NOMINATING HISTORIC VESSELS
TYPES OF HISTORIC VESSELS
There are five basic types of historic vessels which may
be eligible for listing in the National Register. These types are:
C.A. Thayer, an 1895
three-masted schooner, is a floating historic vessel moored at
the National Maritime Museum, San Francisco. (Photo credit:
Richard Frear, NPS)
S.S. Ticonderoga, a sidewheel
steamer, is now a dry-berthed exhibit displayed on the land
at the Shelburne Museum. (Photo credit: courtesy, Shelburne
- Floating historic vessels. Large vessels (usually greater
than 40 feet in length or weighing over twenty tons) that are maintained
in and on the water, including artificial mooring basins. (U.S.S.
Constitution in Boston, Star of India at San Diego, and
Queen Mary at Long Beach.)
- Dry-berthed historic vessels. Vessels that are preserved
out of the water and are located in a drydock or setting close to
or part of a waterfront. (S.S. Ticonderoga at Burlington,
- Small craft. Floating or displayed vessels generally less
than forty feet in length and twenty tons in weight. (Chesapeake
Bay log canoes are examples of historic small craft.)
- Hulks. Substantially intact vessels that are not afloat,
such as abandoned or laid up craft that are on a mudflat, beach,
or other shoreline. (Schooners Hesper and Luther Little
at Wiscasset, Maine)
- Shipwrecks. A submerged or buried vessel that has foundered,
stranded, or wrecked. This includes vessels that exist as intact
or scattered components on or in the sea bed, lake bed, river bed,
mud flats, beaches, or other shorelines, excepting hulks. (U.S.S.
Monitor, which lies 16 miles off North Carolina in 230 feet
of water, or Peter Iredale, whose steel remains lie on the
beach near Astoria, Oregon)
Qualifications for Evaluating Historic Shipwrecks and
Vessels for the National Register of Historic Places
Individuals recommended to prepare nominations for historic
vessels and shipwrecks should be knowledgeable in maritime studies.
Usually, such persons have academic backgrounds or experience in such
fields and disciplines as marine survey, maritime history, archeology,
historic preservation, and American studies. Individuals competent to
conduct work described in this bulletin should be familiar with the
terminology used to describe wooden and iron vessel construction, hull
types, rigging, marine steam, and other machinery. They should also
be familiar with the development, trends, and chronology of vessel types
and maritime trades in North America.
Evaluating Historic Vessels for the National Register
of Historic Places
To qualify for the National Register, a historic vessel
must have significance as one of the vessel types listed above and retain
integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling,
and association, and meet one or more of the National Register criteria
A, B, C, and D.
Determining the significance of a historic vessel depends
on establishing whether the vessel is 1) the sole, best, or a good representative
of a specific vessel type; 2) is associated with a significant designer
or builder; or 3) was involved in important maritime trade, naval, recreational,
government, or commercial activities. The significance of a historic
vessel can only be determined through a systematic investigation of
the vessel's qualities, associations, and characteristics. A typical
investigation for a historic vessel nomination should include:
- Identification of the specific type of vessel and documentation
based on a physical inspection of the vessel and a documentation
of her history.
- Identification of the historic context(s) associated with the
vessel based on a documentation of her history.
- Determination that the characteristics of the vessel make her
either the best, or, a good representative of her type.
- Evaluation of the significance of the vessel based on the National
- Evaluation of the vessel's integrity and a listing of features
that the vessel should retain to continue to possess integrity.
- Evaluation of a vessel's special characteristics that might qualify
her for National Register listing even though she might be less
than 50 years old or some aspect of her present condition generally
would not qualify her for listing.
Type and Characteristics
The deteriorating hulks
of the four-masted schooners Hesper and Luther Little
lie off Wiscasset, Maine. (Photo credit: James P. Delgado,
The wreck of the 1856 King Philiplies
on the beach at San Francisco, California. Periodically
exposed by winter storms, her remains are being documented
by National Park Service archeologists. (Photo credit:
Richard Frear, NPS)
The evaluation should begin with the compilation of
a narrative description of the vessel. This description should commence
with a discussion of type, dimensions, materials, method of construction,
layout, rig, and date of construction. "Type of vessel" can mean
many things; for example, a vessel could be described by her rig
(bark, barkentine, schooner, ship) or by hull form (clipper, "downeaster")
and materials used in the hull's construction (steel, iron, wood).
