News Release

Celebrating The 80th Anniversary Of The Aquatic Park Bathhouse

Detail from a colorful mural depicting a fanciful underwater vision including fish and a merman.
Detail from a colorful mural depicting a fanciful underwater vision  in the Aquatic Park Bathhouse (Maritime Museum).

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News Release Date: March 18, 2019

Contact: Lynn Cullivan, 415-561-7006

San Francisco, CA – Eighty years ago San Franciscans, with the help of the federal Works Project Administration, realized a decades-old dream: building a palace for the people on the City’s northern waterfront. On Saturday, April 13, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park salutes that legacy with music and special events in the historic Aquatic Park Bathhouse (Maritime Museum), 900 Beach Street, San Francisco, California.

Free activities in the streamline moderne landmark building will begin at 12:30pm with jazz by the 29th Street Swingtet. A formal ceremony at 1:00pm will feature historical talks by Gray Brechin, Project Scholar for The Living New Deal (discussing the significance of the Aquatic Park Bathhouse and artists), and Sara Triest (remembering her mother, artist Shirley Staschen Triest). The public can view displays of WPA items from the Park’s collection, and attend an informal talk by local artist Martin Machado while viewing his temporary, third floor installation Flotsam and Jetsam (sculptures and photographs that seek to recontextualize the now-ubiquitous shipping container.)

Saturday’s event will be the first opportunity for the public to view the recently restored, maritime-themed, abstract bas-relief murals by Richard Ayer (who also assisted with the Presidio Main Post Chapel mural), located on the building’s third floor. The restoration has revealed parts of the murals that have not been seen by the public in almost fifty years. At 3pm, join a ranger and tour the murals throughout the building. Activities for children will include coloring paper crowns which feature designs from Hiler's murals. For more information about these programs, and all of the days’ free activities, please visit

A new permanent exhibit on the third floor will also be unveiled at the event. A Palace for the People offers a glimpse into the earliest years of Aquatic Park from 1939 to 1941. Featuring a selection of historical photographs and archival drawings, the exhibit tells the history of the ship-shaped building at the center of the park, the story of its architecture and art, and the controversies that surrounded it, leading to its closing and eventual rebirth as the Maritime Museum we know today. The Museum’s regular hours are 10am-4pm daily.

Two other San Francisco sites are also participating in Saturday’s WPA-related salute. Protect Coit Tower’s Jon Golinger will lead a free tour of the Coit Tower murals from 9:30-11:00am. Also at 11am, docents from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio will offer a free Main Post Chapel Tour, which includes a look at the 34-foot WPA mural by Victor Arnautoff (a protégé of Diego Rivera) depicting early Presidio history. The Chapel is located at 130 Fisher Loop in the Presidio. No RSVP is required for these tours.

Building on architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1866 concept of an aquatic park at Black Point Cove, a 1930s Works Progress Administration project transformed an industrial site into a “modern” park with aquatically-oriented recreational facilities. Then, the Federal Art Project brought in a creative team including bohemian artist Hilaire Hiler, Sargent Johnson, Beniamino Bufano, Richard Ayer and Charles Nunemaker who crafted tile mosaics, brilliantly colored murals, sculptures, lighting fixtures, and terrazzo floors into a fanciful, three dimensional homage to the sea.

Buffeted by controversy, the building was overlooked until the 1950s, when the private San Francisco Maritime Museum integrated conceptually-fresh history exhibits with the building’s unique architecture to tell the seafaring stories of America’s West Coast. In the 1970s, the Museum, Aquatic Park, and historic ships at Hyde Street Pier were joined under the auspices of the National Park Service, and in 1988 the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was established to care for the historic district and National Historic Landmark vessels.

Learn more about the Living New Deal at More information about the Coit Tower tour is available at For Presidio Chapel tour details, visit
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, located at the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, includes a fleet of historic ships, Visitor Center, Maritime Museum, Maritime Research Center, and the Aquatic Park Historic District. Parking immediately adjacent to the Maritime Museum is limited; consider checking for public transit options. For more information, please call 415-447-5000 or visit, Twitter @SFMaritimeNPS, and 
Facebook @SanFranciscoMaritimeNHP. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers assisted listening services on request. Sign Language interpreter services need to be requested at least five days in advance. Contact Accessibility Coordinator/Chief of Interpretation for more information at 415-859-6797, or

Last updated: March 20, 2019

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