Alvin Clark (schooner)

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ALVIN CLARK (schooner)
Alvin Clark (schooner) is located in Michigan
Alvin Clark (schooner)
Alvin Clark (schooner) is located in the US
Alvin Clark (schooner)
Location Foot of 6th Ave, Menominee, Michigan
Coordinates 45°6′15″N 87°37′13″W / 45.10417°N 87.62028°W / 45.10417; -87.62028Coordinates: 45°6′15″N 87°37′13″W / 45.10417°N 87.62028°W / 45.10417; -87.62028
Area 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built 1846
Architectural style Other, Square stern schooner
Demolished 1994
NRHP Reference # 74000996[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 16, 1974
Designated MSHS February 11, 1972[2]

The Alvin Clark was a schooner which was constructed in 1847 and sank in Green Bay[2] in 1864. It was salvaged in 1969 and moored in Menominee, Michigan at the Mystery Ship Seaport, located in the Menominee River at the foot of Sixth Avenue. The ship was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1972 [2] and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.[1] Although the schooner was in pristine condition when raised, no plans were in place for its conservation, and the ship rapidly deteriorated.[3] The remains of the Alvin Clark were destroyed in 1994.

Construction and operation[edit]

The Alvin Clark was built at the Bates and Davis Shipyard in Trenton, Michigan[4] in 1847,[5] likely by shipmaker John Clark, who had a son named Alvin.[6] The ship was owned by Captain William M. Higgie of Racine, Wisconsin. On June 19, 1864, the ship was heading to Oconto, Wisconsin to pick up a load of lumber, running empty under full sail.[5] The captain ordered the holds cleaned, and the hatches were removed.[4] A sudden storm capsized the ship just off the shore of Chambers Island in Green Bay.[5] Captain Higgie, the mate, and another sailor were drowned; two other sailors were rescued.[4] An attempt to salvage the ship was made a few months after the wreck, but it was unsuccessful and the Alvin Clark was left on the bottom.[7]


The Alvin Clark was a lumber schooner measuring 105 feet (32 m) in length, with a beam of 25 feet (7.6 m) and a displacement of 218 tons.[5] It was constructed primarily of white oak, with 2-1/2 inch planking and 10 inch wide ribs.[6] The ship had a single deck,[6] two masts including a 110 feet (34 m) mainmast,[6] and was rigged as a brigantine with a square rigged foremast.[5]


In 1967, sport diver Frank Hoffman was hired by a commercial fisherman to free nets that had snagged under the surface.[5] Hoffman dove in and discovered the nets tangled in what appeared to be a ship's mast.[5] Hoffman initially referred to the wreck as "the Mystery Ship at 19 Fathoms" (a name that stuck with the ship later),[8] but the ship proved to be the Alvin Clark,[3] and was positively identified through a stencil made belowdecks by one of the surviving sailors.[4] The ship was completely intact and in excellent condition, and Hoffman secured the salvage rights the next year.[5] He assembled a team that salvaged the ship, recovering artifacts[5] and removing the silt from the wreck.[9] Work began in the spring of 1968,[9] and the team eventually brought the ship intact to the surface in July 1969. The Alvin Clark was, at the time, the "finest preserved historic vessel in the United States."[3] It was completely intact, some of the mechanical systems still worked, and it contained a variety of preserved artifacts.[3] Once the water was pumped put of the holds, the ship still floated.[10] Hoffman berthed the ship in Menominee, cleaned and re-rigged it, and eased it into an earthen slip.[9] Hoffman built a museum nearby and exhibited the ship as a tourist attraction at the "Mystery Ship Seaport" in Menominee.[3]

Deterioration and demolition[edit]

However, there were no conservation plans in place for the ship. Freed from the cold and low-oxygen waters at the bottom of the bay, the Alvin Clark immediately started to deteriorate. Hoffman's group had not included museum or historic society representatives, and his demand to be compensated for expenses involved in raising the ship frustrated efforts to find a permanent home for the ship or start any sort of conservation.[3] Proceeds from the museum came nowhere near paying off Hoffman's incurred debt, much less providing restoration funds.[9] The ship eventually deteriorated beyond salvation. In 1985, Hoffman attempted to burn what was left of the ship.[3] In 1987, he sold the ship to a group of local investors for $117,000.[9] The investors moved and stabilized the ship,[9] but they were never able to adequately preserve the ship either.[5] The ship was eventually deemed beyond saving, and it was deemed a public hazard.[4] In 1994, the Mystery Ship Seaport and the remains of the Alvin Clark were demolished to make way for a parking lot.[3]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c "ALVIN CLARK (schooner)". Michigan State Housing Development Authority: Historic Sites Online. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Theodore J. Karamanski (2000), Schooner passage: sailing ships and the Lake Michigan frontier, Wayne State University Press, pp. 218–221, ISBN 0-8143-2911-X 
  4. ^ a b c d e Jon Paul Van Harpen (2006), Door Peninsula Shipwrecks, Arcadia Publishing, pp. 85–90, ISBN 0-7385-4014-5 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Andreas Jordahl Rhude. "The Mystery Ship -A Tragedy". Bob Spettl Land o' Lakes. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d Diane B. Abbott; Charles K. Hyde (1978), The Upper peninsula of Michigan : an inventory of historic engineering and industrial sites, Historic American Engineering Record, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, pp. 122–123 
  7. ^ William F. Keefe (May 3, 2007). "Shipwreck Artifacts -- To Remove or Leave?" (PDF). The Beacher. 23 (17). 
  8. ^ Bob O'Donnell (July–September 1994). "Remains of Schooner Alvin Clark Demolished This Summer" (PDF). Wisconsin Underwater Heritage. 4 (4). 
  9. ^ a b c d e f A.A. Dornfeld (November 15, 1987). "A Risen Ship Scuttles Its Savior". Chicago Tribune. 
  10. ^ Mike Toner (Fall 2011). "The Battle for the Dunkirk Schooner". American Archaeology. 15 (3): 12–19.