Vessels are also typed by their trade or occupation (cargo ship,
container ship, hospital ship, freighter). A description of vessel
type should attempt to incorporate all of these aspects. For example,
"As built in 1856, King Philip was a wooden-hulled medium
clipper; her three masts were bark-rigged."
The description should also include a vessel's registered
dimensions and tonnage. The citation of registry information should
be as follows:
| Balclutha is 256.0 feet long with a beam of 38.6
feet, and a depth of hold of 22.7 feet. Balclutha is
registered at 1835 gross tons and 1583 net tons.
The description should include some discussion of
the vessel's method of construction. For example, "Balclutha
is of single hull construction with riveted steel plates laid as
inner and outer strakes over steel frames." A discussion of the
layout of the deck, including houses, should be included:
|Tennessee's elevated forecastle deck mounted a pump-break
windlass. A capstan was located aft. Two hatches, fore and
aft of the main deckhouse, opened into the cargo holds. Amidships,
the main deckhouse supported a small pilot house. Aft, two
small deckhouses provided access via circular stairways to
the grand saloon below. The sponson decks were set well above
the water; built on them and into the wheelhouses were the
The discussion of rig should include the number of
masts, materials from which the masts are fashioned, the material
used in the standing rigging (such as wire or hemp), and a discussion
of any missing spars, if, for example, a ship is missing her topgallant
yards. The description of the vessel should include a narrative
discussion of the vessel's setting and location. For example:
|Charles W. Morgan is moored in the Mystic River at
Chubb's Wharf, a stone and earth modern structure built in
the style of a 19th century New England wharf, at Mystic Seaport
Museum, a large complex of historic and reproduction buildings
and structures which interpret life in a seafaring New England
town of the mid-nineteenth century.
Vessels may be located in a variety of situations;
some may be afloat or beached on a shoreline; others may be located
in drydock, artificial mooring basin, or be displayed on dry land,
either in the open or under cover. There are special considerations
when evaluating a hulk. Descriptions of hulks, which as a general
rule lack much of their rigging (many are dismasted), and have deteriorated
to a point where structural integrity of the vessel no longer remains,
should concentrate on a discussion of surviving construction and
its potential to yield information about the materials and methods
used in the vessel's construction.
A vessel's significance is based on her representation
of vessel type and her association with significant themes in American
history and comparison with similar vessels. The World Ship Trust,
in an effort led by historian Norman Brouwer of New York's South
Street Seaport Museum, has published the International Register
of Historic Ships, an inventory of known historic vessels in
the world. A considerable portion of the book is dedicated to vessels
in the United States. This inventory should be consulted early in
the evaluative process.
The evaluation of a vessel must include thorough historical
research into a vessel's construction, owners, and career. Rather
than offering a chronological discussion of a vessel's career, the
historical narrative should be organized into specific context statements
which specify a vessel's place in the development of American maritime
trade, naval power, recreation, government use, commerce, or various
designs of waterborne craft.
Specific historic contexts may include a vessel's
involvement in the Pacific Coast lumber trade, a vessel's role in
the packet trade, or how a particular vessel's design fit into the
development of Great Lakes bulk ore carriers. The significance statement
should be concise and well-developed. The amount of information
presented in the nomination will vary according to the vessel's
significance to the local community, State, or the Nation. It is
not necessary to discuss the development of local steamboats, for
example, when discussing a steamer significant in the national development
of marine steam technology. If the steamer has no demonstrated or
outstanding importance in the national or statewide development
of marine steam technology, however, then a discussion of local
steamboating would be essential.
