In the summer of 1957, Dick Wagner was walking across the Fremont Bridge and noticed a man struggling to install a mast on his boat at the marina below. Dick stopped to help. Little did Dick know that that moment would start a journey that built one of Seattle’s most beloved maritime heritage organization and a national leader in traditional boat education for people of all ages.
About ten years later, Dick and his wife Colleen were out to dinner. That night Colleen had two things on her mind. Their soon to be born child and what to do with the growing collection of small boats tied up around their houseboat under the Aurora Bridge. Both caught Dick by surprise.
In 1968 the Wagners began renting boats from their floating home. After a decade of growing popularity for their rental operation, the Wagners along with their patrons, who quickly grew to become close friends, decided to start a “living museum.”
Their growing collection of traditional wooden craft led to the establishment of The Center for Wooden Boats. They believed that the purpose of their collection was education and that the most effective means of education was direct experience. CWB became a hands-on maritime museum where the exhibits were put in the water and the public was encouraged to use them.
All of CWB’s programs and events are designed to provide public benefit. There is no admission fee to stroll the docks, enter the buildings, look at the displays, learn from interpretive materials, take CastOFF! rides in historical vessels or enroll in heritage skills workshops. There are scholarships available for every youth program, and adult volunteers earn one hour of free boat use for each three hours volunteered.
So, pick up an oar and go for a row. Enroll in a workshop and open your mind to the skills and experiences enjoyed by mariners throughout the centuries. Pick up a tool and caulk a seam or fasten a plank. You’re bound to find something that catches your attention when you’re on our docks or in our boats. We hope you’ll join us in reconnecting with the physical world and preserving traditions and skills that have survived through the ages.
You’re in for a treat. Welcome aboard.
CWB has become an artifact in its own right; a place where history is simultaneously experienced and written through visitor engagement.
Jonathan Taggart & Evelyn Ansel
Taggart Objects Conservation