The Virginia V documents a crucial phase in Seattle's maritime history. Built in 1922, when roads were frequently impassible, this propeller-driven wooden steamer immediately became one of the vessels that supported the commerce and communications of Puget Sound. For 16 years, it carried commuters and supplies between Seattle and Tacoma. She averaged 125,000 miles per year while carrying over eight million passengers through the West Pass of Vashon Island. This type of ship was so common in the 1920s and early '30s--the U.S. Department of Commerce counted more than 260,000 in 1932--that they collectively became known as the "Mosquito Fleet" because of the way they swarmed about America's lakes, rivers and other protected waters. However, as the Great Depression deepened and transportation methods changed, demand for these ships decreased.
In 1939 the Virginia V began offering excursion trips, which proved only marginally profitable and the ship changed ownership six times in 30 years. The non-profit Virginia V Foundation purchased the ship in 1980 and began to restore it. Although funds were generated through charters and other services, these operations did not provide funds sufficient to correct serious deterioration in the wooden hull of this National Historic Landmark. Safety concerns led the Foundation to stop passenger operations in 1996, and a year later the foundation moved the Virginia V to dry dock for further restoration. Repairs were completed in May 2002, and this sole surviving steam-powered member of the "Mosquito Fleet" is once again traveling the waters of Puget Sound.