The State Historic Preservation Officer should be
consulted before beginning work to determine if the State has information
which will assist in the evaluation of the vessel. Local and regional
maritime museums, the Council of American Maritime Museums, the
Department of Maritime Preservation at the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, the National Maritime Historical Society, the Steamship
Historical Society of America, the North American Society for Oceanic
History, Great Lakes Association for Maritime History, American
Canal Society, the World Ship Trust, and other maritime historical
and/or preservation organizations and professionals also should
be consulted because one of these organizations may have already
researched a vessel's career or evaluated her significance. A directory
listing, including address and telephone number, of these and hundreds
of such groups is available from the Maritime Preservation Department
of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Representative of a Type
A vessel must possess certain features to be a good
representative of her type, period, or method of construction. These
features vary. In analyzing a 19th century Pacific Coast schooner,
a researcher would look for an emphasis on Douglas fir timbering,
heavily-fastened "over-built" construction, lumber loading ports
in the stern, a beamy, shallow hull form, and a fore-and-aft rig.
A vessel largely rebuilt through the years without attention to
preserving the original design features (such as hull form, original
materials, method of construction, and, to a lesser degree of importance,
rig) that is not readily identifiable would not be a good representative
of her type. For example, the best representatives of World War
11 naval vessels would be warships unaltered in hull form, layout,
equipment, and armament.
To be eligible for the National Register of Historic
Places, a vessel must be significant in American history, architecture,
archeology, engineering, or culture, and possess integrity of location,
design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
To be considered significant the vessel must meet one or more of
the four National Register criteria:
- be associated with events that have made a significant contribution
to the broad patterns of our history; or
- be associated with the lives of persons significant in our
- embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period,
or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master,
or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant
and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual
- have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important
in prehistory or history.
The wreck of the passenger/package
freighter Monarch, built in 1890 and wrecked in 1906,
lies on the bottom of Lake Superior inside Isle Royale National
Park. A National Park Service diver is shown inspecting the
wreck as a part of a project to document Isle Royale submerged
wrecks by the National Park Service's Submerged Cultural Resources
Unit. (Photo credit: Larry Murphy, NPS)
The yacht Doris sails on
the Massachusetts coast, circa 1905. (Photo credit:
Hart Nautical Collections, MIT Museum)
Under Criterion A, association with "events that have
made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history,"
a vessel may qualify for listing in the National Register through
her association with historic themes. Applicable areas of significance
(listed in Bulletin 16) would
include the obvious "maritime" theme and several other "'catch-all"
categories. Therefore, historical information must be provided to
explain the significance of the vessel. Common areas of significance
to consider are:
- AGRICULTURE: Vessels engaged in agricultural trade
and commerce, such as vessels which transported produce to market.
- COMMERCE: Merchant vessels which were involved in maritime
trade and commercial activities; vessels which also carried
passengers could possess significance in the area of Transportation.
- COMMUNICATIONS: Vessels engaged in telegraph and telephone
cable laying operations, and pioneer ship-to shore, or ship-to-ship
- ENGINEERING: Vessels important for technological developments
in hull form, propulsion systems, and shipboard equipment.
- EXPLORATION/ SETTLEMENT: Vessels involved in exploration
and the expansion of the Nation, such as river steamers which
carried supplies to frontier settlements on rivers in the Midwest,
Old Northwest, Great Lakes region, and Alaska, or vessels used
in Arctic or Antarctic exploration.
- GOVERNMENT: Lightships, dredges, snagboats, survey
boats, and similar vessels of a non-military nature.
- INDUSTRY: Vessels associated with industrial enterprises,
such as Great Lakes ore-carrying freighters and Alaskan fishing
- INVENTION: Vessels which were the result of a scientific
process of experimentation, such as John Ericsson's "hot-air"
propelled Caloric Ship Ericcson of 1854.
- LAW: Vessels involved in landmark legal cases which
established tenets of admiralty law or seamen's right.
- LITERATURE: Vessels associated with noted authors or
poets, such as Equator, which was chartered for a South
Seas cruise by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- MILITARY: Naval warships and other vessels, military
transports, and support craft.
- RECREATION/ENTERTAINMENT: Yachts, racing boats, or
house boats used for the practice of leisure activities, diversion,
amusement, or sport.
- SCIENCE: Vessels on which significant scientific experimentation
or other research was conducted, such as the barkentine Galilee's
use as a magnetic charting vessel by the Carnegie Institute
- SOCIAL/HUMANITARIAN: Hospital ships, vessels involved
in rescuing life and property from maritime disasters and life-saving
craft such as a Francis lifeboat or United States Life-Saving
- THEATER: Showboats, movie ships, and vessels used in
or modified for the filming of motion pictures.
