Photograph Columbus

Setting Sail For Parts Unknown
August 21, 2014, 12:09 PM
Filed under: Landmark, media, then and now | Tags: , ,

Santa Maria!

To celebrate the then upcoming Quincentennial of the voyage that changed the world, the city of Columbus commissioned a replica of their namesake’s flagship, the Santa Maria. In 1991, the Scarano Bros. Boat Building Company delivered what Jose Maria Martinez-Hidalgo, a Spanish marine historian, called “…the most authentic replica in the World.”

The ship was christened in October of the same year by Mayor Rinehart and Miss Ohio, the same mayor that pushed through redevelopment of The Short North, The Brewery District, City Center(future post there!), MLK Center and Easton. For the most part, all locations that define what Columbus is today.

photo by Eric Albrecht, DISPATCH

Coronation Day, Oct 1991 photo by Eric Albrecht, DISPATCH

Fast Forward

I first started exploring downtown Columbus with camera in hand around 2006-07.  I can hardly recall a time since that the shore of Battelle Park, home to the floating museum, wasn’t covered in geese, gulls, and a handful of homeless people. I’ve never seen the ship with her sails open, never caught any of the pirate performances, and had always walked or rode by when the “Closed” sign was hanging out front.

seagull next to Santa Maria

The most common visitors. My first known photograph of the Santa Maria, January 2007

It wasn’t until June 2012 that I stepped foot on the ship for the first time. Teen Fiction front man, Bob Dawson, asked me to photograph his set during a private event… a costume party that I wasn’t dressed for. Listen to Teen Fiction on reverbnation.

Panoramic of the Santa Maria, June 2012 by Craig Bortmas

Panoramic of the Santa Maria in action. Private costume party, June 2012

In 2013, the city began waterfront renovations and development. Low head dams were removed at various points along the river, dramatically changing the size and flow of the Scioto. With little to float on, this ‘re-naturalization’ placed the Santa Maria smack in the middle of the $35.5 million project.


I took three days last week, August 13-15, to spend some time with the Santa Maria. I watched as they removed the mast, the cracks of the crow’s nest calling out over the numerous hydraulic earth movers. I sat through clouds of dust being thrown up by numerous trucks and the massive chunks of concrete they were dumping. I spoke with construction workers and other watchers, many of which worked nearby and just came out during lunch. One gentleman claimed “thousands of hours of volunteer time”, and there on the very first day. He was melancholic, and a little pessimistic about the ship’s stated return in 2016.

And why wouldn’t he be? In September 2013, The Dispatch reported that the ship would only be moved to the center of the river during the shoreline’s development. However, the process is already underway in cutting the museum into 10 pieces so that it can be stored and repaired (should the necessary funds become available). What originally cost $1.2 million to build will now cost $1 million to repair.

A true S.O.S for this Columbus landmark, if you would like to learn how you can help save our ship visit



santa maria removal

Development from the lawn of Vets Memorial, whose demolition is slated for November 2014

removal of santa maria from scioto river

Both sides of the Scioto are Construction Zone, and even though there was absolutely nothing going on I was asked to leave this spot shortly before they lifted the ship from the water.

reflection of construction on the scioto river

A brief moment of calm on the surface of the river

removal of santa maria from scioto river

The Santa Maria is hoisted to the shore so that the hole can be filled in.

Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: