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National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
National Historic Landmark #73000228: WAPAMA Steam Schooner c.1935
Working San Francisco Bay Circa 1935
National Historic Landmark #73000228: WAPAMA Steam Schooner in 1972
Moored at Hyde Street Pier in 1972
National Historic Landmark #73000228: WAPAMA Steam Schooner in 1981
On Preservation Barge in 1981
All Black and White Photographs From
National Register Nomination Form
National Historic Landmark #73000228: WAPAMA Steam Schooner
In Drydock February 2006
14 February 2006
(Click Photos to Zoom)
National Historic Landmark #73000228
WAPAMA Steam Schooner
Built 1915

The following narrative is excerpted from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form dated 17 December 1982:

The Wapama is the last surviving example afloat of some 225 steam schooners specially designed for use in the 19th and 20th century Pacific Coast lumber trade and coastwise service. These vessels formed the backbone of maritime trade and commerce on the coast, ferrying lumber, general cargo, and passengers to and from urban centers and smaller coastal settlements.

While one of many such vessels, the Wapama was also unique in her construction, varying from established shipbuilding practices of the time. As such she is Nationally significant in the area of Naval Architecture as the only known example of a vessel of this type of construction in the United States still extant.

Due to her important role in Pacific Coast maritime trade, commerce, and industry, the Wapama is Nationally significant as a .Pacific Coast expression of America's dependence on maritime trade and commerce and because she alone illustrates the maritime aspects of America's timber industry. Her areas 'Of significance are in Commerce, Industry, and Transportation.

The S.S. Wapama is the last intact, floating American coastwise steamship to carry passengers and cargo, and as the sole representative of hundreds of wooden steamers which operated on America's Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts in the 19th and 20th centuries, she helps us understand that aspect of American history and is of exceptional value in illustrating that important theme in the history of the nation* She is of National significance.

The Wapama was nominated to and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 24, 1973 at a State level of significance in the areas of Commerce and Transportation. Due to inadequacies of that nomination and because of new and important information this revised nomination has been prepared to better represent the Wapama's areas of significance and to raise her recognized level of significance to a National level.

Photo on San Francisco Bay, circa 1935 by John W. Proctor negative on file at san francisco maritime museum

San Francisco Chronicle, 8 December 1996:
From Sinking into Oblivion: Neglect Is Turning a Once Proud Fleet into a Heap of Flotsam by Gerald D. Adams, Examiner Urban Planning Writer

....And the 217-foot-long steam schooner WAPAMA has been neglected for so many years, that she is dry-docked in Sausalito, unfit for display at the Hyde Street Pier.

"Those ships are a priceless national resource that need to be protected," says William Whelan, former superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and now a consultant on federal projects. "I think personal differences need to be set aside (so) they can be saved...."

San Francisco Chronicle, 24 July 2000:
From Last of Pacific Northwest's Fabled Schooners Losing Steam: Historic Ship is Facing Homelessness, Wood Rot by Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer

....The 215-foot-long wooden steamship, which is owned by the National Park Service, has been a landmark in Sausalito since 1986. But the old workhorse is rotting away, and attempts to restore it to its former glory have repeatedly failed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the dock where the WAPAMA sits on a barge, needs the space as part of a planned expansion of the adjacent Bay Model interpretive center. The WAPAMA, they say, will have to go.

``The corps and the National Park Service entered into a two-year agreement to dock the WAPAMA in Sausalito 14 years ago, so it never was the intention that this would be a permanent home,'' said Donna Shepard, spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers. ``We think it is important that the WAPAMA be moved to a facility that is equipped to do the level of restoration work that is needed.''

A plan to move the ship to Pier 54 in San Francisco recently fell through, and now the National Park Service is negotiating with Richmond's port authority for a berth at its old naval shipyard....

The WAPAMA is the last of 225 wooden steam schooners -- successors to the sailing vessels called lumber schooners -- built between the 1880s and the 1920s. The ships, built exclusively on the West Coast, steamed up and down the coast hauling lumber, passengers and, occasionally, less wholesome commodities.

Built almost entirely of Douglas fir in St. Helens, Ore., and launched in 1915, the WAPAMA plied the seas loaded down with more than 1 million board-feet of lumber from the forests of the Northwest, delivering the timber that built the cities of the West Coast.

Carrying as many as 45 first-class passengers, 22 more in steerage, and about 19 crew members, the WAPAMA traveled with other steam schooners from Alaska to San Francisco and ports as far south as Guaymas, Mexico.

It was a wild, rugged time and the old salts who were there remember sleeping on three-tiered bunks during choppy seas, enduring saltwater showers and breathing the fumes from a perpetually smoking potbellied stove.

During Prohibition, booze was often part of the cargo, gambling was part of the entertainment and wayward women sometimes found their way into crew and passenger cabins.

Maritime historian Jessie Brady said the poker games and other activities were often so engrossing that the crews would lash down the wheel of the ship to keep it going around in circles during the bacchanalia.

Old beer bottles from long-extinct breweries have been found between the decks and in nooks and crannies on the WAPAMA.

The WAPAMA was purchased by the Alaska Transportation Co. in 1937, renamed the Tongass and used as a refrigerator ship hauling supplies between Puget Sound and Alaska for 10 years. It was eventually damaged, hitting a rock in rough waters.

The state of California rescued the steam schooner in 1957, one step short of being scrapped in Seattle. It was restored, towed to the Hyde Street Pier and displayed in 1963 as part of the National Maritime Museum's historic ship collection.

But the years again took their toll. The WAPAMA was placed on a dry-dock barge in Oakland in 1979 after brown rot attacked about 80 percent of the structure, then moved to the Army Corps of Engineers' dock in Sausalito...

San Francisco Chronicle, 5 October 2000:
An 85-year-old vessel that is the last example of a kind that once commonly engaged in the Pacific Coast lumber trade was moved yesterday to Richmond's waterfront, where historians hope to turn it into a floating museum.

The WAPAMA, a 215-foot-long wooden steam schooner, was pushed by two tugboats from its former home in Sausalito across San Francisco Bay to Richmond's old Kaiser Shipyard, said National Parks Service spokesman Lynn Cullivan.

The Park Service and Richmond city leaders hope to raise money to restore the rotting ship to its former glory, Cullivan said.

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