- TRANSPORTATION: Ferry boats and vessels engaged in
the transportation of passengers; vessels which carried cargo
could also possess significance in the area of Commerce.
Under Criterion B, association with "persons significant
in our past," a vessel will possess significance if a historically
significant person's importance is tied directly to the vessel,
such as Admiral Dewey's association with U.S.S. Olympia.
Applicable themes under criterion B may include numbers 5, 8, 9,
10, 11, 13, and 14 above.
Under Criterion C, a vessel possesses significance
if she embodies ""the distinctive characteristics of a type, period,
or method of construction, or represents the work of a master, possesses
high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable
entity whose components may lack individual distinction." Vessels
are usually found to be eligible for the National Register listing
within the following categories:
- ARCHITECTURE: A vessel that is a good representative
of a specific type of naval architecture such as Pacific Coast
lumber schooner like the C.A. Thayer or is the only representative
of the type, such as the Great Lakes whaleback Meteor.
A vessel may also possess significance if she is a good example
of a naval architect's work, "representing the work of a master."
Naval architects of national significance in the 19th century
include Isaac Webb, Donald McKay, William H. Webb, and John
W. Griffiths. Naval architects of national note in the 20th
century include Francis Herreshoff and William Francis Gibbs.
Examples of the work of any of these men, as well as other nationally,
regionally, or locally important naval architect and shipwrights
may be eligible for the National Register.
- ART: Many sail and steam vessels had distinguished
accommodations, sometimes executed in luxurious taste, which
set them apart from the utilitarian "'working" areas of the
vessel. These design features, ship-board decorations, figureheads,
joiner's work, cabin interiors, and saloons, particularly on
river steamers, ferries, and certain oceanic passenger steamers,
could qualify the vessel for inclusion in the National Register.
- ENGINEERING: Vessels may be significant because of
their design, propulsion systems, specific types of marine engines,
and modes of propulsion (such as paddlewheels and all types
of propellers) as representatives of their type. The 1891 ferryboat
Eureka, at the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco,
is nationally significant because she has the only operable,
19th century walking beam marine steam engine afloat. The engine
and boiler work of renowned marine engineering firms, such as
New York's Novelty Iron Works, Maine's Bath Iron Works, and
San Francisco's Union Iron Works may impart significance to
Under Criterion D, a vessel is significant if she
has yielded or is likely to yield information important to history,
i.e., the physical characteristics (or remains) of the vessel provide
important information about her use, method of construction, and
operation. A vessel need not be wrecked or an archeological site
to qualify under criterion D, but this is its most common application.
Section 8 of the nomination must address the period
of significance of which a vessel achieved her importance and meets
National Register criteria. There are blanks on the forms where
the dates for the period of time the vessel achieved significance
are entered. Enter the most specific dates known. If a vessel's
significance occurred in one year, as for a shipwreck associated
with an important sea battle, enter that single year. If a vessel
achieved significance for several distinct periods of time, enter
each period on a separate line in the order of importance. Avoid
including dates of less than 50 years, unless these events and associations
can be justified as having exceptional historical importance. Continuous
function does not indicate the continuation of the period of significance.
The nomination must discuss significant events or associations that
occurred during each period of significance in the narrative.
The National Register traditionally recognizes a property's
integrity through seven aspects, or qualities: location, design,
setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
The National Register consideration of "integrity
of location" should be construed to mean that a vessel is located
in a port or other location with which the vessel historically had
some association, such as a port of construction, or a port of call.
Location should not be confused with integrity of setting, which
generally means that a vessel is maintained in the water. However,
it is recognized that preservation of a vessel's original fabric
may compel the removal of the vessel from the water. This issue
will be examined in the discussion of integrity of setting.
A vessel, like any other structure, changes with time.
