|The full-rigged ship Wavertree was built by Oswald Mordaunt & Company in Southampton,
England, in 1885 and was one of the last large sailing ships built of riveted wrought iron. She had
been commissioned by R.W. Leyland & Company of Liverpool, but Chadwick & Pritchard of
Liverpool purchased her before she was launched on December 10, 1885. The new owners
named her Southgate. In 1888 she was repurchased by R.W. Leyland and Co. and renamed
Wavertree for the Wavertree district of Liverpool. South Street Seaport Museum has her
original bell, which is inscribed Southgate.
Wavertree was intended to carry jute used to make rope and burlap bags between current day
Bangladesh and Scotland. After almost two years, she entered the tramp trades, taking whatever
cargoes were available in Europe, the east and west coasts of America, South America, India
and Australia. Wavertree circumnavigated nearly 30 times with cargoes of coal, kerosene,
cotton, tea, coffee, molasses and timber. She made one known call to New York, arriving Jan.
14, 1895, with a load of nitrate from Chile and departing March 21 for Calcutta.
In December 1910, Wavertree was rounding Cape Horn with a cargo of coal for Chile, when
her mainmast came crashing down, bringing with it the upper 50 feet of the foremast and 100
feet of mizzenmast - injuring many of her crew, several severely. With her splintered spars and
missing rigging, she limped into the Falkland Islands. Rather than replace the rig, her owners
sold the hull for use as a floating warehouse in Punta Arenas, Chile. Next came conversion into a
sand barge at Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1947, and a renaming to Don Ariano N. She was
discovered there by Karl Kortum, director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum and founder
of the National Maritime Historical Society.
In 1968, Wavertree was acquired by South Street Seaport Museum. She was moved to the
Arsenal Naval Buenos Aires for restoration and in 1969 the ship was towed to New York. The
vessel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 13, 1978. The ship
underwent a partial restoration in 2000, running more than $1 million. But that was a small job
compared with the over $13 million restoration in 2015-2016, performed at Staten Island’s
Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Co. Inc. and funded by New York City’s Department of Cultural
Affairs, city council, and the office of Manhattan’s borough president. The restoration included
the renewals of several wrought iron hull plates below the waterline with steel, a new ballast
system, updated electrical systems, removal of the sand hopper gear and bulkheads installed in
Argentina and complete rebuilding of her original ‘tween deck layout, and a cathodic protection
system. The restoration also included rigging down all spars and wire rigging and renewing the
rotten timber topmasts and topgallant masts and yards on all 3 masts, stripping and renewing all
service and replacing all blocks and cordage. The restoration started in May 2015, and ended in
25 September 2016, when the ship returned to South Street Seaport museum.
Wavertree is 279 feet LOA with 40 foot beam, 27 foot draft and is 2118 gross tons. Her main
mast rises 155 feet from the deck and 184 feet from the waterline. Her sail area is approximately
31,500 square feet divided among 26 sails originally: 4 head-sails, 15 square-sails, 1 spanker
and 6 stay-sails. She was sailed with 3 officers and 21 sailors. Most sailing ships her size and
rig had split topgallant sails, but not Wavertree, ''the most awkward, workmaking, man-killing
rig a big Cape Horner could have,'' says marine historian Alan Villiers.