Like her sister, the San Mateo was often used as a fill-in ferry, when
traffic was at it's peak on the Sound and extra space was needed.  The
time she did spend on the Sound she became a well-loved ferry.  
People responded to the sound of her steam engines and whistle, the
stained glass windows of her interior, the mahogany pew-like benches in
her passenger cabin.

In 1947 the
San Mateo started  on the Seattle-Suquamish route as a
running mate to  the
Illahee.  In 1948 she moved to the
Kingston-Edmonds route for three months, then was put back on the
reserve list.   WSF used both sisters a bit more than Black Ball had. The
San Mateo was assigned to regular service from late spring to early fall
between 1952 and 1954 on the Fauntleroy-Vashon . In 1955 she
worked the Bremerton route from June until September while the
Kalakala was assigned to the Port Angeles-Victoria run.  In 1956 she
worked as the "extra" boat on the Kingston-Edmonds route, and then
moved back to Fauntleroy-Vashon- Harper in 1957-58.  In 1959 she
moved back up to Edmonds as the "extra ferry", where she remained
until her 1969, alternating between Edmonds and the Seattle-Winslow
routes.     When the all steel
Kulshan arrived from San Diego the San
Mateo
was to be taken out of service as soon as the new ferry was
ready.  Packed to her limit, the
San Mateo made her final run from
Edmonds to Kingston on Labor Day of 1969.

She remained at Eagle Harbor until 1971, when the Washington Parks
Department bought her to turn her into a museum.  She was towed to
Lake Union, and for the next thirty years restoration work was started on
and off.  

Briefly in 1977-79 there was talk of reactivating the  ferry, as the loss of
the old stand by wood-diesels and the delays in getting the Issaquah
Class ferries on the water had WSF completely lacking an   "extra"
ferry.  (Notice this is a situation that NEVER seems to change?)
Eventually the
Issaquah came on-line, and there was no  need for the  
San Mateo. Talks of turning her into a McDonalds fell through, and it
looked as if the
San Mateo was destined to be scrapped.

In 1992 she was purchased by a Canadian man and towed up to the
Fraser River.  Gary Bereska's plans included a dance studio, museum
and other uses, but sadly he did nothing to the vessel.  The
San Mateo,
pilfered of many of her fittings sat and slipped further and further into
decay.  Eventually abandoned, she was left on the Fraser to rot.
Half sunk, and decaying rapidly, scrapping on the
San Mateo started in
2012.  A large hole was cut into her side to allow for hoses to be
brought in to pump her out and right her, but the ferry is now too far
silted in.  Demolotion of her superstructure started when the Fraser
flooded; most of her upperworks are now gone.  The half-destroyed
hulk is still in the same spot, waiting for the job of scrapping her to be
finished.
S.S. SAN MATEO
Official Number: 222386  Radio Call Letters: WG5465  Built: San Francisco, CA 1922. Length: 230' 4" Beam: 63' 8" Draft: 12'
Auto Deck Clearance: 11' 6" Speed: 13 knots  Horsepower: 1,400   Propulsion: triple expansion steam engine  Autos: 50 Passengers: 659 Gross  
Tonnage: 919
Name Translation: from the Spanish, "Saint Matthew.  A city in the Bay area shares the name.
Final Disposition: Scrapping/abandoned on the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada.
What Happened to the Windows?

As far  back as her time on Lake Union the San Mateo's stained glass clearstory
windows had been removed.  To this day, no one seems to know what happened to
them--a serious offense given that the ferry was on the National Register (and still is)
and the windows should have been catelogued and stored.  Make sure you give
antique stores in Seattle a careful glance--who knows where the windows will turn up.
At top, the San Mateo working in San Francisco, courtesy SFMM.  Above, what remains of the
vessel a of 2012.  Courtesy of Mark Rainey.
If you have a recent photo of the San Mateo's hulk and would like to have it posted here, please email it to me Here.