Vessels may be lengthened, deckhouses added or removed, and interior
spaces modified for new uses. Changes which occur over time, particularly
those associated with a shift to different owners or trades, if
those owners or trades are historically significant, acquire significance
in their own right. When changes to a vessel are in the form of
renewal and replacement, either to continue operation historically
or to perform a restoration, the structure will remain eligible
if renewed features are replaced with materials, which in their
composition, design, color, texture, and workmanship retain the
historic character of the vessel. These changes do not affect a
The noted maritime historian, Allan Villiers, once
observed that historic vessels maintained and/or operated in the
water ultimately become reconstructions or wrecks. While historic
structures and buildings on land also deteriorate and require maintenance
and replacement of original fabric, the corrosive nature of the
marine environment greatly accelerates the process. Any historic
vessel maintained in the water will ultimately lose all of her original
fabric. U.S.S. Constitution, now berthed at Charlestown Navy
Yard in Boston, retains as little as 10 to 23 percent of the wood
that was in the frigate when launched in 1797 or when she earned
her reputation as "Old Ironsides." Yet this is largely indistinguishable
because of attention to maintaining historic materials and workmanship
during her many restorations. These increasingly restored historic
vessels retain their integrity in those cases when integrity as
evidenced by hull form, rig, use of materials, or craftsmanship
is maintained. It is important to retain original fabric though,
for the greater the amount of historic fabric, the greater the quality
of integrity for the vessel.
Integrity of setting usually means that a vessel is
maintained in the water. National Register guidelines generally
rule that vessels out of water, particularly if in an enclosed structure,
were ineligible for National Register listing unless they were in
a "natural" waterfront setting, such as in a drydock. Yet limiting
the National Register only to vessels maintained afloat or in the
open air ultimately dooms original fabric. In some cases, the preservation
of that fabric may be essential. Craftsmanship cannot be replaced,
nor archeologically recovered. Fragile intact vessels can only be
preserved "under glass." To preserve historic fabric in rare vessels,
integrity of setting will be maintained if the craft is associated
with the water by means of a waterfront location. This setting must
not detract from appreciating the vessel as a waterborne craft or
present her as a museum object.
The Jersey Schooner-Oyster
Dredge Boat Kathryn M. Lee continues to work actively
in her historic trade at Liepsic, Delaware. (Photo credit:
Stephen Del Sordo)
An in-kind historic restoration
of the whaler Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport
Museum. Here shipwrights are driving a drift into a breasthook.
(Photo credit: Mary Anne Stets, courtesy Mystic Seaport
Integrity of materials means that the physical elements
that were combined in the vessel's historic design and construction
have been maintained. For example, integrity of materials would
be retained when a vessel's steel plates are replaced in-kind with
steel plates, oak planks are replaced in-kind with oak planks, copper
sheathing is replaced in-kind with copper sheathing, and tarred
hemp standing rigging is replaced in-kind with tarred hemp standing
rigging. This is not to suggest that failure to follow strict in-kind
replacement could keep a vessel from being listed on the National
Register. Modern materials for patching and repair, such as epoxies
and fiberglass, may be necessary to preserve a vessel.
Integrity of workmanship is maintained when materials
are renewed in kind. When original but deteriorated riveted iron
hull plates are replaced, integrity of workmanship is maintained
when the new iron plates are also riveted. Double sawn timber frames
should be replaced with double sawn timber frames to maintain integrity
Integrity of feeling means that the vessel evokes
an aesthetic or historic sense of the past. Usually this depends
on the presence of the vessel's significant physical characteristics
to convey her historic qualities. However, it must be recognized
that extreme deterioration of a vessel, such as major rot and inherent
structural collapse, would not interfere with the ability of the
vessel to yield important information through analysis of her construction
and career, and she would possess archeological integrity and be
eligible under Criterion D.
A period or accurate waterfront setting for a historic
vessel is desirable and adds to the integrity of setting for the
vessel. A vessel loses her integrity of association if she is removed
from the water and displayed out of sight of the water, such as
a 19th century schooner placed on a lawn, surrounded by a chain-link
fence, in front of a factory.
