Seattle has had a long and significant relationship with water. The maritime and waterfront activities associated with the region’s lakes, the Puget Sound, and Pacific Ocean have ultimately shaped what Seattle has become.
Maritime Seattle continues the 50+ year partnership between MOHAI and the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society (PSMHS). Hosted in the historic bridge room of the Naval Reserve Building, the McCurdy Family Maritime Gallery features stunning views of Lake Union and its bustling world of boats, planes, paddlers, and wildlife. These modern activities are juxtaposed alongside engaging artifacts such as a working WWII-era Tang periscope with 360˚ views of the city, as well as an 1885 Fresnel Lens from the Smith Island Lighthouse.
Discover what life was like on a working waterfront in the past, and how that has changed through the years. Then test out the real, working ship’s wheel!
Maritime Seattle features a real working ships wheel made out of yellow and rose brass and purpleheart wood handles. Wonder what the arrow on top is for? It’s a rudder indicator that helped boat captains determine how sharply the boat was being turned. Look out onto the waters of Lake Union from the bridge room, and steer MOHAI ahead!
This engine order telegraph originally would ring a bell in the engine room to tell boat operators how fast and in what direction the engines should go. This machine has two independent handles because it was made specifically for twin engine/propeller boats where engines could be set to different speeds.
As Seattle grew from a pioneer settlement to a busy metropolis, maritime industries developed to accommodate the needs of business and consumers. Henry Finch, “king of the divers,” was one of these entrepreneurs, and had a family diving company salvaging ships in the early 1900s. Finch wore this helmet on his many dives around Puget Sound.
Nestled in the wharf of Lake Union Park are historic ships with fascinating stories to tell about Seattle. From the city’s first World’s Fair, lighting the sea, early ferry service in Puget Sound, to fighting fires over 100 years ago and even a tale from Hollywood, each ship has an interesting past. Listen to these these maritime chronicles from crew members of Northwest Seaport, the Virginia V, Seattle Fireboat Duwamish, and MV Lotus and get a tour of these local treasures.
Lake Union is the geographic center of Seattle, and has gone through many changes through the years that have been influential on the city’s growth and development. Many partnering organizations work to preserve the history and stories of the lake.
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society (PSMHS) set sail in 1948, has been an active participant in the region’s maritime community ever since, and has partnered with MOHAI for over 50 years. The Society maintains a collection of ship models and other maritime artifacts, as well as historic photos, ship’s plans, and books.
The Center for Wooden Boats is where maritime history comes alive through direct experiences, and small craft heritage is enjoyed, preserved, and passed along to future generations. The Center has over 100 historically significant boats.
Close to downtown Seattle, Lake Union Park sits on a historic waterfront and is managed by the city of Seattle. Enjoy splashing in a fountain or seafaring activities like kayaking, paddle-boarding, swimming, or watching the goings-on of Lake Union.
The Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenten Locks—more commonly referred to as the Ballard Locks—were officially completed in 1934 and connected Lake Union, Salmon Bay, and Lake Washington. The Canal changed the way residents and industries operated in Seattle.
Northwest Seaport is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime heritage of Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. The Seaport’s floating fleet moored Seattle’s Lake Union Park, as well as an extensive archival collection on its vessels and Northwest maritime history.
The SS Virginia V is a National Historic Landmark and a treasure of Seattle’s maritime history. The steamer was originally part of the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet and connected coastal towns around South Puget Sound. Today, the ship is the last operational example of a Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet steamer, and is moored at Lake Union.
Maritime Seattle was co-curated with Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society