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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wawona Threat Unprecedented; Could She Suffer the Same Fate as SS Nobska?

I contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Friday to ask about any precedents to Wawona's case. It appears that the threat by the City of Seattle (see Wednesday, Friday entries) to demolish a vessel on the National Register of Historic Places is unprecedented. They couldn't think of a single case where a local government tried to bully a volunteer-run maritime history preservation organization by threatening to destroy its property.

However, there is a case this month in which the National Park Service decided to demolish an historic ship for national security reasons. According to NTHP and a Martha's Vineyard, Mass. newspaper, the NPS let loose the wrecking ball around June 1 on the SS Nobska, a vessel eerily similar to the Virginia V, a mosquito fleet steamer not a hundred yards from Wawona. The NTHP tells me that the federal government wanted the Nobska removed from a drydock, which might be needed in case of a terrorist attack on other historic vessels at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The Nobska is in a similar situation as Wawona: a 30-year fundraising and restoration effort that came up short, and a landlord that had had enough. It could be an ugly foreshadowing of Wawona's fate.

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