The Need for Special
Certain types of historic vessels as a general rule
do not qualify for the National Register. These would be 1) vessels
less than 50 years of age, 2) vessels owned by religious institutions
and used for religious purposes, 3) replica vessels, and 4) collections
of vessels. However, these properties may qualify for National Register
listing if they meet the criteria and meet the following exceptions:
- A vessel achieving significance within the past fifty years
if she is of exceptional significance. (A vessel must be compared
with other vessels of her type that have similar associations
and qualities to establish exceptional significance, or be associated
with important but recent themes or developments which scholarly
or professional research has recognized as significant to the
maritime trades or naval architecture and engineering. Vessels
considered eligible under these circumstances include N.S. Savannah,
(1950) the first nuclear-powered merchant ship built in the
United States, and the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Nautilus,
the first submarine to navigate the seas under the ice pack
of the North Pole. Other vessels less than fifty years of age
that the National Register currently accepts as being eligible
are vessels which played an important role in World War 11).
- A vessel owned by religious institutions and used for religious
purposes may be eligible if her primary significance is derived
from naval architecture (Criterion C and/or D) or historical
importance (Criterion A).
- In rare instances, replica vessels can be a contributing component
of a National Register property if: 1) the replication is based
on scholarly analysis of graphic, written, and archeological
sources; 2) the vessel's construction is accurately executed,
using appropriate period materials and construction techniques;
3) the replica vessel is presented in a historically appropriate
manner as a part of a restoration master plan; 4) no other vessel
with the same associations has survived. (Being part of a restoration
plan means that the replica is an essential component in a group
of historic properties which together constitute a historic
district. The replica must be part of an overall restoration
plan for the entire resource. For example, a replica craft may
be eligible as part of a restoration master plan for a 19th
century ferry landing historic district, which includes authentic
historic properties, such as landings, docks, and associated
commercial buildings. In this case, the replicated craft may
be essential to convey the transportation significance of the
district). Individual replica vessels are not eligible for the
National Register of Historic Places because they are not authentic
historic resources. A replica vessel is a modern vessel which
recreates either a specific vessel or a class or type of vessels.
After the passage of fifty years, a replica vessel may attain
significance in her own right as a product of one generation's
perception of its maritime history. In this case it may be possible
for a replica to qualify on that basis under Criterion A, B,
C or D. If a replica vessel has achieved significance within
the last fifty years, she will be required to meet the special
justification discussed above.
- Small craft and larger vessels in collections may be individually
eligible if they retain integrity of setting. Collections of
vessels are not eligible for the National Register. (In exceptional
cases, vessels may have collective historic significance when
they are exhibited in an appropriate setting, such as the vessels
at the Mystic Seaport Museum. This museum collection, founded
in 1929, has historic significance for its associations with
the development of the American historic preservation movement
and represents a landmark in early twentieth century maritime
Preparing the National Register Nomination
While basic instructions for completing nominations
are found in National Register Bulletin:
Guidelines for Completing National Register of Historic Places
Forms several sections of the y form will require the specialized
information provided in the following guidelines. For the purposes
of the National Register, vessels are classified as "'structures"
because they are made up of interdependent and interrelated parts
in a definite pattern of organization. In the past, the National
Register has accepted vessels categorized as objects, but during
the preparation of this bulletin, it was determined that a vessel
better fits the National Register definition of "structure.,"
Stairway and stateroom
hall on board the S.S. Ticonderoga. (Photo credit:
courtesy, Shelburne Museum, Vermont)
Lifeboat on board the S.S. Jeremiah
O' Brien (Photo credit: Joanie Morgan)
The number and combination of characteristic features
required for National Register eligibility will vary from property
to property. In some cases, a vessel need only possess a single
quality or characteristic to be eligible. If a vessel is not individually
eligible for the National Register, she may still be eligible as
a contributing component of a historic district. For example, historic
life boats may not be individually eligible, but they could contribute
to a Coast Guard station historic district.
When she is registered, the legal description of a
vessel can be her merchant or naval registry. For active vessels
still registered by the United States Coast Guard, citation of the
current Consolidated Enrollment and License, with the office address
of the applicable Coast Guard District, will suffice. For merchant
vessels no longer registered, the former enrollments and registries
will be found in the National Archives. They can be obtained by
supplying the name of the vessel, the date of construction, and
the port of construction to the Judicial, Fiscal, and Social Branch
of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. National Archives staff
will locate all registry and enrollment documents for the vessel
and will provide photocopies for a fee. Citation of the last document
issued to the vessel will suffice for the vessel's legal description.
