Ferry Kalakala returns to Seattle and an uncertain future on November 6, 1998.

  • By Walt Crowley and David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2591

On November 6, 1998, the rusting but still modernistic hulk of the ferry Kalakala makes a triumphant return to Elliott Bay, where it once shuttled cross-sound commuters and awed out-of-town visitors. Seattle sculptor Peter Bevis (1953-2022) coordinates the vessel's homecoming. Bevis rescued it from a beach near Kodiak, Alaska, where it had served as a cannery for nearly 30 years. He announces plans to raise community support for the ferry's restoration.

The foundation’s efforts to restore the Kalakala did not meet with success. The old ferry was first moored at Pier 66 on the Seattle waterfront for five months in an effort to attract financial support. The foundation needed $1 million to bring the vessel into drydock and from $5 million to $12 million to fully restore it. It was moved in March 1999 to the north shore of Lake Union and moored, meeting complaints as an eyesore and as a hazard. The foundation slipped further into debt and the property owner issued an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent. In March 2003, the foundation filed for bankruptcy, its assets (the Kalakala) valued at less than its liabilities ($1.2 million).

In September 2003, Tumwater entrepreneur Steve Rodrigues purchased the ship for $135,560, planning to turn it into a dinner theater. Because the Kalakala had been evicted from Lake Union, he got the ferry moved to Neah Bay. That arrangement lasted until the Makah Tribe sued to have the ferry removed. The U.S. Coast Guard and the State Department of Natural Resources also ordered Kalakala out. In September 2004, Rodrigues had the derelict towed to a new berth on the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma.


Eric Sorensen and Jack Broom, "Kalakala Returns Home," The Seattle Times, November 6, 1998 (www.seattletimes.com); Kalakala Foundation (www.kalakala.org); Mike Barber, "Kalakala Foundation Goes Bankrupt," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 18, 2003, p. B-1; Larry Lange, "Kalakala Buyer is Mystery Man," Ibid., October 1, 2003, p. B-2; "New Home, Sweet Home," The Seattle Times, September 26, 2004, p. B-1.
Note: This essay was updated in September 2004, and corrected on July 5, 2010.

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