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Street of Ships


South Street Seaport Museum is home to a fleet of 6 ships including the 1907 lightship AMBROSE, a “floating lighthouse” to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean into the broad mouth of lower New York Bay, the 1885 ship WAVERTREE, one of the last large sailing ships built of wrought iron, and the 1885 schooner PIONEER, an authentic 19th Century Schooner, with public sails daily from May thru October.

We welcome you to visit South Street Seaport Museum’s active waterfront and explore our historical vessels.

Lightship LV-87, also known as AMBROSE, was built in 1907 as a “floating lighthouse” to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean into the broad mouth of lower New York Bay between Coney Island, New York and Sandy Hook, New Jersey-an area filled with sand bars and shoals perilous to approaching vessels. South Street Seaport Museum’s Ambrose occupied her original station from her launching in 1908 until 1932. In 1921 Ambrose was fitted with a radio beacon, greatly assisting navigation of the channel in poor visibility; she was the first lightship so equipped. She was given to South Street Seaport Museum by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1968. During the spring and summer, visitors can board Ambrose and tour this original lightship, complete with working “radio shack.”

Lightship AMBROSE is open to the general public Wednesdays thru Sundays | 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Download the free self-guided tour, available via the MustSee app.

Our beloved Lettie G. Howard is one of few surviving examples of the fishing schooners once in wide use in the North Atlantic. She is a rare beauty with classic fishing schooner lines, turning heads wherever she goes, and is a designated National Historic Landmark. After an active life in the fisheries of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Lettie G. Howard arrived at South Street Seaport Museum in 1968. In 1994, after an extensive two-year rebuild that restored her to her original appearance, she was certified as a Sailing School Vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard and began a new career carrying students of all ages on life-changing voyages.

In 2013 she turned 120 years old and she’s as beautiful now as she was when she first slid down the ways at Essex, Massachusetts in 1893. In celebration of this milestone and with an eye to the future of this living artifact, South Street Seaport Museum undertook a capital campaign to raise funds for critical repairs and restoration—most significantly her keelson, a structural element that runs from stem to stern. Projects of this size and scope are periodic needs in the maintenance of historic ships.

This project in particular brought Lettie back into service as a Sailing School Vessel, and working in collaboration with New York Harbor School, it ensured her place in the lives of generations of student-sailors to come.

PIONEER  was built as a sloop in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania in 1885 to carry sand mined near the mouth of the Delaware Bay to an iron foundry in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was re-rigged as a schooner ten years later.

In the days before paved roads, small coastal schooners such as PIONEER  were the delivery trucks of their era, carrying various cargoes between coastal communities: lumber and stone from the islands of Maine, brick on the Hudson River, and oyster shell on the Chesapeake Bay. Almost all American cargo sloops and schooners were wood, but because she was built in what was then this country’s center of iron shipbuilding, Pioneer had wrought-iron hull. She was the first of only two cargo sloops built of iron in this country, and is the only iron-hulled American merchant sailing vessel still in existence.
By 1930, when new owners moved her from the Delaware River to Massachusetts, she had been fitted with an engine, and was no longer using sails. In 1966 she was substantially rebuilt and turned into a sailing vessel once again. Today she plies the waters of NY Harbor carrying adults and children instead of cargo in her current role as a piece of “living history.”

PIONEER sails 6 days a week,  and is also available for private charters, school groups, birthday parties and other events.

For more information please email

The wooden tugboat W.O. Decker was built in Long Island City, Queens in 1930 for the Newtown Creek Towing Company, a firm specializing in berthing ships and barges in the creek that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Originally called Russell I for the towing company’s owners, she was renamed the W.O. Decker in 1946 after being sold to the Decker family’s Staten Island tugboat firm. One of the last steam-powered tugs built in this harbor; she was later refitted with a diesel engine. In 1986, the W.O. Decker was donated to South Street Seaport Museum.

W.O. Decker is in regular use as an assist tug for the museum’s fleet and is available for private charter for up to six passengers.  For more information on chartering W.O. Decker please email

Wavertree was built at Southampton, England in 1885 for R.W. Leyland & Company of Liverpool, one of the last large sailing ships built of wrought iron. Today, she is the largest afloat. Wavertree was first employed to carry jute, used in making rope and burlap bags, between eastern India (now Bangladesh) and Scotland. When less than two years old she entered the tramp trades, taking cargoes anywhere in the world she could find them. After sailing for a quarter century, she limped into the Falkland Islands in December 1910, having been dismasted off Cape Horn. Rather then re-rigging her, her owners sold her for use as a floating warehouse at Punta Arenas, Chile. She was converted into a sand barge at Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1947, and was acquired by South Street Seaport Museum in 1968. In need of significant restoration, Wavertree is an excellent example of the sort of ships one might have seen on any given day here at South Street, the “street of ships.”Due to planned restoration work, Wavertree is not currently open to the public.
Built in Hamburg, Germany in 1911, the mighty four-mastedbarquePeking is one of the famous “Flying P Liners” of F. Laeisz Lines. Employed in the nitrate trade, Peking made voyages from Europe to the west coast of South America with general cargo and returned filled with guano for use in the making of fertilizer and explosives. Peking was made famous by the Irving Johnson film Around Cape Horn which documented her 1929 passage around the southern tip of South America in hurricane conditions.