The 1885 ship Wavertree has a well-documented and fascinating history. Built in Southampton, Great Britain, she 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 thirty-five years of sailing, she was caught in a Cape Horn storm 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, where the waterfront workers referred to her as “el gran Valero,” the great sailing ship, because even without her masts she was obviously a great windjammer. She was saved by the Seaport Museum in 1968 and towed to New York to become the iconic centerpiece of the “Street of Ships” at South Street. The 130-year-old Wavertree, built of riveted wrought iron, is an archetype of the sailing cargo ships of 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 $13 million restoration of Wavertree was managed by the Department of Design and Construction, and fully funded through the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs with support from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and Manhattan Borough President’s Office. Restoration work took place at the Caddell Dry Dock in Staten Island. Five months out of the water were spent on extensive hull repairs; along with replacement of two of the ship’s decks and a massive rigging restoration , the project will return the vessel to the condition she was in when she last sailed in 1910.
Speaking in glowing terms of the project, the Museum’s director Captain Jonathan Boulware said, “No city in the US has ever undertaken a comparable municipally-funded restoration of a sailing ship. With the restoration of Wavertree, New York pays due respect to its maritime heritage, engages current New Yorkers in their waterways, and lays the groundwork for education programming that will inform future generations. Wavertree is the very type of ship that made New York New York. Wavertree is our city’s ship and we’re thrilled to welcome her back to the Museum, back to the Street of Ships.”
Caring for the restored ship Wavertree is an ongoing process, there are many ways to support the work we do to keep her in ship shape, use the links below to donate to the Museum, sign up to volunteer, or purchase a ticket to visit the ship and our exhibitions
The Seaport Museum thanks the Mayor of the City of New York, New York City Council, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Manhattan Borough President, and NYC Department of Design and Construction for their immense support of the Wavertree restoration project.