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The mission of the Foss Waterway Seaport is to celebrate Tacoma's maritime heritage -- past, present and future. We fulfill our mission by working with community groups, schools and the general public to provide exhibits and programs that highlight the history, the present vitality and the future of Puget Sound and its connection to the people, the commerce, the environment, and the ecology of the region.
The Foss Waterway Seaport was founded in 1996 as the Commencement Bay Maritime Association to carry on the work begun in the early 1990s by "Life on the Sound" founders Phyllis Harrison and Mike Vlahovich. They were working to create community space to celebrate the art, culture, crafts and skills of Puget Sound’s maritime community. Later the project became known as the Working Waterfront Maritime Museum. The association became a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in March of 1997. The name Foss Waterway Seaport was adopted in 2005 when the vision for the project grew beyond a heritage museum.
The museum is presently located on Dock Street along Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway. The centerpiece of our home is a 117-year-old wheat transfer facility, known as the Balfour Dock building. It is one of two remaining wooden warehouses originally build as a mile-long complex in 1900. These warehouses were built to accommodate cargo carrying, square-rigged ships that frequented the port during the early days of Tacoma’s history. Theses wharves hosted many beautiful sailing vessels, as well as steam-and diesel-powered cargo traders well into the 20h century.
Educational and cultural programs and events are centered around the historic building and 1,200 feet of public moorage on the Thea Foss Waterway. Activities include: Maritime Heritage exhibits, Land- and Boat-based Marine Science Education programs, a Heritage Boat Shop and meeting and event rental space.