Battleship Texas Gets Funding

At long last, it appears that the historic Battleship Texas will live on, now that the legislature has provided the money needed to preserve it. One of the leaders of that effort says the work could begin sometime this year. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

Exactly one year ago, Battleship Texas Manager Andy Smith called on state lawmakers to appropriate the money needed to repair and preserve the ageing battle wagon. Smith told Houston Public Radio at the time that despite a major overhaul in the late 1980s, the 95 year old ship is rusting away before our very eyes.ξ

"She's not in the greatest condition, and to sum it up we're gonna lose it if we don't do something in the next few years."

Fast forward to today. The ship's condition is even worse, but that huge state bond issue Texas voters approved last summer included 21 million dollars for the battleship, contingent on the Battleship Texas Foundation raising another 4 million dollars in donations. Foundation consultant Barry Ward says they're well on the way to raising that money and work to save the Texas is already underway.

"The foundation is currently engaged in an engineering survey of the ship to figure out exactly what needs to be done before we get her out of the water permanently."

Ward says the only feasible way to save the Texas is to build a permanent dry dock around her to stop the rust and decay caused by the salt water of the Houston Ship Channel. He says they can do everything that needs to be done with the 25 million dollars that's forthcoming, with a minimum of inconvenience to tourists.

"Because the ship does not need to go out on the water, it doesn't need to be towed anywhere to a dry dock, the facility will be built right on site. Because you don't need to do any massive internal repairs, there's no need to close the ship down. You'll shut it down for a few days while you set her on her new cradle, and then she opens up a couple of days later."ξ

Ward says if things fall into place the way they hope, work on the permanent drydock can start within a year. He says losing the Texas would be a tragedy because she's a major artifact of naval warfare. She's the last survivor of the pre-World War One class of ships known as dreadnoughts.

"The Battleship Texas, as the last remaining ship of her kind and of her era, is really a bridge from the age of sail into the modern age.ξ She really spans that gap, and there's nothing quite like her left in the entire world."

After serving in both world wars, the Texas was decommissioned in 1948 and brought to a permanent berth on the Houston Ship Channel at San Jacinto State Park, where she's been one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state for 60 years.ξ Barry Ward says the repairs and restoration will keep the Texas there for many generations to come. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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