Donors step forward to finish re-creation of giant, historic ship

This computer rendition shows the completed sculpture of the six-masted schooner Wyoming at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. The bow and stern portions were built in 2006. The six masts, which distinguish the ship among only 10 of its kind ever built in the U.S.,— will be erected this spring.
Maine Maritime Museum
This computer rendition shows the completed sculpture of the six-masted schooner Wyoming at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. The bow and stern portions were built in 2006. The six masts, which distinguish the ship among only 10 of its kind ever built in the U.S.,— will be erected this spring. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 28, 2013, at 2 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2013, at 5:15 p.m.
This photograph shows the six-masted schooner Wyoming as it was first launched into the Kennebec River on Dec. 15, 1909. Maine Maritime Museum has plans to finish a life-size sculpture of the Wyoming this spring.
Maine Maritime Museum
This photograph shows the six-masted schooner Wyoming as it was first launched into the Kennebec River on Dec. 15, 1909. Maine Maritime Museum has plans to finish a life-size sculpture of the Wyoming this spring. Buy Photo

BATH, Maine — For 7 years, an historic structure that reaches six stories into the sky above Maine Maritime Museum has been missing its most prominent features, but that is set to change thanks to some generous donors.

Since 2006, visitors to the museum have been treated to a life-size rendition of the enormous task that bygone shipyards faced in the construction of sailing vessels. The largest one, the Wyoming, met the Kennebec River at the former Percy & Small Shipyard in 1909. The 6-masted Wyoming was and is the largest sailing wooden sailing vessel ever built in the United States.

Today, steel skeletons of the bow and stern of the 450-foot-long Wyoming stand on the museum grounds, with the bow sprit hovering nearly six stories above Washington Street. However impressive the size and scale of the sculpture, it’s missing the Wyoming’s six 120-foot masts. The sculpture, designed by Maine sculptors Andreas von Heune and Joe Hemes, was meant to include the masts from the start, but slow fundraising delayed them.

“Erecting the masts has been an important goal since 2006,” Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director, said. “Now, thanks to the efforts and financial support of a few key contributors, it is going to become a reality. This is a transformative event for the museum and for tourism in Maine’s midcoast.”

Thanks to recent donations, the masts are scheduled to be erected this spring. Ken Kramer and Tom Yale, former museum trustees, donated money and materials, respectively. A group of other longtime supporters who want to remain anonymous also pitched in with the hope that other donors will step forward. Money has even come from across the ocean in the form of a pledge from Robert Kaltenborn of England, who gifted to the project in honor of his late wife, an artist who wanted the Wyoming sculpture to be completed.

With those commitments in place, Marjorie Twombly, surviving wife of former museum trustee George Twombly, also made a significant donation that met the museum’s fundraising goal to finish the project.

“The generous contributions of the Twombly family form the financial ‘bookends’ 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 began in April of 1909 and the ship was launched on December 15 of that year. From 1894 to 1920, the Percy & Small Shipyard — some of which remains today in the form of museum outbuildings — constructed 41 four-, five- and six-masted sailing ships. Of the 10 six-masted ships built in the U.S., seven came from Percy and Small.

Most of the vessels were built to transport coal from mid-Atlantic ports to New England. They were built large to take advantage of economies of scale and rigged as schooners so they could be operated by about a dozen seamen.

The completed sculpture is scheduled to be dedicated during a ceremony on June 1. The event will be open to the public, and admission to the museum will be free on that day.

The present Wyoming sculpture, which according to a news release is the largest outdoor sculpture in New England, was supported by contributions in excess of $1 million from more than 50 individuals and organizations. It stands on the exact location where the original Wyoming was built.

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