In celebration of Henry Fowler Watt’s, who commissioned the construction of the iron barque ELISSA, 178th birthday, Galveston Historical Foundation is inviting the public to the Texas Seaport Museum on Sunday, April 23 from 10 am – 5 pm for complimentary admission to the National Historic Landmark.


Henry Fowler Watt had gone to sea as an apprentice at age 14, gaining his master’s license at 28. He owned and operated five different sailing ships at various times during his lifetime. In 1877 he contracted with Alexander Hall & Co. to build the iron barque.  Named ELISSA for the Queen of Carthage, Aeneas’ tragic lover in the epic poem The Aeneid. ELISSA sailed carrying the kinds of smaller cargoes that Watt could find for her. During an 1897 North Atlantic storm Elissa was heavily damaged and Watt was forced to sell her to pay her repair bills.


Named in 2005 by the Texas legislature as the Official Tall Ship of Texas, ELISSA is one of only three 19th-century iron square-riggers in the World that continues to sail. Built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland, the iron-hulled vessel boasts a 90-year commercial history during which she carried a variety of cargoes to ports around the world, including Galveston. A National Historic Landmark and a fully functional sailing vessel, ELISSA has achieved a special place in history by sailing in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

After being abandoned as a freighter in Piraeus Harbor, Greece, ELISSA was rescued in the 1970s by a group of preservationists who refused to let her and her rich history die. Following extensive restoration, she today is part of the museum’s permanent exhibit and one of Galveston Island’s most popular attractions. Measuring 205 feet in length with a height of 99 feet and nine inches at the main mast, she carries 19 sails that cover more than a quarter of an acre in surface area. When not sailing, ELISSA is open for daily tours at the Texas Seaport Museum, located at Pier 22, just off Harborside Drive in downtown Galveston.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.