Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center
Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center is managed by a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the seafaring history of the Pacific Northwest, particularly Puget Sound. Northwest Seaport has been working to preserve historic ships since 1964, and has rescued many vessels now listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Currently, its floating fleet at Lake Union Park consists of two National Historic Landmark museum vessels—tugboat Arthur Foss (1889) and Lightship No. 83 Swiftsure (1904)—and the fishing troller Twilight, which is undergoing restoration. Public tours, cruises of Puget Sound, tugboat sleepovers and story times, vocational and trade workshops, chantey sings, and maritime music festivals are offered on the two museum ships. The Center also holds an extensive collection of archival materials related to Northwest maritime history and vessels .
Backstory and Context
Ships of Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center
Northwest Seaport began as a citizen-led effort called Save Our Ships (SOS) which, in 1964, acquired Seattle's last commercial sailing ship, the Wawona (1897) schooner, to be preserved and used as a museum of regional maritime history. The name was changed to Northwest Seaport in 1977; by that time, a fleet of historic vessels had been acquired by the organization, including the Swiftsure, which had guided ships in the region for 54 years, and the Arthur Foss tugboat .
The Wawona, which was built in 1897 in California and carried cargo including lumber, cod, World War II supplies for the U.S. Army. After it was purchased and restored by SOS, it was a heritage vessel for 39 years until it deteriorated past the point of repair. Ship parts and artifacts are preserved in the collections of the nearby Museum of History and Industry .
The Swiftsure is the oldest extant lightship in the United States, and the only lightship with its original steam engine in place. A National Historic Landmark and listed on the Washington State Heritage Register, the ship was built in New Jersey in 1904 and was first stationed at Blunts Reef in California as a floating lighthouse. In 1930, Lightship No. 83 moved to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, and became a patrol ship for the Navy during World War II. Afterward, No. 83 became a Coast Guard vessel in the Pacific Northwest until, in 1961, she was decommissioned. The Swiftsure was bought by SOS seven years later, and was relaunched by Northwest Seaport in 2013 with ongoing restoration in progress .
The Arthur Foss steam tugboat was built in Portland, Oregon in 1889, and towed sailing ships into the Columbia River and barges to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. Next, the Arthur Foss became a logging tugboat in the Puget Sound, and was featured under the name of Narcissus in the 1933 film Tugboat Annie. Refitted with a diesel engine, the ship set speed records along the Pacific Coast. During World War II, the tugboat was the last ship to leave Wake Island before Japan's invasion and was used as a Navy ship during the remainder of the war. Afterward, the tugboat returned to its use towing logs until 1970, when she was donated to SOS. The Arthur Foss is a National Historic Landmark and serves as Northwest Seaport's primary museum vessel .
Northwest Seaport purchased the fishing troller Twilight in 2000. Built in Seattle by H.
C. Hansen in 1933, it was the hook and line fishing ship of the Christiansen
family for approximately 50 years. Northwest Seaport hosts workshops and
educational programs on the ship, which is still undergoing restoration.
Northwest Seaport also partners with other organizations with historic vessels
in the area, including the steamship Virginia
V, the fireboat Duwamish, and the
sailing vessel Adventuress, all
moored at the Historic Ships Wharf in Lake Union Park; the sailing vessel Lady Washington in Aberdeen, Washington;
and the lumber schooner C. A. Thayer
in San Francisco's Maritime National Historical Park, which was refitted with
some parts of the Wawona. The ships
in Lake Union Park are used by Northwest Seaport to host chantey sings,
educational programs, and other public events .