Court sinks plan to raise old schooner off Dunkirk shore

Old schooner off Dunkirk shore

By Phil Fairbanks - Buffalo News

Whatever its name, legacy or place in history, the 19th century schooner has a final resting spot – on the bottom of Lake Erie about 20 miles off the Dunkirk shoreline.

A nine-year legal battle over who owns the shipwreck – some believe it’s the War of 1812 battleship Caledonia – and whether it should be raised and restored or treated as a burial site and left right where it is appears to be over.

And the winners are the historic preservationists who argued that the two-masted ship belongs to the state and is best left as an archaeological site in the lake.

“It’s frustrating," said Richard Kullberg, owner of the company that located the shipwreck. “It’s an accident site, not a grave site.”

Kullberg fought nine years for ownership of the wooden schooner and the right to raise it and turn it into a tourist attraction on Buffalo’s waterfront.

He lost every step of the way, and this week’s decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upholding two lower court rulings may be his last legal option.

The appeals court ruled that the schooner was abandoned and therefore belongs to the state.

The state has argued from Day One that the ethics and wisdom of disturbing a burial site require that the ship, which it doesn’t believe is the Caledonia, remain where it is.

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