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San Francisco Maritime Celebrates 25th Anniversary

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

National Park News

On June 27, 1988, San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park was created from maritime cultural resources along that city’s western waterfront.

In a sense, though, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s journey goes back at least 127 years, when its oldest resource, the square-rigger Balclutha, was launched into Scotland’s Clyde River. The park also owes a debt to early-1900s open space activists who protected a slice of San Francisco’s northern shoreline, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which built today’s Maritime Museum in the 1930s.

But it was decades before the park left the dock. A private maritime museum opened in the 1950s, and the State of California created a maritime park in the 1960s. The National Park Service gathered together the maritime cultural resources along the western waterfront as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the 1970s, and on June 27, 1988, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was established to preserve, interpret and protect them.

From the beginning, preservation planning was a priority, and staff identified resource needs and developed implementation strategies. At the same time, the resources themselves needed preservation, and the new park needed to establish interpretation and education strategies to serve its visitors.

Staff worked with the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association (the park’s cooperating association and founder of the original San Francisco Maritime Museum) to create an array of youth education programs. The park produced hundreds of events and programs, from daily tours and talks, to weekend festivals and concerts.

As the park’s collections, library and archives professionals were digitizing paper records and treating and restoring delicate objects, park shipwrights, riggers and project managers were tackling some preservation heavyweights. The Balclutha, Eureka, Eppleton Hall, Hercules, Thayer and Alma were all dry-docked at least once.

The park made headway on land, too. A historic lease enabled rehabilitation of the Haslett Warehouse, created the park’s first visitor center, and developed major in-house exhibits, including “Cargo is King” and “The Waterfront.”

For its 25th year, the park will link maritime heritage with one of the world’s largest yachting races, the America’s Cup.  In the maritime museum visitors will get to see the races firsthand, watch live coverage, and learn about racing on the Bay. On Hyde Street Pier interpretive programs and a photograph gallery will focus on memorable moments in park history.

But for all that, the first 25 years have only been a shakedown cruise. The real trip will begin with C.A. Thayer’s sails catching the wind, next-generation exhibits filling the maritime museum, and visitors accessing park stories and resources at the touch of a screen.

To see the highlights of the first 25 years, click on the “More Information” link below.


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