The MHN Blog is a companion to the Maritime Heritage Network, a not-for-profit, comprehensive website of maritime heritage organizations, attractions, and activities in the Pacific Northwest. The blog highlights news, activities, and resources useful to the entire maritime heritage community. All views expressed are the author's own. Opposing views are welcome.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

City's Deputy Mayor Threatens to "Demolish and Dispose" of Wawona

Deputy Seattle Mayor Tim Cies has threatened to "contract for [the] demolition and disposal" of the historic schooner Wawona, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a city landmark, if its owner, Northwest Seaport, does not move the vessel by September 30. In addition, Cies ordered NWS to "clearly and convincingly demonstrate" it can raise several million dollars by July 7 in avoid destruction of the ship.

Wawona is currently at South Lake Union Park in Seattle, where she has berthed since 1980. Northwest Seaport has cared for the ship since 1963. The vessel is one of only two remaining examples of lumber and codfishing schooners on the west coast, the other being the C.A. Thayer, now nearing the end of a complete restoration in San Francisco. A panel of maritime history experts recommended last month that the Wawona be removed from the water for further restoration work.

Below is an excerpt of Cies' letter, addressed to Joe Shickich, president of NWS, and dated June 8:

The Wawona is extremely deteriorated; significant funding for her restoration or preservation has not been forthcoming for some decades, and there is currently no evidence the the support exists for this situation to change. The vessel and associated workshops and outbuildings have been located on City property at minimal or no cost since the 1970’s, yet the vessel is far more deteriorated now than she was twenty years ago. Despite the efforts of a committed group of dedicated supporters, the restoration of the Wawona has not been supported by the larger philanthropic community.

We have, however, made a clear commitment to the Seattle community to move forward on the development of South Lake Union Park. The Wawona must be moved from her current location to allow that to happen, and she must be moved soon. Therefore, Northwest Seaport has until July 7, 2006 to clearly and convincingly demonstrate that it has the capacity to raise the funds necessary to relocate and restore the vessel. The vessel should be removed from its current location by September 30, 2006.

If Northwest Seaport is not able to demonstrate this capability, the City, in consultation with the Museum of History & Industry, will proceed with planning to commemorate the vessel in an appropriate and affordable manner, and will contract for its demolition and disposal of portions of the vessel we decide to keep for display puposes.

All maritime history and heritage supporters should contact Mayor Greg Nickels' office to protest this action and urge another solution that would not destroy our city's history. Contact Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis at 206-684-8106, Also contact Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds, 206-684-8022, You should also write to the Seattle City Council members.

To express support for NWS, contact Joe Shickich at 206-389-1772,, or Wayne Palsson, 206-447-9800, You may also want to contact the Museum of History & Industry.

Comments are welcome. Click the link below to express your opinion.


Blogger The Write Man said...

As much as I don't like the way the City of Seattle and especially its Parks Dept. goes about things, I'm afraid the City's decision is almost inevitable. It appears to be true that, after decades of fundraising and volunteer support, the Wawona's condition is, in some significant ways, worse than when it arrived. It has failed to garner sufficient public support for its restoration, and there does not appear to be any clear future prospect that would indicate public financial support for the Wawona is about to change.

The City's timeline, however, is unfair, given the decades that Wawona has been a fixture at these docks. I think it is possible that a deadline imposed by the City could be the the one thing that actually does save Wawona. Deadlines can be useful for getting people who have been sitting on the fence to commit to action. Ceis's letter gives a little room for believing that the city might extend the deadline if it saw a promising fundraiser under way.

If people will not give sufficiently to save the Wawona, even with this dire deadline upon her, then I don't suppose they ever will. Use the deadline to create great urgency in a final last-hurrah fundraiser, and see what you can do. You've got one month to start showing major results. Best of success to you.

1:11 PM

Blogger Joe Follansbee said...

Thanks for your comment. But I think you're missing the point. The city is not doing Northwest Seaport any favors by setting arbitrary deadlines. Instead of making threats, why doesn't it get on the side of people who are genuinely trying to make this city better? It certainly does that for South Lake Union developers. Doesn't a volunteer-based, not-for-profit trying to preserve the city's history and identity deserve as much consideration? They're not asking for a bailout, only a little help. Instead, the city has done little more than stand in the way.

1:18 PM

Blogger BoatDocWa said...

Mr. Ceis is way out of line here.
It is quite arrogant of him to threaten to enlist the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) to create a ceremoneous procedure for destroying the WAWONA? Is MOHAI in cahoots with the City? Near as I can tell...MOHAI has no vested interest in WAWONA.
Northwest Seaport could claim "adverse possession" of the Park...they have quietly occupied it for nearly 30 years. Like, did Tim Ceis finally discover they were there? With their shops, saws, etc.?
Ceis, Bounds and Nickels apparently have a very different vision of S. Lake Union. Bring on the streetcar! Ban the Boats!

2:27 PM

Blogger Joe Follansbee said...

This is more of the same from the city when it comes to historic preservation. They had much the same attitude about the historic military buildings at Fort Lawton. There have been demonstrations against this administration at Woodland Park Zoo. What's it going to take to get Mayor Nickels to see how the Parks Department is mismanaging our city's heritage?

3:17 PM

Anonymous paul said...

You may be interested in a past issue of WoodenBoat magazine (available online) as it has an article on restoring a similar (sister?) ship, the C A  Thayer. 

2:52 PM

Blogger Joe Follansbee said...

Hey Paul,

Thanks for the link. I read that article and it was amazing. Wouldn't it be great if the same thing happened to Wawona?


1:26 PM


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