The National Trust for Historic Preservation, based in Washington, announced yesterday that it will contribute $5,000 in "seed money" for restoration of the Constellation.
"We will need a partnership of public, private and individual contributions if we are going to save the decaying ship," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, speaking yesterday at a news conference aboard the historic vessel in the Inner Harbor.
The trust called attention to the ship's deteriorating condition last month when it labeled the Constellation as one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places."
Restoration could cost anywhere from $5 million to $25 million, said Gail Shawe, who chairs the board of the private, nonprofit foundation in charge of the ship.
She said the only money available so far is a $50,000 grant from the city.
Ms. Shawe said she would apply for federal and state money and is considering a fund-raiser.
The Constellation traces its heritage to the U.S. Navy frigate Constellation, built in Baltimore in 1797 on orders from George Washington. In 1853, the frigate was hauled out and replaced by a new sloop-of-war that carried the old Constellation's name. That ship has been in Baltimore since 1955.
Ms. Shawe said the renovation will be as extensive as needed for a ship at anchor.
"The Constellation will not be going into battle, using its cannons. So the ship doesn't need the strength and ability to maneuver as it did in the mid-1800s," she said.
Historians say the Constellation is the last all-sail fighting ship ever built for the U.S. Navy -- and therefore a priceless relic in its own right. Ships constructed later for the Navy carried both steam engines and sails.