MAINE Maritime Museum

By McLaren, Robert | Sea Classics, March 2006 | Go to article overview

MAINE Maritime Museum


McLaren, Robert, Sea Classics


Paying homage to its revered place in American shipbuilding, the 20-acre site of this comprehensive trove of maritime artifacts vividly depicts nearly 200 years of marine evolution

Founded in 1962, the Maine Maritime Museum is all about Maine shipbuilding. It is located on 20 acres along the banks of the Kennebec River, on the site of the former Percy & Small Shipyard. The museum consists of the Maritime History Building, five historic shipyard buildings, and several newer buildings. ;

The Maritime History Building holds a treasure trove of maritime artifacts. There are galleries of paintings and photographs of Mainebuilt vessels, fishing schooners and ships that took part in the Chilean nitrate of soda trade as well as another trade that was illegal i.e.: opium. A metal opium pipe is on display. There is a collection of duck decoys and gunning boats. There are many ships models including: a 5-ft model of the steam/electric yacht Corsair which was built for J.P. Morgan in 1936, a 7-ft model of the Suinner-class DeHaven (DD-727), and an 8-ft model of the SS Extavia, built in 1941 for the American Export Lines, at Bath Iron Works (BIW). There is a collection of fine china dishes as well as chandlery items. An interesting read is the open log book dated 1849 which describes a 24-hr period the Brig McLellan weathered a violent storm from dousing sails to pumping out water. Of the many trade-name store boards on display, one of the most interesting indicates the shipyard owners watched all of their pennies. It states, "Positively no wood or chips taken from this yard."

The McEvoy Gallery is located in one of the old shipyard buildings. In it is a large diorama of three shipyards side by side - the Percy & Small, Donnell and Gardiner G. Deering Yards as they were in 1919 during the heyday of building. It must be noted that all of Maine's ship building did not take place on the Kennebec River. South Portland Ship Building built 234 Liberty Ships during WWII.

As you leave the Maritime History Building to begin your tour (selfguided or guided tours are available) through the shipyard's historic buildings, you will pass the 1902 pitch oven where hardened pitch can still be seen. Electricity was installed to the yard in 1896 and all of the machinery was belt driven.

The Paint and Treenail Shop is the oldest building (1897), the lathe is still present for making wooden dowels.

The Mill and Joiner Shop was built in 1899. The posts and upper beams are secured with ships knees. On the first floor is a 42-in circular saw blade, a bevel-cutting jigsaw for making curved frame timbers and a large display of shipwright tools. On the second floor is the Joiner Shop for finished woodwork used for deckhouses and cabin interiors. Talk about New England time management, there is a good size funnel nailed to the wall which was used by the workers so time would not be lost by them going to the waterfront to "pump bilges." A section of this building was also used for sail making and there is a sail maker's bench along with the tools of the trade.

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