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Rotting Schooners Allowed To Stay, But Some Fear Decay

November 23, 1990

WISCASSET, Maine (AP) _ Two schooners on the National Register of Historic Places will not be moved from their muddy moorings to make way for a new marina. But some fear the sailing ships will allowed to crumble into the river.

Abandoned, rotting and moss-covered, the two schooners that have been mired in the water at the edge of this coastal town for nearly six decades were targeted for removal as part of an effort to rebuild the area.

″If they touch the schooners they’ll be dead,″ First Selectman Lawrence Gordon said after the board Tuesday scuttled the plan to move the ships from where they’ve been since 1932.

Gordon said the selectmen would never let the town Waterfront Committee’s recommendation come up for a vote at a town meeting.

The committee worked for more than a year on a five-year plan for the banks of the Sheepscot River, where the venerable Luther Little and Hesper schooners are visible to thousands of tourists who drive by on U.S. Route 1.

The panel’s first priority was to remove the ships to make room for a marina, a waterfront walkway and possibly a dock for cruise ships or windjammers. The committee hoped the ships would be preserved in Maine’s maritime museums.

Now, Waterfront Committee Chairman Daniel Thompson worries that the last four-masted, World War I-era coal schooners on the East Coast will left to decay and rot in the river.

But Selectman Benjamin Rines Jr. said he was offended that anyone would consider taking the schooners out of the river.

″Those ships are part of a family and you just don’t put them in a museum,″ said Rines. The ships are on the National Register of Historic Places and are part of the town’s historic district.

Wiscasset, a town of 3,800 about 35 miles northeast of Portland, has been home to the Luther Little and the Hesper since they were towed up the Sheepscot River by Frank W. Winter, who wanted to use them to haul lumber from a northern Maine mill to Boston and New York.

But the scheme fell victim to the Great Depression and Winter’s death. Trains that were to carry the lumber never rolled and the ships were never removed.

The Luther Little, which was launched in 1917, and the Hesper, which was launched in 1918, have been ravaged by fires and nature over the years.

The Hesper has lost its masts, and trees have sprouted through holes in its hull. The Luther Little still has its masts, but parts of its hull have rotted away.

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