Over 50 Years of Northwest Seaport
In 1964, a group of citizens and civic leaders concerned about the preservation of the Pacific schooner Wawona founded a non-profit organization called Save Our Ships to rescue Seattle’s last commercial sailing ship and preserve it as a floating museum and icon of the Northwest’s maritime history. As Save Our Ships grew into a larger organization with a fleet of historic vessels, the name was changed to Northwest Seaport in 1977 to reflect a bigger and broader mission.
After acquiring Wawona in 1964, the next vessel to be saved for preservation was Lightship No. 83, purchased in 1966. Built in 1904, this lightship had guided thousands of ships safely in and out of West Coast ports during its 54 years of active service. It finished its working days as the Relief lightship for the front line lightships marking the Columbia River, Umatilla Reef, and the Swiftsure Bank.
In 1970, the tugboat Arthur Foss was donated to the SOS. Built in 1889, it was the oldest of all three ships in the SOS heritage fleet. At over 600 tons displacement, it is also one of the largest–much of it hidden below the waterline.
Northwest Seaport has taken on a number of other historic vessels over the years including the ferryboat San Mateo, the tug Stimson, and the halibut schooner Yakutat. Many of these vessels proved too far gone or too expensive to restore and were turned over to other owners. In 2000 Northwest Seaport acquired a more manageable vessel, the 36-foot 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. Some of these cultural activities have included 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 tugboat overnights, and many thousands of on-board visitations. The continuing restoration of 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.