BATH — Maine’s First Ship, an organization planning to construct a replica of the 1607 vessel Virginia, presented the Maine Maritime Museum and the Maine State Museum each with checks for $25,000.
Both recipients were given the funds Jan. 23 to support educational programs that will showcase the story of the Popham Colony, which existed in 1607-1608, the same time as the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. It was during the Popham Colony’s short life that the pinnace Virginia was built there, foreshadowing the shipbuilding tradition that would boom in Maine, and particularly in Bath, in subsequent centuries.
Both museums will archive various historical materials and develop educational programs and teacher workshops geared around the pinnace.
Maine’s First Ship is in the midst of raising money to build the replica vessel. The group has raised $160,000 of the $300,000 it needs to begin the project, according to organization President Fred Hill.
“Our goal is to raise $300,000 by this summer so we can start building,” Hill said Tuesday.
The group’s founding board of directors devoted a large amount of the money it raised toward educational programs, including the donations presented last week. Those funds were allocated last August, along with money for multiple models of the Virginia and a marker to be installed at the Popham Colony site. The current board then took the reins of Maine’s First Ship and rededicated itself to the effort to build the Virginia.
The organization began a $2.2 million capital campaign in 2005 to build a larger version of the Virginia than that currently is planned. It needed $900,000 to begin construction. The work was to take place on the Washington Street grounds of the Maine Maritime Museum, where several programs were featured in 2007 – the 400th anniversary of the Popham Colony – on the Popham Colony and the craft of shipbuilding.
This smaller but still historically authentic version of the pinnace should cost $600,000, Hill said, and be between 43 and 44 feet long, compared with the original plan of 51 feet. It will be built at the Small Point boatyard of shipwright Robert Stevens, who led construction of the Viking ship Snorri and has involved himself in the reconstruction of many other historic vessels.
“The project has drawn enthusiastic support of several key people and institutions here,” Hill said. “We also have received great letters of support from various historical societies and environmental groups.”
Among supporters are Bath City Manager Bill Giroux, as well as William Shuttleworth, superintendent of Regional School Unit 1.
Hill said Shuttleworth wants to incorporate the Virginia project into the RSU curriculum. Plans are underway to have middle and high school students work on the ship, taking classes in science, history and math related to the project.
As another example of the growing relationship between itself and RSU 1, Maine’s First Ship has moved its headquarters to the Huse School, where the RSU 1 superintendent’s office is also based.