Designed by W.C. Nickum & Sons, the new state ferry system's
first vessel went from keel-laying to service in only 11 months.  
At 310 feet in length and 73 feet in width, she was 34 feet
longer than the
Kalakala and 17 feet wider--not only usurping
the old streamliner's flag ship status, but becoming one of the
largest ferries on the Pacific Coast. (The
Chinook, after all, was
measured at 318 feet.)

While the ferry was new, her propulsion was not.  Her engines
and drive motors had been pulled from the destroyer escort
USS Mitchell, (DE-43) but had a low number of operating
hours on them and were considered "new" as the
Mitchell had
been out of service since December of 1945. Still, at the time of
installation, the engines and drive motors were already a
decade old.

The new ferry went into service on the Seattle-Winslow run,  
upsetting patrons on the Bremerton run, and setting off a
decades-long dispute about "Bainbridge always getting the
new/better ferry." The truth of the situation, however, was that
traffic had increased at such a rapid rate with the completion of
the Agate Pass Bridge linking the island to the mainland (and
thus a much quicker route to the Olympic Peninsula) assigning
the newest, largest ferry to route just made sense.  Bremerton's
passenger numbers had been falling steadily since the end of
WWII, and the Winslow route had been serviced by the two
small wooden ferries
Klahanie and Kehloken, supplemented by
the
Chippewa in the summer months.

Equity would be achieved with the addition of the Super Class
in 1967/68, but Bremertonians were left smarting for over a
decade while the new ferries went to Bainbridge or Vashon.

The
Evergreen State's stint at Bainbridge wasn't to be long in
any event.  By 1959, with near sister
Tillikum joining the fleet,
the
Evergreen State was sent north to work in the San Juan
Islands and on the Anacortes-Sidney, British Columbia run.  
She would spend almost all of her career in the islands from
1959 on.

By the 1980s, the 30 year-old vessel was starting to look a little
tired.  It was decided to extensively rebuild the ferry, and in
1988 she went into the shipyard.  Plans were made to fix two
problems that had vexed her since she was built--her low
height, which had become a problem when the standard for tall
trucks had been raised
after she had been built, and plating
over the texas deck that, rumor had it, had been incorrectly
installed upside down, leaving a grid of girders that trapped rain
and snow.

It is unclear why no one stopped to consider what raising the
passenger cabin and plating over the top deck might do to her
center of gravity, but it became apparent as soon as the ferry
left the yard and on her first corner she heeled over alarmingly.
The
Evergreen State was now badly top-heavy, and corrective
action had to be taken.  To help rectify the problem, WSF
removed all "non-essential" weight--which meant the false
ceiling in the passenger cabin.  Spoiling an otherwise
successful interior refurbishment,  the
Evergreen would spend
the rest of her career with bare wires, cords and plumbing in
her ceiling exposed.  In addition, in order to sail the
international route, the ferry had to  comply with SOLAS (Safety
Of Life At Sea) regulations.  Further cluttering her cabin she
had storage lockers, life rafts and a very visible sprinkler
system grafted in.

The
Evergreen State served the Anacortes-Sidney run less and
less in later years, relieving the
Elwha.  Nearing retirement age,
WSF looked in the fleet to SOLAS another boat. The
Evergreen
State
made her last trip to Sidney, B.C. on 2 May 2003.  Her
replacement on the route, the
Chelan, went into service in the
spring of 2006.

The ferry celebrated her 50th birthday in 2004 and was
mothballed a short time later. She didn't remain mothballed
long, as problems with the Steel Electrics arose--the
Evergreen
State
was pressed into service more and more often.

With the Steel Electric Class suddenly (and many would argue
unnecessarily) withdrawn from service on 13 December 2007,
the
Evergreen State's mothballed status came to an abrupt
end.    With the
Illahee yanked from service, the Evergreen took
her place as the inter-island vessel in the San Juan Islands.

With retirement age now mandated at 60 years, the
Evergreen
State should
have made her last trip on 29 June, 2014, ending
a long career.  In fact, she was given a proper send off when
she left the San Juan Islands for the last time.

Fate intervened,however, when the
Tacoma  suffered a
catastrophic electrical failure. WSF, running short of vessels
and the two Olympic Class ferries not ready,  "old reliable"
Evergreen was put back in service and continued to be in
service almost continually for over a year since her "retirement."

With the
Tokitae and Samish in service, the Tacoma repaired
and repainted and back online, the
Evergreen State was quietly
withdrawn.  WSF officially decommissioned her on 14 January,
2016, hanging out the "For Sale" sign.  Updates on her final
disposition will a appear here once they are known.
The interior of the Evergreen, before and after. Note the lack of a false ceiling in the post-1988 shot. Below, the
very 1950's galley as built, and after refurbishment in 1988. Interior photos courtesy of Matt Masuoka/MOHAI.
Colorized by the author.
EVERGREEN STATE
Official Number: D268732 Call Sign: WTQ6960 Length: 310'  Beam: 73'  Horsepower: 2,500 Draft: 15' 10'' Auto Deck Clearance: 13' 3''
Speed in Knots: 13 Max Passengers: 875 Max Vehicles: 87  City Built: Seattle Year Built/Re-built: 1954 / 1988
Name Translation: Washington State nickname.

The Evergreen State on her "last day" in June 2014. The ferry was back in service mere weeks later--though she never returned to the San Juan Islands.   
Photo by Matt Masuoka.
Ushering out Black Ball...

Very early on, the fledging Washington State Ferries worked hard to distance itself from its predecessor.  
Recent strikes, a perceived lack of care with the vessels (real or imagined) and a general distaste for how
the final years the Puget Sound Navigation Company ran the ferries made the state anxious to show that
they could do things better.  Vessels were overhauled and painted in the now familiar green (as some tell
it, on that very first day, with the
Chippewa still in service with a stack painted half red and half green as
crews worked to remove the Black Ball livery) and general improvements made to the fleet.

The
Kalakala was still considered the flagship, but in most of the brochures and guides printed in the early
1950's, the WSF green stripe was grafted in to existing photographs.  The message was clear: the
Evergreen Fleet was here to stay.

In further attempts to distance itself from Black Ball, and starting a trend that would continue well into the
60's, as soon as a new ferry was finished, it became the darling of all the publicity photographs and
brochures.  With the arrival of the
Evergreen State in 1954, the Kalakala rapidly disappeared from interior
photos and cover art while photographs or glossy representations of the
Evergreen State appeared on
nearly all printed material.

The
Evergreen State and her sisters reign as queen of publicity lasted until 1967, when the Super Class
appeared and bumped the Evergreens to second tier status.  So anxious was WSF to get the Supers on
all materials that many schedules and brochures appeared with early photos of the
Hyak and her
incorrectly high paint line on the hull were used.