The Fireboat Duwamish served the City of Seattle for 75 years, from 1909 to 1985. The boat was a fixture on the Seattle waterfront at Station 5 (between Coleman dock and Ivar’s restaurant). Duwamish was retired in 1985 and at that time it was moved to the Hiram Chittenden Locks on the Lake Union Ship Canal. Purchased by the Shipping and Railway Heritage Trust in 1994 Duwamish now resides at the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park. The M/V Duwamish is where it belongs, in a safe moorage accessible to the public as a museum ship.
The Historic Ships Wharf is the perfect home for the Fireboat Duwamish since the boat is now classified as a National Historic Landmark, as well as a City of Seattle Landmark. The Historic Ships Wharf is home to one of the largest collections of historic vessels in the United States. Each is significant and Duwamish floats proudly next to tugboat Arthur Foss (1889), M/V Lotus (1909) Lightship “Swiftsure” (1904), and the SS Virginia V.
Duwamish is significant because it is associated with a very important aspect of the maritime heritage of Seattle – safety and emergency response. The Fireboat was designed, built, and operated during a historical period when large wooden warehouses, wharfs, and docks, loaded with high value cargo, sprawled along Seattle’s waterfront. These structures, along with some of the city’s older buildings, were more susceptible to fire than today’s buildings. Duwamish acted as the water-borne protector of buildings and ships alike.
Built and operated exclusively for use in Seattle, Duwamish is representative of most early 20th century fireboats which could be found in any major American port city throughout the United States. Tugboats that were modified for fireboat use and employed as auxiliary fireboats may still exist, but Duwamish is one of the last examples of a “true” fireboat from the early 1900’s. It is the second oldest specifically built fireboat surviving in the U.S. Duwamish possesses a high degree of historic, structural, and mechanical integrity and remains of national significance. It is the most powerful remaining example of the historic American fireboat. Its long legacy of safety, bravery, and operational excellence may never be surpassed.