Considered the second-most densely populated US city, San Francisco offers many historical attractions. It is a must-see for both locals and tourists, aside from gaining more knowledge about the rich and cultural past of the city. One of these amazing tourist destinations is the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which used to be called the ‘San Francisco Maritime Museum’ from 1951 to 1978.
The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is also a U.S. National Historic Landmark that was designated on January 26, 1984, and also a U.S. National Register of Historic Places that was designated four years later on June 27, 1988. The area is divided into different sections like the library/research facility, fleet of historic vessels, visitor center (temporarily closed), and a maritime museum. As the US government has officially recognized the park as a historical area, the place and how it was developed through the years is an interesting story.
Before being a museum, the building was first built as a public bathhouse by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936. Founded in the 1950s, the San Francisco Maritime Museum Association was given the task to operate the then-independent maritime museum. The administration of the famous Art Deco structure in Aquatic Park at the foot of Polk Street was its primary goal. What could be considered as the association’s first significant property to acquire is the Balclutha – a steel-hulled ship with more than 300 feet in overall length. They have decided to renovate it and make it open for public tours, which expanded their current concept of what a maritime museum could be.
The development of Victorian Park and Hyde Street Pier also became historical sites, and the Association was believed to have played a vital role to have the 2 locations recognized. It started to be a part of the California State Park system, then became a Golden Gate National Recreation Area, then became a National Historical Park in 1989. The park was included in the national historic landmark list and in the building complex of the Aquatic Park Historic District, which is located on the San Francisco Bay shoreline.
Currently, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has a different lineup of activities for its visitors, even outside the park. Adapting to technological advancements to reach more people, they have a podcast entitled “Better Lives, Bitter Lies”. It is hosted by Sabrina Oliveras and Anne Monk, both park guides of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. To those interested in visiting the park physically, it is located at 499 Jefferson St. San Francisco, CA 94109. It is better to call them first before visiting the park. Some attractions are closed due to covid-19. They can be reached at 415-561-7100 or visit nps.gov.