Zug Island Overview
Zug Island is a heavily industrialized island in the city of River Rouge River Rouge, Michigan near the southern city limits of Detroit Detroit, Michigan in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located where the mouth of the Rouge River River Rouge (Michigan) spills into the Detroit River. Zug Island is not a natural island in the river List of islands in the Detroit River ; it was formed when a shipping canal was dug along the southwestern side of the island, allowing
ships to bypass several hundred yards of twisting waterway near the mouth of the natural course of the lowest portions of the River Rouge River Rouge (Michigan) .
Originally a marsh-filled peninsula at the mouth of the River Rouge River Rouge (Michigan) , it served as an uninhabited Native American Indigenous peoples of the Americas burial ground for centuries. Upon European arrival, the land was incorporated into Ecorse Township Ecorse Township, Michigan , making up the very northeast corner of the township. The beginning of interest in developing the land came when Samuel Zug came to Detroit from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1836 to make his fortune in the furniture industry with the money he earned as a bookkeeper. Shortly after, Marcus Stevenson, a Detroit financier, went into business with him.
The Stevenson & Zug Furniture Company flourished until 1859 when Zug, now a rich man, dissolved the partnership. He decided to invest in real estate to provide security for his wife, Ann. Envisioning a luxurious estate on the Detroit River, Zug bought of marshy land below Fort Wayne Fort Wayne (Detroit) from the town of Delray Delray, Detroit in 1876. But the dampness was too much for the Zugs and after 10 years they abandoned their home.
In 1888, Zug let the River Rouge Improvement Company cut a small canal through the south section of his property to connect the Rouge River and the Detroit River (this Short Cut Canal, as it came to be known as, was enlarged in the early 1920s by Henry Ford to allow large ships to more easily navigate to and from his famous Ford River Rouge Complex). Three years later Zug pulled off the largest real estate transaction of the decade: he sold his island for $300,000 to industries that wanted it as a dumping ground.
Zug became interested in politics and served as Wayne County Wayne County, Michigan Auditor under Gov. John J. Bagley. He died in 1896 at the age of 80.
The Detroit Iron Works brought ironmaking to Zug Island in 1901 with the commissioning of a blast furnace built in 1902. In 1904 the works was purchased by the M.A. Hanna Company of Cleveland, Ohio which built a second blast furnace in 1909. At this time the island's two furnaces were reportedly the largest of their kind in the world, producing pig iron for foundry companies. The plant expanded and became part of the Great Lakes Steel Corporation in late 1931, becoming a key component of a fully integrated steel mill and a division of the larger National Steel Corporation. A third blast furnace was added in early 1938 while the existing furnaces were rebuilt and enlarged.
When National Steel became insolvent in 2003 most of the island's facilities were purchased, along with the rest of what's now called the Great Lakes Works, by United States Steel, which currently operates the mill. The island is home to the mill's ironmaking facilities (the rest of the mill's facilities, primarily steelmaking and processing, are located at the main plant a couple miles south in the city of Ecorse) which includes 3 blast furnaces ("A", "B" and "D") and raw materials storage areas. Ships supply large ore docks along the north ("1 Dock") and east ("3 Dock") shores of the island and large coal/coke/ore storage fields along the south and west ("B Area") shores. Number 5 Coke coke (fuel) Battery located there, once an integral part of the mill, is now independently owned and operated by EES Coke LLC, a DTE Energy company, which gained it during the National Steel bankruptcy. Delray Connecting Railroad, a U.S. Steel company, also operates some rail facilities on the island while a now-defunct small Honeywell chemical plant sits in shambles at the mainland end of the main or "2-way" vehicle/rail bridge to the island. Secondary vehicle and rail bridges (the "Shortcut") at the southwestern corner of the island also allow mainland access.
Iron produced at Zug Island is transported in hot metal cars via rail to steelmaking at the main plant while DTE's coke is shipped via rail to supply consumers, chiefly ISG International Steel Group /Mittal Mittal Steel Company , in the merchant metallurgical market. During the industry's peak, thousands of workers were employed on the island with a large percentage of the Downriver community supported by the local steel producer. Today a few hundred people work on the island with the hourly workers at U.S. Steel represented by USW United Steelworkers Local 1299. Currently, U.S. Steel has halted production due to the economic downturn.Despite the island's extremely developed industrial landscape, areas along the south and west shores are left undeveloped to provide habitat for natural wildlife. Foxes and once-endangered Peregrine falcons, which frequent large outdoor structures such as the EOT gantry cranes gantry crane at the ore docks, thrive on the island and offshore at the bottom of the Detroit River is a man-made bed of coal cinders which serves as a rare spawning site for Lake Sturgeon, a threatened species. Less desirable are the sometimes troublesome sizable po***tions of gulls, feral cats and rats.One of the most pressing problems in the neighborhoods surrounding Zug Island is poor air quality. Residents quoted in a March, 2000 Detroit Free Press article spoke of the air quality problems, complaining of the rancid odor that permeates their living spaces and causes nausea, headaches and dry heaves. The grass and trees in surrounding neighborhoods are dying and there is rust-colored dust on the streets, homes and cars.Due to its location and relative security- the island is off-limits to the public for the most part (cameras are prohibited on the premises so pictures of the area, except from the outside, are rare)- many urban legends exist regarding the island, the two most po***r being that the island is home to a correctional facility or prison and that parts of the movie RoboCop were filmed there (due to its mention in the movie as the location). Neither is true- the island does not serve as the location of any law enforcement or corrections facility and the steel mill shots in the movie were filmed at the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.'s Monessen Works in Pennsylvania.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald SS Edmund Fitzgerald of Great Lakes shipwreck fame was laden with taconite destined for Zug Island on her fateful voyage in 1975.
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