*The Historic Klamath Ferry will be the New Headquarters for the Bay Area Council, Coming September 2022*
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.
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.
When she is permanently moored just north of the historic ferry building, the Klamath will begin her next chapter as the Bay Area Council’s headquarters and a valuable public resource. She will feature stunning public spaces, including a grand open-air top deck. The Klamath will also include leasable office for other tenants and jaw-droppingly gorgeous space for corporate and other events, including weddings.