There are probably few people living in Bremerton today that
realize there was once a vessel carrying the name of their city on
Another of early pioneers in auto service on Puget Sound, the
City of Bremerton was one of Black Ball's converted steamers
and became something of a prototype for the company. A string
of other vessels with familiar names would soon go into the yard
and all have the same work done: sponsoning of the hull, an
expanded, if somewhat boxy superstructure for the passenger
cabin (though often quite plushly fitted out), and, in the early
days of travel, a Barlow steam elevator which would lift cars up
onto docks not yet built to accommodate automobiles.
Launched as the Majestic in 1901, the vessel was a fairly typical
passenger steamer of the era with nice lines and a single,
soot-belching smokestack. Her time serving her original owners
was short. The fierce competition on Puget Sound led her to
become the property of the increasingly dominant Puget Sound
Painting her long, oblong funnel crimson, the company renamed
her Whatcom in 1904. Under this name she sailed mainly on the
Seattle-Bellingham route until replaced by the Kulshan.
With the automobile becoming the preferred mode of
transportation, the need for multiple stops on the smaller docks
was not needed: people were driving to the bigger ports to be
picked up by waiting steamer, or, as provided, onto ferries. One
by one the routes to more rural areas were dropped.
The Whatcom went into the yard in 1921 to be rebuilt to carry
vehicles. The steamer emerged from the yard with the same
oblong funnel and the same wheelhouse, but all resemblance to
the trim steamer she had been were gone. Now very much a
ferryboat, Black Ball renamed the vessel City of Bremerton.
One piece of equipment acquired for the City of Bremerton was
greeted by some as an insult. The fine old stern wheeler Bailey
Gatzert, retired from the Bremerton route, gave up her melodious
5-chime steam whistle to the City of Bremerton.
Serving her namesake route for many years, Black Ball was able
to retire her as the newer, more economic diesel-powered ferries
came on line. With the Chippewa and the new Kalakala on the
route the uneconomical City of Bremerton was no longer needed.
In 1936 she was withdrawn from service and lingered for a time at
the Black Ball yard with a flotilla of other discarded
steamers--diesel had won the day for cheap transport on Puget
Sound. After being unused for two years, the City of Bremerton
was sent to the breakers in 1938. The chime whistle was saved,
but everything else from the City of Bremerton was cut up for
CITY OF BREMERTON
BUILT/ REBUILT: 1901, Everett, WA. Converted to a ferry in 1921.
PREVIOUS/LATER NAMES: a. City of Everett, b. Majestic, c. Whatcom, d. City of Bremerton
OFFICIAL NUMBER: 93135
L/B/D: 169 x 48 x 14 GROSS/NET TONS: 510/346 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 1500/60 cars
PROPULSION: triple expansion engine
NAME TRANSLATION: for the city of Bremerton. Bremerton was named for William Bremer, a German immigrant who platted the town, and later sold the land
to the US Navy for the Navy Yard.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped, 1938.
Above, a colorized photo of the City of Bremerton late in her career. Courtesy of the Captain Raymond W. Hughes collection.
The whistle is from the Bailey Gatzert, which was removed and placed on the City of Bremerton when she was rebuilt as a ferry.
At top in a booklet hailing the arrival of the Chinook (1947) Black Ball paid tribute to its past, including
photos of many of their old steamers. The notation on the Majestic/Whatcom is that "she is probably
remembered as the S.S. City of Bremerton." Below, PSN sponsoned out the Majestic and renamed her
Whatcom. She took over the Seattle-Port Townsend-Victoria route after the loss of the Clallam. Author's