The City of Washington
In 25 feet of water east of Key Largo, the remains of the City of Washington lie on Elbow Reef. On July 10, 1917, while being towed by a tug, the City of Washington ran aground on and was a total loss within minutes.
The City of Washington was built at Roach’s Shipyard in Chester, Pennsylvania, as a two-masted sailing vessel. She was launched in 1887 for use in passenger transport and the cargo trade between New York, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1889, she was refitted with a 2,750-horsepower steam engine which dramatically increased her speed.
The City of Washington’s moment in history came the night of February 15, 1898. Because of deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Spain over the rebellion in Cuba, the USS Maine was moored in Havana Harbor to protect American interests. That night the Maine exploded. The City of Washington was moored close by and suffered damage to her awnings and deck houses by flying debris. Her crew assisted in the rescue of the Maine survivors.
This was the final event leading to the Spanish-American War. During the war, the City of Washington was used as a transport ship carrying troops. She returned to her passenger and cargo runs following the war until retirement in 1908. Three years later she was purchased and converted into a coal-transporting barge.
On July 10, 1917, the tugboat Luchenbach #4 towing the City of Washington and the Seneca ran aground on Elbow Reef. The tug and its second vessel were soon refloated, but the City of Washington broke up and sank.
The wreck site of the City of Washington is 325 feet long and contains mostly the lower bilge section of the steel hull. The hull structure can be followed for most of its contour, although several huge gaps are present. The bow section is badly damaged. While the site is concentrated, scattered features extend 140 feet from the main axis of the ship.