destination for the steamers. During the summer, the ship's triple decks would be filled with passengers enjoying the 90-minute, 18-mile (29 km) boat ride to the island. Both ships featured music and dancing, an arcade, and a snack bar. The ships became icons on the Detroit River and were greatly loved by the people of Detroit.
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