BATH — Renovations are continuing at the waterfront Bath Freight Shed, the nearly 130-year-old building that will be the permanent home of the reconstructed Virginia, the wooden ship built by English colonists at the mouth of the Kennebec River in 1607.

Recently, several students from the Morse High School Interact Club volunteered their time to help paint the outside of the shed. The 180-foot-long freight shed was built in 1890 and is the winter home of the Bath Farmers Market.

Dan Wood, a retired doctor and member of the Bath Freight Shed Alliance, the nonprofit organization that operates the shed, said having young people help refurbish the shed has been helpful.

Having students involved in painting the shed shows community involvement, and Wood said the more the community can be involved in the shed, the better the future of the building will be.

“We want the city of Bath, the people and the region to see this place as an important place for all ages to take advantage of it and love it,” Wood said. “We need and want all the publicity (about the building) we can get.”

The shed is an important historic structure for Bath, Wood said, because it’s the only remaining wooden structure that was on the waterfront when there were wooden ships in the river.

The shed was built by the Maine Central Railroad, which also built a new station and engine house on the site. Two years after it was first built, the railroad expanded the shed with a two-story addition to the southern elevation.

While work is continuing outside the building, at 27 Commercial Street, including painting and repairing some of the siding and roof, the big project is happening in the back of the shed.

Wood is among a group of volunteers who began reconstructing the Virginia, Maine’s first ship, several years ago after archaeologists discovered artifacts and relics from the Popham Colony in the early 1600s.

The project got started when a couple of people from Bath went to a maritime museum in Greenwich, England, and spoke to experts about what a ship like the Virginia would’ve looked like. They returned to Maine with a design and had it rendered and made into plans by a Naval architect at the Maine Maritime Academy.

“What we’re building is what everyone thinks the ship looked like, but there’s no way to know for sure,” Wood said.
The volunteers spend several hours per week on Wednesdays and Saturdays working, and the group hopes to complete the project by June 2020.

Throughout the reconstruction, volunteers are using the project for the education of students of all ages. There are programs about lofting, carpentry, ship preservation, operation and maintenance that will help participants have a successful career in the shipbuilding industry.

The Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec was the first English settlement north of Jamestown, Virginia, and historians believe about 70 of the original 120 colonists had a hand in building the Virginia. The ship is thought to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean at least twice, including the trip back from England to serve the Jamestown colony.

During the winter months, the freight shed houses the city’s farmers market, and in the warmer times of the year, the shed hosts community dinners, birthday parties, weddings and other events.

The shed is owned by Howie Kirkpatrick, and the alliance holds the first option to purchase the building, something it plans on doing in the near future.

Wood said he hopes the shed remains a valuable part of the community so more and more people will visit the first ship’s visitor center and shed.

“It’s a community center,” Wood said. “We want to see that keep going and see it grow, because it’s an ideal place.”