|S.S. SAN MATEO
Officicial Number: 222386 Radio Call Letters: WG5465 Built: San Francisco, CA 1922. Length: 230' 4"Beam: 63' 8" Draft: 12' Auto Deck Clearance: 11' 6" Speed: 13 knots Horsepower: 1,400 Propulsion: triple expansion steam engine Autos: 50 Passengers: 659Gross Tonnage: 919
Name Translation: from tehe Spanish, "Saint Matthew. A city in the Bay area shares the name.
A historic photo of the San Mateo at what appears to be the old Harper Dock. Courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
|At left, the San Mateo working in San Francisco. At right, tied up at the Vashon Island dock, the San Mateo is in the company of two other WSF pensioners: the Klahanie and Kehloken. Author's collection.|
| Like her sister, the San Mateo was often used as a fill-in ferry, when traffic was at it's peak on the Sound and extra space was needed. The time she did spend on the Sound she became a well-loved ferry. People responded to the sound of her steam engines and whistle, the stained glass windows of her interior, the mahogany pew-like benches in her passenger cabin.
In 1947 the San Mateo started on the Seattle-Suquamish route as a running mate to the Illahee. In 1948 she moved to the Kingston-Edmonds route for three months, then was put back on the reserve list. WSF used both sisters a bit more than Black Ball had. The San Mateo was assigned to regular service from late spring to early fall between 1952 and 1954 on the Fauntleroy-Vashon . In 1955 she worked the Bremerton route from June until September while the Kalakala was assigned to the Port Angeles-Victoria run. In 1956 she worked as the "extra" boat on the Kingston-Edmonds route, and then moved back to Fauntleroy-Vashon- Harper in 1957-58. In 1959 she moved back up to Edmonds as the "extra ferry", where she remained until her 1969, alternating between Edmonds and the Seattle-Winslow routes. When the all steel Kulshan arrived from San Diego the San Mateo was to be taken out of service as soon as the new ferry was ready. Packed to her limit, the San Mateo made her final run from Edmonds to Kingston on Labor Day of 1969.
She remained at Eagle Harbor until 1971, when the Washington Parks Department bought her to turn her into a museum. She was towed to Lake Union, and for the next thirty years restoration work was started on and off.
Briefly in 1977-79 there was talk of reactivating the ferry, as the loss of the old stand by wood-diesels and the delays in getting the Issaquah Class ferries on the water had WSF completely lacking an "extra" ferry. (Notice this is a situation that NEVER seems to change?) Eventually the Issaquah came on-line, and there was no need for the San Mateo. Talks of turning her into a McDonalds fell through, and it looked as if the San Mateo was destined to be scrapped.
In 1992 she was purchased by a Canadian man and towed up to the Fraser River. Gary Bereska's plans included a dance studio, museum and other uses, but sadly he did nothing to the vessel. The San Mateo, pilfered of many of her fittings sat and slipped further and further into decay. Eventually abandoned, she was left on the Fraser to rot.
Half sunk, decaying rapidly and falling apart, the San Mateo remains on the Fraser River next to the hulk of the Queen of Sidney--a sorry sight. It's a disappointing ending to a ferry that was historically significant and beloved by so many.
|The S.S. San Mateo arrives at Kingston in 1964. Though gone from Puget Sound for well over a decade, people in the Puget Sound area still fondly remember the old steamer. Photo by D. Worthington/Author's Collection.|
|At left, the San Mateo in 1990 on Lake Union, falling into disrepair and negelect. The ferry was at this time, however, very much restorable. Courtesy Sandra Gleason. At right, This photo, taken by Connor Park on 30 May 2007 shows the San Mateo listing precariously. It appears now that the Queen of Sidney is the only thing keeping her from falling over completely. Phtoto courtesy of Connor Park.|
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|What Happened to the Windows?
As far back as her time on Lake Union the San Mateo's stained glass clearstory windows had been removed. To this day, no one seems to know what happened to them--a serious offense given that the ferry was on the National Register (and still is) and the windows should have been catelogued and stored. Make sure you give antique stores in Seattle a careful glance--who knows where the windows will turn up.