It was once the second most photographed structure in the world after the Eiffel Tower. MV Kalakala a ferry that operated on Puget Sound in the US state of Washington from 1935 until her retirement in 1967, became famous for its art deco design and its luxurious amenities.
MV Kalakala Streamliner was constructed in 1926 as Peralta and went into service in the San Francisco bay until 1933 when she almost completely burned down during an arson fire at the terminal where she was moored. Its hull was sold to Puget Sound Navigation Company. Inspired by modern aircraft, Louis Proctor, an engineer for the Boeing Company suggested a modernistic and distinctive design which however lacked functionality. The final structure resembled a streamlined train, while its “flying” bridge was made out of copper out of fear that metal would interfere with the ship’s compass.
Kalakala, named after the Chinook Jargon word for ‘bird’, instantly became an icon as it entered service on July 4, 1935. In addition to ferry service, she was used for “moonlight cruises” with a live dance orchestra. During World War II she transported shipyard workers and Navy personnel between Seattle and Bremerton on an extended schedule.
Lacking functionality and garage capacity, and having a heavy shaking vibration that ran throughout the vessel, the ship had become obsolete by the mid-1950’s although it remained in service and was very popular among visitors to Seattle during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Kalakala was finally retired in 1967.
After retirement, MV Kalakala was sold to a seafood processing company and towed to Alaska to work as a factory ship. In the 1970s, Kalakala was beached in Kodiak and was used to process shrimp. During that time the ship’s internal structure was reworked to create a building with cement floors, drywall, and ceiling tiles. After left abandoned for years, Kalakala was refloated and towed back to Seattle in 1998 but its new owner didn’t have enough money to maintain the ship.
In 2004, a new owner moved her to Neah Bay and then to Tacoma, Washington but plans to restore the ship failed once more. In 2011, the Coast Guard declared the ship a hazard to navigation and in 2012 a yet another new owner bought it for just $4,000. MV Kalakala was finally scrapped in early 2015.
Historic Photos of MV Kalakala
The Kalakala in Kodiak. I just about freaked out when I first saw this here my first time in town. Before the Space Needle the Kalakala was one of Seattle’s icons… here is the first streamlined ferry boat, the first non-military vessel to have radar, landlocked, and converted to a cannery.