Billed as "the world's most authentic, museum-quality representation of Christopher Columbus' flagship," the Santa Maria Ship/Museum has been anchored to the banks of the Scioto River in the heart of Ohio's state capital since 1992.
Built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the city's namesake's famous voyage, the Santa Maria is a clear reminder that the history of the city and larger Scioto Valley is tied to the age of exploration and conquest.
The 1992 Commemoration was not without its critics and controversy. Quincentennial Jubilee Commission officials hosted President George H. W. Bush and marked the anniversary with a $95 million international floral and garden festival, awkwardly named AmeriFlora '92. "We Americans celebrate discovery because we're never satisfied," explained the President, "because we are ever romancing the next horizon. That is why ... a full-size replica of the Santa Maria graces the Scioto River. Here in the largest city in the world bearing the explorer's name," he continued, "we honor Columbus for the same reason as people in Peoria or Prague. We believe that the individual can make a difference and that human dignity can, indeed, change the world. Most of all," Bush intoned, "we know that dignity stems from values like hard work and self-reliance and faith. In 1492, those values sustained Columbus' voyage. In 1992, they must sustain our voyage to do right and thus achieve good."
The man whom President Bush cited as an example of human dignity, Christopher Columbus, others saw as the embodiment of all the sins of European colonial oppression. When the new Santa Maria was officially dedicated and opened to visitors, another crowd of more than a hundred gathered in a nearby park and held their own memorial service, recalling the genocide that had flowed in the wake of Columbus' voyage.
Today, the Columbus Quincentennial has come and gone, but visitors to the Ship/Museum can look up river from her deck and view the former site of Saltlick Town, the Native American village that was destroyed by Virginians during Lord Dunmore's War in 1774.
George H. W. Bush, "Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the AmeriFlora '92 Exposition in Columbus, Ohio" (1992-04-20), Public Papers, George Bush Presidential Library