On August 26 Cal Maritime received and installed a massive 18-ton, 18-ft wide brass ship’s propeller which for many years was a landmark of San Francisco’s downtown business district. For several decades, the entrance to the San Francisco office building at 100 Spear Street has been graced by an eye-catching display … a highly-polished brass ship propeller. This 18-ton piece of “commercial art” was a natural, as the building was home to many offices of ocean carriers serving the West Coast. With industry consolidation, the number of maritime-related offices in the building dwindled. The owners are preparing for a major remodeling to attract a new clientele and those plans called for removal of the propeller. They began looking for a new home for it and Cal Maritime was approached as a potential recipient. After detailed discussions, we agreed to accept the gift, but then had to determine a location and construct a base capable of supporting its massive weight.
Because of its dimensions, the propeller had to be trucked to campus via the southern end of San Francisco Bay and then back north to Vallejo. The Carquinez Bridge next to campus is the only span in the Bay area with sufficient clearance for the wide load. The massive unit (donated by the 100 Spear Street Owners Corp. as an asset under advisory control of ING Clarion Partners) was moved into place by Sheedy Rigging of San Francisco and placed on a specially-reinforced pad adjacent to the Technology Center, making it visible to campus visitors arriving on Maritime Academy Drive. It will now become a permanent campus fixture and a distinctive symbol of our maritime roots. A special note of thanks also goes to Bay Area maritime public relations executive Steve Potash who first brought the potential gift to our attention.
The propeller was cast in 1944 by Cramp Brass and Iron Foundries in Philadelphia for Marinship Corp. of Sausalito and installed on the U.S. Navy T-2 tanker Mascoma, one of 500 such ships built for Pacific fleet service (none of which remain today). Records show she was in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. After the war, she was eventually converted into the containership S/S Transchamplain. One of her final operators was Matson Navigation Co. of San Francisco. The ship was scrapped in Kaohsiung in 1981, but the propeller was preserved and rescued from a scrapyard for its installation at Spear Street.