Our History

It’s written in the boats…

In the summer of 1957, Dick Wagner was walking across the Fremont Bridge and noticed a man struggling to install a mast on his boat at the marina below. Dick stopped to help. That very moment would start a journey that built one of Seattle’s most beloved maritime heritage organizations and a national leader in traditional boat education for people of all ages.

About ten years later, Dick and his wife Colleen were out to dinner. That night Colleen had two things on her mind: their soon-to-be-born child and what to do with the growing collection of small boats tied up around their houseboat under the Aurora Bridge – both caught Dick by surprise.

In 1968, the Wagners began renting boats from their floating home. After a decade of growing popularity for their rental operation, the Wagners – along with their patrons who quickly grew to become close friends – decided to start a “living museum.”

Their growing collection of traditional wooden craft led to the establishment of The Center for Wooden Boats. They believed that the purpose of their collection was education and that the most effective means of education was direct experience. The Center for Wooden Boats became a hands-on maritime museum where the exhibits were put in the water and the public was encouraged to use them.

Dick, Colleen and son Mike

Dick, Colleen and son Mike