For naval vessels, the registration data are at the Ships History
Division. The annual publication listing Vessels of the United
States (1869 to the present), Lloyd's Register, and other classification
society registers also provide a legal description. Nearly every
floating, preserved historic vessel in the United States has been
surveyed by Norman Brouwer and his associates for the World Ship
Trust. Brouwer's International Register of Historic Ships
is a good place to start the research. The book is constantly being
updated and revisions may be obtained from the National Maritime
Historical Society. The Historic Ship Register of the International
Congress of Maritime Museums (ICMM) is another logical place
to look. Some vessels may have been surveyed during local or statewide
heritage inventories. Shipwrecks may be listed in State archeological
In the narrative Description and Significance portions
of the nomination form, it is important to develop fully the information
and analyses conducted in the evaluation process. It is important
to be concise. In the Description section, the integrity of the
vessel needs to be thoroughly documented, discussing original form,
materials, workmanship, and any changes. The National Register currently
requires a detailed architectural description for nominated buildings
and structures. A comparable level of detail is required for vessels.
The International Congress of Maritime Museums Historic
Ship Evaluation Program assesses vessel structure along with historic
significance and preservation considerations. The ICMM evaluation
seeks descriptions of primary structural material members. Not all
structural members listed by ICMM require discussion in a National
Register nomination; essential features such as the keel, keelson,
frames, reinforcing members, hull planking or plating, fastenings,
decking, masts, rigging, deck furniture, interior spaces, including
joinery, deck machinery, armament, decorations, coating and sheathings,
boats, and tackle-all of these need to be described and assessed
with comments in each case on original material, deterioration,
adherence to original configuration, and impacts by previous restoration,
repair, or alteration.
Alterations need to be discussed and assessed in relation
to a historically significant context. If a vessel was built for
a specific use-the grain trade, for example-and then altered for
another historic purpose-such as fishing-these changes would be
significant and would not have an adverse effect on the integrity
of a vessel. On the other hand, if a vessel has been changed for
a later non-significant career, then those changes represent a loss
of integrity. It is important to remember that integrity is not
always construed as "as built."
Builder's plate in the
engine room of 1908 steam screw tugboat Hercules
(Photo credit: Stephen A. Haller, NPS)
The assembly of instruments in
the pilothouse of the S.S. Clipper represent the
various navigational technologies used on the vessel during
her career. Documentation of a vessel for the National Register
should include views which interpret changes or alterations.
(Photo credit: Harry Weese and Associates)
In discussing significance, it is essential to link
the vessel to international, national, regional, or local historic
contexts. It is also important to convey the vessel's participation
in specific historical events and to discuss the vessel's important
changes in design, such as alterations to the hull or propulsion
systems and to use this information in the evaluation of historic
integrity. If applicable, a vessel's association with significant
individuals, including builders, masters, officers, crew, owners,
or passengers should be discussed. An assessment of the vessel's
relation to similar properties is needed. Is she a sole survivor?
Is she representative of a type? Is she the best example of a type?
Statements of significance should be derived from primary sources
and scholarly secondary historical assessments. Thorough historical
research is recommended in preparing a National Register form so
that the best available information is analyzed and presented. Footnotes
for citations of source materials is desirable but not required.
To aid in the National Register assessment of significance
and integrity, good illustrative views of the vessel, her rig, her
characteristic and significant design features, and alterations
need to be documented with individual photographs. Instead of a
site map, as is the case with land-base properties, deck plans,
inboard profiles, lines, and rigging plan should be included, if
available. A USGS map locating the vessel in a city or other geographical
unit, with Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates marked, must
be included. If a vessel is engaged in active sailing, her regular
mooring at the home port should be the location cited and marked.
Major bibliographic references should include sources
referred to in the evaluation process as well as sources cited.
The reference should be organized alphabetically, in categories
such as manuscripts, published works, plans, and historic photographs
and other graphics. The boundary of the vessel should be all of
that area enclosed within her extreme dimensions. It is the vessel
that is being nominated, not the water or land that surrounds her.
