Galveston Historical Foundation)
1877 On October 27, the square-rigged barque Elissa is launched from
the shipyard of Alexander Hall & Company, in Aberdeen, Scotland. A
trading ship under British flag, she begins sailing the world
dealing in small cargoes. With the age of steam about to begin in
earnest, she is one of the last of her kind.
1883 On December 26, Elissa calls upon the port of Galveston, Texas,
with one passenger, and a cargo of bananas for sale.
1884 Loaded with cotton, Elissa sails from Galveston on January 25
to Liverpool, England.
1886 Arriving from Paysandu, Elissa revisits Galveston on September
8 with an unknown cargo, most likely hardwood or sugar. On September
26, she sails to Pensacola, Florida, in ballast.
1897 Elissa’s owner, Henry Fowler Watt of Liverpool, sells her to a
Bugge & Olsen of Norway. She is renamed Fjeld and continues to work
with her original rig intact.
1911 Fjeld is sold to Swedish owners.
1912 Fjeld is sold to Carl Johansson of Kalmar, Sweden and renamed
1918 Gustaf is reduced to a barkentine rig, and her first engine is
1930 Gustaf is sold to owners from Finland and reduced to a schooner
1936 A new engine, deckhouse and bridge are built on the
quarterdeck; the bow is snubbed.
1959 Greeks purchase Gustaf, renaming her Christophoros.
1961 Peter Throckmorton, a nautical archaeologist, recognizes her in
Piraeus, Greece, as an old square-rigger.
1964 Karl Kortum, of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, is made
aware of her plight and begins efforts to save her.
1967 Christophoros is renamed Achaeos.
1969 Achaeos is renamed Pioneer; in March, Karl Kortum authorizes
Peter Throckmorton to act as the San Francisco Maritime Museum’s
agent in Greece to help acquire Elissa.
1970 The ship is purchased in November by the San Francisco Maritime
Museum for $14,000 U.S.
1972 Acquired by Canadian interests headed by David Groos in
Victoria, British Columbia.
1975 Galveston Historical Foundation purchases her for the sum of
1977 With the name Elissa restored, she is to become a sailing ship
once again. A restoration team travels to Piraeus, Greece, to make
1978 With twenty-five percent of her original iron hull renewed
[shell and frames] and clipper bow restored, Elissa is towed to
Gibraltar to spend the winter of 1978-79 at the Royal Navy Yard.
1978 Elissa is placed on the National Register of Historic Places;
she is the first object granted this status while outside the
territorial limits of the United States.
1979 Elissa finds her new home in Galveston on July 20. The official
welcoming ceremony is held on August 4. Intensive efforts begin to
restore her to her full glory.
1980 On October 25, an orientation session is held to recruit
volunteers to serve as an adjunct to the Elissa restoration. This
was the beginning of the volunteer corps which, since 1982, has
crewed the vessel and performed the lion’s share of her maintenance.
1982 Restored in painstaking detail, Elissa greets the public on
July 4 as a living tall ship; she sails in the Gulf of Mexico and
across one hundred years.
1982 In late August-early September, Elissa embarks on her first
daysails in Galveston harbor.
1982 Galveston Historical Foundation receives the Texas Award for
Historical Preservation from the Texas Historical Commission, for
“distinguished service in the field of historic preservation through
restoration of the barque Elissa as a Tall Ship for Texas.”
1983 Texas Seaport Museum receives two Ship Trust Awards from the
National Maritime Historical Society, one for the restoration of
Elissa, and another for its volunteer program.
1984 Galveston Historical Foundation’s Elissa Project receives the
Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, one of its most prestigious accolades.
1985 The new Elissa makes her first passage as a restored sailing
ship to Corpus Christi, Texas.
1986 New Detroit Diesel engine installed [V12-92, 450-HP], and
water-tight engine room bulkhead added [previously she had only one
collision bulkhead up forward].
1986 Elissa rejoins her maritime kindred when she sails to New York
harbor for the Statue of Liberty celebration and tall ship parade;
among them, she is the oldest of the Class A vessels.
1989 Elissa visits numerous ports from Brownsville, Texas to
Pensacola, Florida on the “Texas Proud Voyage”.
1990-1991 Two additional water-tight bulkheads added, new ballast
system installed, and layout of aft accommodations modified.
1991 Elissa named a National Historic Landmark. Texas Seaport Museum
officially opens in October.
1994 Marjorie Lyle, granddaughter of Elissa’s first owner, Henry
Fowler Watt, visits the ship.
1995 Texas Seaport Museum receives a Texas Historical Commission
1994 Museum Excellence Award for the film, Passage to Galveston: The
Story of Elissa.
1996 In March and April, Elissa visits Baton Rouge and New Orleans,
1996 Texas Seaport Museum receives a Texas Historical Commission
1995 Museum Excellence Award for its Maritime Mystery educational
1998 Texas Seaport Museum receives a Texas Historical Commission
1997 Museum Excellence Award for its Communities in Schools Youth
Seamanship Training Program.
2000 Elissa is designated as one of “America’s Treasures” by the
National Trust for Historic Preservation.
June 18, 2005: Texas Governor Rick Perry signs resolution naming
Elissa the Official Tall Ship of Texas.
Today Elissa, the flagship of the Texas Seaport Museum, educates and
inspires a constant stream of guests. Every year she rises to the
wind, reminding all who see her that the arts of the age of sail are
not forgotten, but a real part of our collective heritage.