Thurston County to be part of the site of first maritime heritage area designation

Fundraising continues to restore the Parthia tug boat


The country’s first national heritage area focused on maritime history is set to open by 2023, according to maritime historian Chuck Fowler from the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association (SSMHA).

Fowler presented an update on August 8 to the Port of Olympia Commission on the work being done to establish the national heritage area in conjunction with a fundraising campaign to restore and exhibit the historic tugboat Parthia.

The national heritage area was designated by Congress in 2019. It covers 3,000 miles of coastline starting from Grays Harbor County, going all the way through Puget Sound, and ending at Blaine on the Canadian border. The area includes 18 federally recognized tribes, 13 counties, 32 incorporated cities, and 30 port districts. Out of the 55 national heritage areas in the United States, this is the first and only one focused on maritime history.

“We're going to be able to share the rich stories of not only Olympia and Thurston County, but all of the maritime attractions throughout the heritage area of Seattle, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Grays Harbor, so everybody will benefit economically from an economic development and tourism development standpoint,” Fowler said.

The nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is organizing the heritage area, submitting a management plan as required by the National Park Service and expect to open by the beginning of 2023, according to Fowler.

History Press will also publish guidebook titled “Exploring Maritime Washington” next spring in time for the opening of the heritage area.

There will also be a heritage tugboat walk going from the tugboat Sand Man at Percival Landing to Parthia which will be exhibited in a pavilion across Olympia’s farmer’s market.

Fowler said that they have raised about $256,000 as part of a fundraising campaign to restore and exhibit Parthia. They have received donations from Thomas Architecture Studios, which designed the protective covering for the pavilion, and Drew Phillips, whose construction crew is putting the pavilion together.

Reviving the Parthia

$350,000-$400,000 still needs to be raised with donors sponsoring aspects of Parthia such as its pavilion, cradle, and signage.

Parthia is a 50-feet long, 11-feet wide tugboat that was built in Winslow on Bainbridge Island. It was in operation from 1934 until 1961 and competed in Harbor Days 26 times, winning six class races through various owners.

The tugboat sank 25 feet underwater in 2017 while it was moored in Pleasant Harbor on Hood Canal. Its owner at that point, Robert Shashinda, offered to donate the tugboat to anyone willing to salvage it. It was SSMHA that acquired the Parthia and lifted it with the help of Global Diving & Salvage Company, based in Seattle.


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