Ferry Chippewa ends 64 years of ferry service on September 24, 1964.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 2/23/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5284
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On September 24, 1964, the 64-year-old ferry Chippewa loses her license due to 28 major repairs that need to be made to her hull and superstructure. A year later, the vessel is sold.

Oldest in the Fleet

At the time, the Chippewa was the oldest ship in the state ferry fleet. Built in Toledo, Ohio, in 1900, the vessel originally plied the Great Lakes, but was sold to the Puget Sound Navigation Company in 1907. The ferry steamed around the tip of South America to reach Seattle.

Originally a passenger steamship, the vessel was remodeled in 1926 to accommodate automobiles. She was rebuilt again in 1932 when her steam engines were replaced with diesel. In 1951, the vessel became part of the Washington State Ferries fleet, when WSF took over the Puget Sound Navigation Company.

An Ignominious End

By 1964, the historic craft was too costly to maintain, and rather than rebuilding the entire vessel, WSF decided to sell her. She was purchased by Foss Tug & Launch Company, but through a series of complex transactions ended up in the hands of the United States Government.

In 1968, Donald V. Clair purchased the Chippewa for $9,768 in the hope of converting the vessel into a floating maritime museum and restaurant in Oakland, California. That May, the vessel was towed to Oakland, and refurbishment began. A month later an arsonist set the historic craft on fire, and she was completely destroyed.


The H. W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, 1966 to 1976 ed. by Gordon Newell (Seattle: The Superior Publishing Company, 1977) pp. xxxii, xlv, 43, 44; Harre DeMoro The Evergreen Fleet (San Marino, California: Golden West Books, 1971), 127-128; "Chippewa, Oldest Ferry is Through," The Seattle Times, September 24, 1964, p. 10; "Chippewa's Arrival in Seattle Recalled," The Seattle Times September 27, 1964, p. 43.

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