A boundary description for a vessel usually refers to the area enclosed
by the vessel's extreme dimensions, for example: "The Showboat
Jimmy 80' x 40' at permanent berth at Pier 56." Acreage should
be given as less than one.
Field Work, Research, and Documentation Techniques
Adequate field examination of a vessel may involve
more than one visit to acquire a thorough understanding of the vessel's
construction, layout, rig, and machinery. If evaluating a property
for the first time, it is essential that a guided tour of the vessel,
with discussions emphasizing condition, restoration or maintenance
work, and the vessel's history, be provided by knowledgeable individuals
intimately associated with the vessel. Tours of engine rooms and
other machinery spaces should be discussed with a marine engineer.
The method of construction should be derived from discussions with
a naval architect. The field examination the vessel should be a
slow, meticulous process which leaves the evaluator with as complete
an understanding as possible of how the vessel was built, operated,
modified, and maintained through time.
events that occur on board a vessel should be documented.
In this view, sailors on board the U.S.S. Intrepid
battle a shipboard fire on the deck off Luzon, the Philippines,
on November 25, 1944. (Photo credit: National Archives)
Documentation of a vessel should
include a plan, if available. This is the outboard profile
and deck plan of U.S.S. North Carolina as outfitted.
(Photo credit: U.S.S. NORTH CAROLINA Battleship Commission,
drawing by Alan B. Chesley)
Historical research should include the examination
of any extant drawings or plans of the vessel, such as lines, profiles,
deck plans, sail plans, scantlings, engine, boiler, and machinery
plans. Half-models and builder's models should be consulted. If
extant, builder's models may aid in identifying original features
no longer present or modified. Historic photographs, lithographs,
and drawings of the vessel, particularly including views of the
vessel under construction, deck views, and overall views, may be
helpful in assessing method of construction and features of the
vessel. Local newspapers may have references to a vessel's launch
and discuss her particulars. Various vessel types, machinery, and
some specific vessels may also be discussed and described in various
professional journals such as that of the Society of Naval Architects
and Marine Engineers.
The registry and enrollment papers provide the dimensions
of the vessel, tonnage, the' number of masts, and the type of bow
and stern decoration for American vessels. A run of these documents
may provide evidence of alteration or change. Summaries of this
information can be found in the annual List of American Merchant
Vessels of the United States. Lists of vessels registered or
enrolled at various American ports were compiled by the Works Progress
Administration and the National Archives. Consultation of these
lists, particularly for the port of New York, will provide a necessary
lead in beginning to research these vessel "'titles." Lloyd, s of
London possesses detailed descriptions of vessels surveyed by Lloyd's
for certification, and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich,
England, is also a vital source for English vessels lost in American
Logbooks, journals, and letters written on board the
vessel may provide physical descriptions and document details of
her career. Local newspapers may include discussions of sailings,
accidents, and marine disasters. Contemporary accounts of a vessel's
career also can be found in the annual reports of the United States
Life-Saving Service (published between 1878 and 1915). Insights
into a vessel's history also can be gained through researching owners'
names listed in the registries and enrollments. A variety of secondary
source works which assess local, regional, and national maritime
history may discuss a vessel and her career. Especially valuable
are articles that are found in historical society and maritime museum
quarterlies, such as the American Neptune, Steamboat Bill,
Sea History, Inland Seas, Waterways Journal,
or the Mariner's Mirror. A recommended bibliography can be
found at the end of the bulletin.
As the field work and research progresses, files of
notes, sketches, reproduced reference materials, and photographs
should be compiled. If a vessel has changed over time, a chronologically
arranged series of plans or photographs may aid in understanding
these alterations. Color slides of the vessel may aid later when
the nomination is being prepared and a site visit is not possible.
Numerous black and white photographs of the vessel
and her features should be taken. The quality of the photographs
actually included in the nomination form will benefit from as wide
a selection as possible. Exemplary historic photos and other graphics
should be reproduced for inclusion with the nomination. Historic
plans should be included to aid in documenting the vessel. If historic
plans do not exist, modern plans Of the vessel might be prepared.
This is highly desired but is not required for nominations