Wreck Dives: City of Washington

One of the most popular wreck spots on Elbow Reef is the City of Washington. This schooner turned steamship was built in 1877 with two masts and a small engine.

She had three decks, a length of 320 feet, and a 38-foot beam. City of Washington transported both passengers and freight between New York, Cuba, Panama and Mexico.

City of Washington Wreck – Elbow Reef Wiki

On the night of February 15, 1898, City of Washington was moored in Havana harbor near the USS Maine when Maine exploded in the incident that precipitated the Spanish–American War.

City of Washington suffered minor damage in the explosion, but assisted in the rescue of Maine’s crew by sending out lifeboats and providing her dining salon for use as a makeshift hospital. The efforts of City of Washington and the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII resulted in the rescue of approximately 100 crew members from Maine.

City of Washington Steamer

courtesy of Wikipedia

Captain Frank Stevens and other crew members of City of Washington provided eyewitness testimony on the Maine disaster in Naval Court of Inquiry hearings which ended on March 21, 1898. The Court of Inquiry concluded that Maine was destroyed by the explosion of a submarine mine.

While the Court did not place responsibility for the explosion, media and popular opinion overwhelmingly attributed it to Spain’s forces in Cuba. Shortly thereafter, Congress declared a state of War with Spain, effective April 20, 1898.

In April 1898, City of Washington was one of many civilian steamships chartered by the US Army Quartermaster Department for use as a transport ship for the invasion of Cuba. She was chartered as Transport #16 at the rate of USD $450 per day through September 1898.

On July 10, 1917, City of Washington and another barge, Seneca, were under tow by the tugboat Luckenbach 4 when all three vessels ran aground on a shallow reef near Key Largo in the Florida Keys.

The other two vessels were refloated on July 15, but City of Washington broke up immediately and was not recoverable. Now a popular dive site, the City of Washington wreck has been designated part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Shipwreck Trail. Full details on Wikipedia


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