San Francisco is first and foremost a seaport, so no visit to the area would be complete without a tour along the waterfront, including the historic Hyde Street Pier at Fisherman's Wharf. Today, the Hyde Street Pier is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park that also takes in Aquatic Cove.
It's hard to imagine, but before the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 and the Bay Bridge in 1936, this historic pier was the principal car ferry terminal connecting SF passengers with Marin County and the East Bay. Today, there are several historic vessels open to the public at Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco — all hold secrets to the past with artifacts, photography collections, and displays.
Built in 1895, the three-masted schooner C.A. Thayer was the Pacific Coast's last commercial sailing ship. It transported lumber, served in two wars, and was most recently employed by the fishing industry. The schooner sailed with a small crew — four seamen; two mates, a cook, and the captain.
As the ship approached her 100th birthday, decay set in and she was drooping from bow to stern. In 2002, a massive restoration project was approved by congress and the Thayer was transported to the old Alameda Naval Air Station. The seaplane hangar was a perfect workshop. Tons of rotten timbers were discarded and replaced using only original style timber and fastenings.
In April 2007, the C.A. Thayer returned home to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The magnitude of the restoration is unprecedented in the history of maritime preservation and ensures that the 156-foot long wooden schooner will survive for another 100 years.
The Eureka was the last diesel-powered ferry to operate in the US. Built in 1890, this vessel hauled freight and passengers for the San Francisco and Northern Pacific Railroads. Like the C.A. Thayer, the Eureka underwent a $2.7 million restoration project in 1994. A crew of 45 craftsmen caulked 2.5 miles of seams, and hammered 9,000 eight-inch spikes. The hull was then plated with 12,000 square feet of shiny copper.
Built in 1907, the ocean-going tug, Hercules, hauled cargo, crippled ships, barges and even materials for the Panama Canal. She was a worker! Hercules towed her sister ship, the Goliah, through the Strait of Magellan on the way home to San Francisco. She worked until 1962 and somehow managed to avoid the scrap yard. Hercules languished until she was acquired for the San Francisco Maritime State Historic Park in 1975. You guessed it, a restoration project began in 1977, and nine years later, Hercules was designated a National Historic Landmark.
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A favorite city landmark, this is a classic square-rigged, three-masted sailing ship. Built in Scotland in 1883, it sailed the Cape Horn route for many years, bringing European goods to the West Coast and taking California grains back home. After the turn of the century, it served as a lumber ship, a salmon cannery in Alaskan waters and finally a carnival ship and Hollywood prop.
The steel tug was built in 1914 in England, and was powered by two steam engines. Nicknamed Eppie, she was used to transport coal from the port of Newcastle on the River Tyne and to tow newly-built ships out to sea.
In 1967, Eppie was sold for scrap and sat decaying on a mud bank. A fire then destroyed her wooden afterdeck and interior. In 1969, enough repairs were made to allow the Eppleton Hall to travel on an epic steam journey, via the Panama Canal, to San Francisco, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. In 1979, Eppie was donated to the National Park Service and is now berthed at Hyde Street Pier.
Built in 1891, Alma carried cargo and goods all over the Delta and Bay area, just as trucks do today. By the late 1900s there were 250 sailing scows in San Francisco. What made Alma different was her specially-designed flat-bottomed hull capable of navigating shallow waters. Today, you can spend the afternoon on open waters sailing on the Alma. Sailings are offered from June to November.
The Hyde Street Pier Visitor Center is located at 499 Jefferson Street @ Hyde. Across the street from the Visitor Center is the Hyde Street Pier and the historic ships.
You will need a ticket to enter the historic vessels. The cost is $10 per person and the ticket is good for seven days. Entrance is free for children under 16 (they must be accompanied by adults). Tickets can be purchased at a ticket booth on the pier.
The park is open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
• San Francisco Cable Cars…
• Pier 39 & Fisherman's Wharf…
• Hyde Street Pier…
• Ferry Building…
• Aquarium of the Bay…
• Lombard Street…
• The Presidio…
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