ARTSHIP at Mare Island. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010.
During my most recent visit to the Bay Area to document the departure of the last P2s, I stopped at Mare Island (home of a former naval base) to photograph the ARTSHIP. Recent years have been very unkind to the last of the handsome C3 combiliners. Built in 1940 as Delta Lines’ DELORLEANS, she was renamed USS CRESCENT CITY for World War Two service as an attack transport. After the war, she was placed in the USNS Reserve Fleet at Suisuin Bay and plucked from obscurity to become the California Maritime Academy’s training ship GOLDEN BEAR. Her wonderful, mostly original passenger accommodation and cargo holds were home to cadets on annual training voyages into the Pacific until 1996, when she was retired and laid up in Suisuin Bay. She had a temporary reprieve in 1999, when she was loaned by MARAD to become the ARTSHIP, a floating cultural center, at Oakland. A gala ceremony was presided over by then Oakland mayor Jerry Brown (former and future hopeful governor of California) and attended by veterans of the ship’s World War Two service. However, the dream was dashed by 2004 when the old liner was reportedly sold for scrap in Texas. Instead, ARTSHIP was laid up at Mare Island, across from the recently bankrupted city of Vallejo on San Pablo Bay. The once sparkling and well-preserved vessel sits silently awaiting what is likely the final chapter in a long and noteworthy career.