National Maritime Heritage Grant Approved to Preserve Historic Landmark Steam Ferry Berkeley at Maritime Museum of San Diego

The Maritime Museum of San Diego, home to one of the world’s finest collections of historic vessels, including the world’s oldest active sailing vessel Star of India, has been awarded $200,000 in preservation project funding from the National Maritime Heritage Grant Program to preserve the 1898 steam ferry Berkeley. The grant program funds Maritime Heritage Education and Preservation Projects throughout the United States.

Steam ferry Berkeley, one of the fewest of its type still in existence, represents the transition to steam-powered propulsion, with its triple-expansion engine. Berkeley provided service between Oakland and San Francisco for nearly 60 years, including her role in evacuating thousands of San Francisco residents at the time of the great earthquake in 1906. The ship is both a State and National Historic Landmark, and received the Steamship Historical Society’s “Steamship of the Year” award in 2015.

Dr. Ray Ashley, CEO/President of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, exclaimed, “News of this latest National Maritime Heritage Grant is such an honor. This reflects how with devoted leadership, staff, volunteers and our community, we have for years united on a commitment to deliver a cultural and educational experience like no other, and together deliver on our mission to serve as the community memory of our seafaring experience by collecting, preserving, and presenting our rich maritime heritage and historic connections with the Pacific world.”

Berkeley received a prestigious Save America’s Treasures preservation award in 2011, which funded what was then a revolutionary preservation technique adapted from the offshore oil industry to coat the entire exposed outer surface of Berkeley’s hull with a ceramic/epoxy composite to eliminate further corrosion. Fifteen years out, the Museum confirms this ground-breaking process proved successful, and subsequently has been used on other metal-hulled historic vessels in the Museum’s fleet and throughout the United States.

Over the last three years, in consultation with naval architects and experts in the preservation of historic vessels, the Maritime Museum of San Diego used National Maritime Heritage Grant resources to undertake a major project to replace all the weather decks on Star of India to ensure that she will be preserved for future generations. Today when visitors view these gleaming decks, they must look much as they did on the day of her launching in 1863.

The iron hull of Star of India has virtually remained unchanged since she was launched as Euterpe in 1863. Wooden decks, however, have a shorter life span. The deck planks on the Star have been replaced several times during her career as a merchant vessel, emigrant ship, lumber carrier, and now a living museum. Haul Curators and shipwrights at the Maritime Museum of San Diego employed a new and revolutionary procedure for this re-decking process requiring the execution of a series of carefully planned steps.

On June 21, the Maritime Museum of San Diego hosted a special reception to celebrate completion of the complex restoration project for hundreds of project donors, members, staff, and volunteers.

Maritime Museum of San Diego has been the recipient of three National Maritime Heritage Program grants in recent years.

The project has been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage Program administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior. However, the contents and opinions contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.