Maine Maritime Museum will add six 120-foot masts to its evocation of the Wyoming, the largest wooden sailing ship ever built in the United States. This is the Wyoming on its launching day on December 15, 1909. Photo courtesy of SchoonerWyoming.comBATH — Maine Maritime Museum has announced that six 120-foot tall “masts” representing the masts of the schooner Wyoming, the largest wooden sailing ship ever built in the United States, will be erected this spring, joining bow and stern structures currently in place on the Museum campus.
“This is an exciting moment for the Museum, for the residents of Maine and for anyone interested in maritime history,” said Amy Lent, the Museum’s executive director. “This is a transformative event for the Museum and for tourism in Maine’s midcoast. How fitting that it came together during the Museum’s 50th anniversary year.”
A special dedication ceremony will be held Saturday, June 1. The event will be open to the public, and admission to the Museum will be free that day.
The present Wyoming evocation, the largest outdoor sculpture in New England, is among the most visited and photographed sites in Maine. The design was conceived by acclaimed Maine sculptors Andreas von Heune and Joe Hemes, following a national competitive search.
More than 50 individuals and organizations contributed in excess of $1 million to build Phase 1 of the evocation. Completed in 2006, the life-size sculpture was built on the location where the original ship was constructed by the Percy & Small Shipyard.
In the intervening years, hundreds of thousands of Museum visitors from throughout the U.S. and around the world have walked beneath, touched, photographed and been inspired by the two steel structures that showcase the shipbuilding legacy of the Bath and midcoast Maine region.
Comprised of two structures, replicas of the original ship’s bow and stern, the work of art spans almost 450 feet of the Museum’s riverfront campus. The bow structure stands almost six stories high, and its bow sprit reaches out some 100 feet, hovering over historic Washington Street in Bath. The stern section, almost four stories tall, sits near the river bank, seemingly waiting to enter the river at high tide as its namesake did more than 100 years before.
Although impressive and awe-inspiring in its current form, the goal of raising the Wyoming’s six masts remained.
“Erecting the masts has been an important goal since 2006,” said Lent. “Now, thanks to their efforts and the financial support of a few key contributors, it is going to become a reality.”
The fundraising success was the result of several key gifts. A former Trustee, Ken Kramer, left a bequest for this project, and another former Trustee, Tom Yale, arranged a donation of the six light poles that will serve as the masts. Longtime supporters who wish to remain anonymous pledged a gift in expectation that more people would share their devotion. An annual visitor from England, Robert Kaltenborn, pledged a gift in honor of his deceased wife, an artist who had been enthralled with the evocation and wanted it to be completed.
With so many pieces in place, Marjorie Twombly, surviving wife of former Museum board Trustee George Twombly, with the support of her family, made an extremely generous gift that met the fundraising goal necessary to raise the masts. George Twombly was a lead donor, and had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Wyoming project from the start.
“The generous contributions of the Twombly family form the financial ‘book ends’ that make it possible for the museum to interpret this great schooner in a way that will transform the museum’s campus and greatly enhance how we bring to life the story of Maine’s world famous shipbuilding traditions,” said Lent. “Because of that support, the Wyoming evocation will be dedicated in honor of George Twombly.”
Construction of the schooner Wyoming began in April 1909, and she was launched on December 15 of that year. From 1894 to 1920, the Percy & Small Shipyard constructed 41 four-, five-, and six-mast sailing ships. Of the 10 six-mast sailing ships built in the US, seven were built by Percy & Small. Most of the vessels were built to transport coal from mid-Atlantic ports to the booming industrial centers of the northeast and New England. The ships were built large to take advantage of economies of scale, and rigged as schooners so they could be operated by a crew of 12 to 14 seamen.
Maine Maritime Museum’s campus includes four of the five original Percy & Small Shipyard buildings. The site is the only remaining historic shipyard of its kind still intact today, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.