The building that is currently home of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) was built in 1943 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies to stimulate the economy. As the building neared completion during World War II, the City of Santa Barbara sold the building to the United States Navy for $1. During the war the building served as a Navy Training Center, and the Navy built the pier out front, commonly known as the Navy Pier or City Pier. After the war the building housed the Navy Reserve. Many locals remember playing basketball here, in fact, the original herringbone, maple wood court can now be seen around the base of the new Point Conception Lighthouse Fresnel Lens Exhibit.
In the 1990’s the City of Santa Barbara bought the building back from the U.S. Navy for $2.4 million, and then had to invest another $2 million in ADA upgrades. The Founders of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum opened its doors in July 2000, fulfilling one of the original purposes of the WPA project, to house maritime artifacts. The building overlooks the Santa Barbara harbor, a 1916 Sea Mew David T. Nidever and the museum’s flagship, a 1917 sportfishing yacht Ranger. SBMM rents this 8,000 square feet space from the City of Santa Barbara’s Waterfront Enterprise Zone.