It was an opportunity of a lifetime. It was bold. It was creative. It was undeniably risky. It was tailormade for the Bay Area Council. So in early February 2020, the Council behind the leadership of our Executive Committee and Board of Directors embarked on an ambitious project to purchase and restore one of the grand vessels that plied the Bay during the first half of the 20th Century and make it our new home.
The Klamath is open for public access during the following hours:
• Monday-Friday : 9am – 5pm
• The second Saturday of each month, from 9am – 5pm
Would you like to find out more about:
• The history of the Klamath from 1924 before bridges and freeways?
• How the Klamath rammed into a submarine in WWII, or why the Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol were on the boat?
• The golden era of San Francisco ferries in the 1930s?
• The world-famous advertising brands and packaging that were created on the Klamath?
• The three-year rebuilding process the Bay Area Council undertook to turn it into what it is today?
• The future of water transit on San Francisco Bay?
Public Active Tours take place the first Wednesday of each month at 10 am and 3 pm, guided by a Bay Area Council staff member.
No advance booking necessary – just enter the boat through the front entrance and check in with your tour guide a few minutes in advance of the tour.
Spurred at the time by skyrocketing office rents and an expiring lease, the Council took possession of the Klamath with the goal of transforming this mighty ferry not only into our headquarters but a floating symbol of our region’s deep connection with the Bay and the powerful spirit of innovation and creative thinking that has long defined the Bay Area. It also reflects the Bay Area Council’s deep commitment to environmental stewardship through adaptive reuse and our equally strong commitment to reviving the Bay Area’s regional ferry system (see related story).
The Klamath was one of dozens of massive ferryboats that served as the transportation workhorses of the region during much of the first half of the 20th century before bridges existed, before BART, and before freeways. These proud vessels carried millions of automobiles and passengers between all major cities of the Bay Area. They were the lifeblood of the region’s economy.
Of course, times and technology change. The arrival of the Bay Bridge, among other spans, and growing dependence on automobiles would soon spell the demise of the regional ferry system. After pulling duty between Sausalito and San Francisco, the Klamath made wakes between Richmond and San Rafael before being retired from service in the 1950s after the completion of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. (The Bay Area Council was the primary proponent of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and is glad to be saving the Klamath, after putting her out of business nearly 70 years ago.)
The Klamath would later return to the San Francisco waterfront as the headquarters for globally renowned branding pioneer Landor Associates, which created iconic logos and brand identities behind such companies as Levi’s, Bank of America and Del Monte. And later, it would be towed to the Port of Stockton, where it would serve as the corporate home for fire log manufacturer Duraflame.
After 30 years away in Stockton and many months of planning and preparation the Klamath in October 2021 made her triumphant return to the Bay, where she was towed to a shipyard on Mare Island in Vallejo. There, under tireless oversight by Council Chief Operating Officer John Grubb, work has been underway to refit the proud vessel, update her interior and exterior and prepare her for the final leg of her return journey to the San Francisco waterfront at Pier 9 within view of the very bridge that ended her career as a ferry. We are grateful to Forell Elsesser Structural Engineers and RMW Architecture & Interiors for their incomparable work in reviving the historic Klamath and transforming her into a modern, sustainable and multi-use facility.
Now the Historic Klamath is permanently moored just north of the Ferry Building in her next chapter as the Bay Area Council’s headquarters and a valuable public resource. She features stunning public spaces, including a grand open-air top deck. The Klamath also includes leasable office space for tenants and gorgeous venue space for corporate and other events, including weddings.
Thank you to our Historic Klamath donors! Without you, the creation of this new Bay Area landmark would not have been possible. Thank you for your commitment to the Council, the San Francisco Waterfront, and the region.
And remember it is never too late to become a capital campaign donor!