San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

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San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California, USA. The park includes a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility. The park is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the San Francisco Maritime Museum -- a name that dates from 1951, but changed when the collections were acquired by the National Park Service, in 1978. Today's San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was authorized in 1988; the maritime museum is among the park's many cultural resources. The park also incorporates the Aquatic Park Historic District, bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street, and Hyde Street.

Historic vessel fleet
The historic fleet of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is moored at the park's Hyde Street Pier. The fleet consists of the following major vessels:
  • Balclutha , an 1886 built square rigged sailing ship.
  • C.A. Thayer , an 1895 built schooner.
  • Eureka , an 1890 built steam ferryboat.
  • Alma , an 1891 built scow schooner.
  • Hercules , a 1907 built steam tug.
  • Eppleton Hall , a 1914 built paddlewheel tug.
The fleet also includes over one hundred small craft.

Visitor Center
The Visitor Center is housed in the park's 1909 waterfront warehouse, located at the corner of Hyde and Jefferson Streets. The City of San Francisco declared the four-story brick structure an historic landmark in 1974, and the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Inside, exhibits (including a first order Fresnel lighthouse lens and a shipwrecked boat) tell the story of San Francisco’s colorful and diverse maritime heritage. The visitor center also contains a theater, the Sailor's Den (a branch of the park's maritime library), and a ranger-staffed information desk.

Maritime Museum
The maritime museum was until recently housed in a Streamline Moderne (late Art Deco) building that is the centerpiece of the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark at the foot of Polk Street and a minute's walk from the visitor center and Hyde Street Pier. The building was originally built (starting in 1936) by the WPA as a public bathhouse, and its interior is decorated with fantastic and colorful murals. The architects were William Mooser Jr. and William Mooser III. The Steamship Room illustrates the technological evolution of maritime power from wind to steam, while the second-floor displays include three photomurals of the early San Francisco waterfront, lithographic stones, scrimshaw and whaling guns. The third-floor gallery is used for visiting exhibitions and is in 2005 exhibiting "Sparks", an exhibition of shipboard radio, radiotelephone, and radioteletype technology. The Maritime Museum has re opened after a series of renovations.

Research library
The research library focuses on sail and steam on the West Coast of the United States and the Pacific Basin from 1520 to the present, including the archived records of many ship builders and ship owners. It includes 1,500 feet (460 m) of documents, including 120,000 vessel and shipyard architectural drawings, and about 5,000 charts and maps.

Supporting associations
The park is supported by several cooperating associations. One of these is the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association.

Location and access
The Visitors Center, Hyde Street Pier and Maritime Museum are all situated adjacent to the foot of Hyde Street and at the western end of the Fisherman's Wharf district. The park headquarters and research library are located in Fort Mason, some 10 minutes walk to the west of the other sites. The Beach and Hyde Street terminal of the San Francisco cable car system adjoins the main site, whilst the Jones Street terminal of the F Market historic streetcar line is some 5 minutes walk to the east. Opening times and fees for the various sites can be found on the park's website, see 'External links' below.

Open Water Swimming
Aquatic Park is a popular place for open water swimming, both for recreation and training.