For more than 65 years, San Francisco Maritime National Park Association has worked to bring maritime history to life for visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area. When the Association was founded in 1950 as the San Francisco Maritime Museum Association, its primary mission was the operation of a museum in the landmark art deco building in Aquatic Park at the foot of Polk Street. In 1954 the Association acquired the tall ship Balclutha, renovated it and opened it for public tours, thereby expanding the concept of what the maritime museum might become. The Association has played an integral role over the past four decades in the development of Victorian Park and Hyde Street Pier as historical sites. Initially a part of the California State Park system and later a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the area became a distinct National Historical Park in 1989. These goals have been accomplished through the strong Leadership of our Board of Trustees and through generous grants and donor support.
Today, the Association supports San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and independently operates the World War II submarine museum and memorial USS Pampanito. Each year, the Association’s unique education programs at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park serve more than 10,000 schoolchildren. More than 100,000 people visit USS Pampanito annually, making her one of the most popular historical naval vessels in the country. Considered one of the world’s finest examples of maritime preservation, this submarine has been designated a National Historic Landmark. USS Pampanito also hosts more than 1,000 children and adults for daytime and overnight education programs each year.The Association originally acquired USS Pampanito in 1976, undertook her restoration, and opened the vessel to the public in 1982. Since then, the Association has continued its restoration and interpretation work, with the goal of returning USS Pampanito to a condition representing a specific point in time-late summer 1945. To date, almost all of the sub’s missing items have now been replaced, and much of the equipment on board has been restored to operation. In 2000, the Association developed an audio tour to enhance visitors’ educational experience; we also offer an online video tour of the submarine. Pampanito is the only World War II submarine open to the public on the West Coast, and represents an invaluable link to that era of our nation’s history.