In 1964, a group of community leaders and citizens concerned about the preservation of the Wawona founded the organization Save Our Ships. Later that same year, Save Our Ships successfully purchased the schooner Wawona as an icon of the Northwest’s maritime history. In 1966, as the organization and its historic fleet grew, the name was changed to Northwest Seaport to reflect a broader mission. In 2014 Northwest Seaport will celebrate 50 years in service.
Northwest Seaport acquired the lightship No. 83 Swiftsure in 1968 and the tugboat Arthur Foss in 1970, two vessels that were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1989. Northwest Seaport has owned historic and vintage vessels including the schooner Wawona, the ferryboat San Mateo, the halibut schooner Yakutat, and the 1933 fishing troller Twilight.
Northwest Seaport is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of maritime heritage of Puget Sound and the Northwest Coast, and to the development of maritime-based educational programs and opportunities for the community. This mission has involved its directors, staff, and volunteers in a long history of community and educational activities over its nearly five-decade history. Some of these cultural activities include restoring the Arthur Foss to operating condition, annual tugboat cruises in Puget Sound, reunions of cod fishermen aboard the Wawona, maritime music festivals and chantey sings, school tours and sleep-overs, and many thousands of on-board visitations. Rehabilitation of the Lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure” will expand Northwest Seaport’s public programs, and provide a major point of public interest and activity at Lake Union Park.