031-175water.jpg (39504 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Lower Manhattan



Fox & Fowle


175 Water Street, between Fletcher and John Streets. 






The building has a symmetrical plan of twin glass-walled cylinders peeking out from the rectangle facade with horizontal bands of glass and brown stone cladding.


Office Building




The Water Street Wreck:

An 18th-Century Merchantman in Manhattan

Co-Directors: Warren C. Riess and Sheli O. Smith.

Excavation date: Winter 1982.

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During an archaeological investigation of a construction site in January, 1982 at 175 Water Street in lower Manhattan, the hull of an merchant ship was discovered in colonial era landfill.  The developer of the site, Howard Ronson, for whom the wreck has also been named, made possible a recording of the hull by personnel from INA, the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, New York-based archaeologists, and a number of volunteers.

The site on Water Street with the 
ships of the 
South Street Seaport Museum 
in background.

The hull dated to the 18th century, the first such find of a merchant ship from that period.  The ship, 25 m. (82ft.) long between perpendiculars, was constructed oak with a sheathing layer of softwood overlaying a mastic of animal hair and pitch.

Inside the hull.

The ship was a British merchant frigate, built to sail in shallow as well as deep water, and probably constructed in Virginia or the Carolinas between 1710 and 1720.  She possibly served as a tobacco carrier between the Chesapeake colonies and Britain.  Artifacts in the hull suggest she was buried in Manhattan in mid-century. The reasons why this southern vessel wound up in New York are unclear, but she may have spent her last years as a storage hulk before being turned into cribbage.

The hull during excavation.
View forward to aft.

As the entire hull was too expensive to remove, conserve, and display, the bow of the ship was saved for conservation.  It is now housed in the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

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A view of the bow inside, and out.

See:  "Rosloff Model Displayed at Mariner's Museum," INA Newsletter, 13.4 (1987): 9.


Photographs from the Peter Throckmorton Collection, INA Archives.

For further reading:

Warren Riess and Sheli O. Smith, "The Ronson Ship," Sea History (Summer 1983): 20-22. 

Warren Riess, "The Ronson Ship: The Study of an Eighteenth Century Merchantman Excavated in Manhattan, New York in 1982,"  Dissertation, University of New Hampshire, 1987.

Jay Rosloff, "The Water Street Ship: Preliminary Analysis of an Eighteenth-Century Merchant Ship's Bow."  Master's Thesis, Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University, 1986.

J. Richard Steffy, "The Thirteen Colonies: English Settlers and Seafarers," in Ships and Shipwrecks of the Americas, ed. G. F. Bass (Thames and Hudson, 1988), pp. 107-128.

J. Richard Steffy, "The Ronson Ship," in Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks (Texas A&M University Press, 1994), pp. 168-70.