Northwest Seaport possesses an extensive archive of material related to its vessels and Northwest maritime history that has aided historic research and maritime authors.
Lumber Schooner WAWONA
Today, Wawona’s legacy lives on through the people who once boarded her, exhibits in Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and elsewhere, and collections of Northwest Seaport.
Built in 1897 in Fairhaven, California by noted Scandanavian shipwright Hans Ditlev Bendixsen, the Wawona was one of the largest three-masted schooners built in North America. Designed to carry lumber from Washington State to California and more distant ports, the Wawona sailed with a mimimal crew and without ballast for the Dolbeer & Carson Lumber Company.
Fishing Schooner: In 1914 the Wawona was sold to the Robinson Fisheries Company in Anacortes, Washington. She was refitted to fish for cod, exchanging piles of timber for stacks of dories, and some of her immense cargo hold for crew bunks. Using the “dory-and-mothership” fishing system of the Grand Banks cod fishery, the Wawona and her crew caught more than 7.2 million cod over 33 fishing seasons.
During World War II the US Army took control of the Wawona, removing her masts and using her as a barge to transport lumber and other supplies along the Pacific coast. Following the war she fished for another two seasons. After the 1947 fishing season, the Wawona was laid up. Despite several schemes to sail her as a cattle ship and as a South Pacific cruise ship, she never made a commercial trip again. In 1964 she was purchased as a museum ship by Save Our Ships, an organization that later became Northwest Seaport.
Heritage Schooner: As a heritage vessel, the Wawona hosted countless visitors between 1964 and 2003. School children, museum-goers, old salts, and those just curious toured her cargo hold, captain’s cabin, and decks. Dedicated volunteers put thousands of hours of labor into maintaining her as a museum vessel.
The large wooden vessel was built to last only a few decades, and eventually degraded beyond repair. Northwest Seaport convened the 2005 Wawona Summit (Wawona Summit PDF), bringing together many national and local experts to recommend options for display and restoration. Northwest Seaport created a plan to preserve key artifacts from the vessel. In March 2009, the Wawona was carefully deconstructed in a Seattle shipyard, and artifacts including wooden knees, beams, and paneling were removed for display in museum exhibits and collections.