Stories of Success

Dick Wagner, his wife Colleen, and the thousands of other volunteers who have put their sweat and tears into creating an innovative museum on the shores of Lake Union and Saratoga Passage do what they do because they love wooden boats, and they love the people they meet when they build wooden boats, repair wooden boats, and talk about wooden boats. They weren’t trying to come up with a creative new model for building a hands on community museum that 100,000 people would want to visit every year. In fact, if you told them that many people were going to come they probably would have looked at you, tilted their head slightly to the side, smiled and said, “I doubt it will be quite that many.”  And to be fair, that number isn’t quite accurate. In 2013 the CWB visitor number was really more than 115,000.

“Dick and Colleen Wagner have been a model and inspiration to all lovers of wooden boats around the nation who are  trying to impart to today’s youth that love.  The Center for Wooden Boats is THE model for program across the nation, especially fledgling programs like ours in Norfolk/Virginia Beach.”

Tom Brandl, Virginia Beach, VA

 The Center for Wooden Boats from the start, has been seen as an innovator, a trend setter, and place that doesn’t sit back and coast on the programs and boats it has.  The staff and volunteers are constantly looking for new ways to serve the community and the people, young and old, who want to find a place near the water’s edge to get into a boat and find out what they can do on the water. And when volunteers, staff and CWB leaders need more space for their work, they find a way to add that extra room.

 When I started the Wind and Oar Boat School I looked for models that made sense and CWB was top of my list. The Wagner Education Center is the perfect completion of a vision I share with CWB and feel it is important addition to an already stellar facility and program. “ 

Peter Crim, Director Wind and Oar Boat School, Portland, OR.

Like many maritime museums, CWB has a long list of awards and recognition for its work through the years on maritime history. But one thing that sets CWB apart is the range of different types of awards, competitive grants for research, for training, for education program and experiments in community service that the institution has been awarded.  There is also an amazing range of the different organizations that have looked at CWB and said what this museum does is special both as a maritime museum, as an education center and as an example of how a community can reclaim and re-envision a waterfront.


  • 2013 Association of King County Historical Organizations, Best New Exhibit, “Fish On!” The Rise of the Sport Salmon Fishing on Puget Sound
  • Award for Exemplary Achievement in Historic Preservation for the Lake Union Underwater Archaeology Project, from the King County Executive and King County Landmarks Commission, 2012.
  • The Clearwater Award for volunteer and grassroots achievement in a Waterfront project, internationally, 2010, from the Waterfront Center.
  • Non-Profit of the Year, 2008, from the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce.
  • 4Culture Heritage Tourism Award (first recipient), 2007, from the King County Executive.
  • Listing of 39’, 1926 sloop, Pirate, on National Heritage Register, 2000
  • Excellence in Educational Outreach, 1999, from the Pacific Challenge
  • Award of Appreciation, 1999, from the Footloose Disabled Sailing Association
  • Best Special Event, Budget Under $25,000, for the 20th Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival, 1997, from the King County Event Producers
  • Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Award, 1995, from the Washington State Office of Archeology and  Historic Preservation
  • Community Sailing Award, 1994, from the United States Sailing Association
  • Outstanding Community Service Award, 1994, from the Center for Career Alternatives
  • 1991 Event Award for the Lake Union Wooden Boat Festivals 1977-1990, from the Association of King County Historical Organizations
  • Most Valuable Partner Award, 1990, “… for outstanding commitment to public education” from Washington Governor Booth Gardner and Seattle Mayor Norm Rice


  •  Watercircles Pacific Award to Dick and Colleen Wagner for “their vision of building the ever-evolving Center for Wooden Boats. Their love of wooden boats is a gift to the Seattle community.” 2011
  • Wooden Boat Foundation Award, 2010, for Lifetime Achievement for Wooden Boat Culture and Community Spirit.
  • Washington Museum Association Award of Individual Excellence in Leadership, 2010.
  • Museum Small Craft Association John Gardner Award 2007 for “Dedication to preserving small craft in a public setting and trailblazing development of educational programs.”
  • Ceremonial First Pitch for Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, 2006
  • Charles Payton Award, 2006, Association of  King County Historical Organizations for “heritage advocacy”
  • Willard Jue Memorial Award, 2001, Association of King County Historical Organizations “for the work you have done for The Center for Wooden Boats.”
  • Golden Anchor Award, 1996, “By the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association for your commitment and dedication to serving and educating the boating community.”
  • Honorary Commodore, 1996 Classic Boat Festival, Victoria, B.C.
  • W.P. Stephens Award, 1995, Mystic Seaport Museum (for Dick and Colleen Wagner) “Who have made a significant, lasting contribution to American Boating.”
  • Maritime Heritage Award, 1990, from Washington Governor Booth Gardner: “A unique Maritime Living Treasure of the State of Washington by virtue of commitment, dedication to excellence and lasting contribution to Maritime Heritage.”
  • Neighborhood Designs that Work Award, 1989, from Mayor Charles Royer on behalf of the Seattle Design Commission for design of  the structures and landscaping of The Center for Wooden Boats,

 The Center for Wooden Boats through the years has grown up, added new locations, and continued to welcome new friends to come down to the water.  Those people in their turn build skills, community and a connection with the history of Seattle, King County, and the entire Northwest. And the cycle begins again.

Mystic Seaport had John Gardner; CWB and Seattle have the Wagners.  How lucky we both have been!”

Steve White, President, Mystic Seaport


“Old Time Rowboats Popular with Traffic-Weary Seattleites” Click here to read the article on CWB featured in the November 1968 edition of National Fisherman.

The Wagners received the prestigious W. P. Stephens Award from Mystic Seaport Museum. The award recognized those who have made a significant and lasting contribution to American boating. Click here for more information.


This page is currently under construction. More to come!