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South Street Seaport Museum’s ship WAVERTREE departed for shipyard to begin preservation and restoration project

May 21, 2015

The South Street Seaport Museum bid a successful celebratory sendoff to its 1885 full-rigged ship WAVERTREE on Thursday, May 21, 2015. The ship will spend the next year in Staten Island at Caddell Drydock and Repair, undergoing a $10.6M restoration and stabilization project that will prepare the ship to receive visitors for the first time in years and will provide enhanced education program capacity to the Museum.

While crowds cheered and fireboats sprayed arcs of water, a bagpiper played “The Leaving of Liverpool” in farewell to WAVERTREE as tugboats escorted the elegant ship out of her berth at 12:50 p.m. on Thursday. Making a gentle turn downriver, the ship slowly proceeded toward the Battery, the Statue of Liberty, and New York Harbor, marking the beginning of what the Museum is calling the largest ship preservation project of its type in a generation.

Tom Finkelpearl, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; City Council Member Margaret Chin, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction; Captain Jonathan Boulware, South Street Seaport Museum Executive Director; and other City Officials were present for the send-off on Pier 15.

“In order to preserve this great piece of maritime history, the WAVERTREE today set sail for the Caddell Dry Dock for a year-long restoration project that will restore it to its former splendor,” said Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York in a letter of support. “I am delighted to commend the Seaport Museum team and supporters for undertaking this important project and for their commitment to protecting our city’s past.”

Captain Jonathan Boulware, Executive Director of the Museum, hailed the project as a vital step in the documentation of the city’s history. “This ship, and those like her, once lined the East River from the Battery to the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said. “These are the ships that built New York. They were instruments of globalization, immigration, and finance. New York is the city it is today, the financial capital of the world, because of ships like this one. She represents all that made New York New York.”

“The museum is and must remain the independent anchor of the historic South Street Seaport district,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

WAVERTREE is a full-rigged sailing cargo ship from 1885 and crown jewel of the fleet of the Museum. At Caddell Drydock and Repair in Staten Island, WAVERTREE will undergo a massive stabilization and restoration project – the largest project of its kind ever undertaken by a museum in the U.S. The 130-year-old ship, built of riveted wrought iron, is the very archetype of the sailing cargo ships of from the latter half of the 19th century that during the “age of sail” lined South Street by the dozens, creating a forest of masts from the Battery to the Brooklyn Bridge. The sheer volume of these ships conducting world trade in New York directly fueled the economic and cultural development of the city and established New York as the global commercial capital we know today.

The ship WAVERTREE was built in Southampton, Great Britain and circled the Earth four times in her career, carrying a wide variety of cargoes. The ship called on New York in 1896, no doubt one of hundreds like her berthed in the city. In 1910, after twenty-five years of sailing, she was caught in a Cape Horn gale that tore down her masts and ended her career as a cargo ship. She was salvaged and used as a floating warehouse and then a sand barge in South America before South Street Seaport Museum acquired her in 1968. Now, she is to become the iconic centerpiece of the “Street of Ships” at South Street.

This $10.6 million stabilization and restoration project is funded by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York City Council Office, and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. The project will be undertaken at Caddell Drydock and Repair in Staten Island and will address critical long-term preservation of the ship. Stabilization work will include the replacement of twenty massive steel plates below the waterline, a new ballast system, up-to-date electrical, lighting, and the installation of de-watering infrastructure, as well as state-of-the-art cathodic protection and coatings that will effectively isolate the hull from corrosion. The work will not only restore her main deck, but also the reinstall her ‘tweendeck (the deck between the cargo holds and the main deck), which was removed from the ship in the 1930s when she was used as a barge. The latter project will create a large indoor area of the ship that can be employed year-round for Museum educational programming and repair and preservation work. The project will lay the groundwork for the re-rigging of WAVERTREE back at South Street upon her return. The WAVERTREE stabilization and restoration project is a key part of South Street Seaport Museum’s revitalization and programming plan. WAVERTREE’s restoration will provide a new and improved programming space, along with a living laboratory for STEM and other education programs.

South Street Seaport Museum, the congressionally designated National Maritime Museum, is a non-profit cultural institution preserving and promoting the historic district of South Street Seaport in New York City. Founded on May 22, 1967, the South Street Seaport Museum (SSSM) is dedicated to telling the vital story of the foundation of New York and its link to its great natural harbor. The Museum preserves and interprets the history of New York City as a place where goods, labor, and cultural diffusion are exchanged through work, commerce, and the interaction of diverse communities. The Seaport Museum is located in a 12 square-block historic district on the East River in Lower Manhattan, the site of the original port of New York City. The Museum’s campus is comprised of key historic locations such as Schermerhorn Row, working trade centers on Water Street, and on the “Street of Ships” at Pier 16. These exhibitions and educational facilities are located in the South Street Seaport in New York City’s largest concentration of restored early-nineteenth-century commercial buildings. The Museum houses exhibition galleries, working nineteenth-century print shops, a maritime library, a maritime craft center, and a fleet of vessels on “The Street of Ships” in the East River.


May 21, 2015
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South Street Seaport Museum
12 Fulton St
New York, New York 10038

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