Burlingame’s former restaurant, Steamship Sherman, set sail this weekend after years of trying to figure out what to do with the unused boat to make room for new ventures on the Bayfront area.
Around 4 p.m. Sunday, June 15, the 144-foot vessel officially known as the General Frank M. Coxe was moved away from the Burlingame canal that leads to the estuary between the hotels and businesses on the Bay and Highway 101 at 410 Airport Road by a tugboat, heading to a new life at the Stockton marina. The boat has been idle and rusting since the restaurant on it went out of business in 2010. Robert Sherman began restoring it in the 1970s when it moved to Burlingame and over the years, 11 different restaurants occupied the boat, including Bay Winds.
“It was moved because the contractor defaulted and walked away in 2008,” said Mary May, one of the founding members of the Burlingame Historical Society. “The widow of Sherman who had an ownership in it didn’t want to have any part of it and so it sat there.”
A former owner took out a big loan to reopen the boat, then foreclosed on it. The lender took over the ship, but eventually it was decided it would have to leave Burlingame by April 30. The State Lands Commission owns the property and the city and state were concerned about safety of the Sherman, so asked for the boat to be moved, according to Mayor Michael Brownrigg. State lands are adjacent to where the Sherman was anchored. The city would like to work with the state to make 8 acres of green grass and play area and to update the Bay Trail.
“Burlingame needs more open area,” Brownrigg said. “The Sherman could have existed with or without the state park, but I do think that whole point might be redeveloped for water sports.”
In terms of the Sherman relocation, there were few places it could go, May said.
“It took all this time to figure out where it could be moored,” she said. “It had a very involved history of money problems.”
Built for the U.S. Army in 1921, the Sherman was sent out to San Francisco and that was its only ocean voyage. It then became scenic tour ship but, in 1955, it was discontinued because there were newer ships. It then went to Stockton where engines and hardware were removed to make a restaurant in Stockton.
The ship saw some hope of renewal in Burlingame back in October 2013, when the Morgan Marine Group wrote a letter of intent for turning the boat into an aquatic center for kayaking, paddle boats and windsurfing, while restoring the boat.
“It was preempted by the needs of the waterfront park that is going to be built,” said John Stahl, the marketing agent for the Morgan Marine Group. “It morphed into the needs of the city.”
Burlingame residents are sad to see the ship go.
“I think it’s a loss for Burlingame,” said Russ Cohen, a former councilman and vice president of the Burlingame Historical Society. “It was an attraction that had lots of potential, but it never got off the ground in the last few years.”
May is also sad to see it leave the city, but it hoping to celebrate the boat’s 100th anniversary in Stockton.
“I have a lot of happy memories over there,” she said. “I’m 91 years old and am the same age as the Sherman, so I feel a kinship with it. It’s really four months younger than I am. I’m really happy it’s going to be having another life.”
Still, there are better things to come to the boat’s former site, said Brownrigg.
“It is a small and stunning piece of Burlingame history, but in light of its dilapidation it’s probably the right decision to move it out and let better things take up that space,” he said.
To see a video of the Sherman leaving Burlingame visit burlingamehistory.org/2014/06/16/the-frank-m-coxe-leaves-burlingame/.
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