Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Collection spotlight: Ron Cleveland Photograph Collection

(Written by M. Crawford and Amy Croft)

The Ron Cleveland photograph collection (P90-062, SAFR-22583) was recently processed at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (SFMNHP) and contains photographs of the construction of ship models built by Ron Cleveland from 1965-1984. One of the models he built was of the KOHALA, a California-built barkentine that played a role in the West Coast lumber and sugar trades during the early 20th century. The model is a product not only of his interest in maritime history but also the result of in-depth archival research.
Ron Cleveland (1912-1987) was a California architect who had a strong interest in maritime history and the construction of 19th century sailing vessels. Ron's interest in maritime history started because his grandfather worked on spritsail barges on the Thames River in England in the late 19th century. Ron's first ship model was of the English spritsail barge KATHLEEN and his second model was of the Norwegian brigantine LEON. In his professional life, Ron worked as a principal architect at Leach, Cleveland and Associates for 36 years, specializing in the design of over 100 Southern California supermarkets. The firm designed some permanent exhibits at the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry and was retained in 1968 by the California Museum Foundation as consultants for, and designers of the exhibit "The Queen Mary Story" as part of Jacques Cousteau's Museum of the Sea, on board the QUEEN MARY while she was a museum ship in Long Beach.

Cleveland did extensive research using archival and library resources to ascertain the specifications of the vessels that he created, in order to build them to scale as accurately as possible.  Ron also consulted with other maritime historians and people who had worked or sailed on similar vessels in the past, particularly to ensure that he built the structure and rigging correctly. For example, he interviewed Harlan Gow, who worked as a shipwright in the Bendixen shipyard from 1898-1908, about how they had built the West Coast vessels. Cleveland also interviewed Lester Stone, whose grandfather built one of the first shipyards in San Francisco in 1853, and who later took over the shipyard. Both of these interviews are now in the San Francisco Maritime's collections. Cleveland also relied on the assistance and knowledge of Robert "Bob" Weinstein, Captain Fred Klebingat, and San Francisco Maritime Museum Founder and Chief Curator Karl Kortum. Ron joined the Nautical Research Guild in 1964 and later began a Southern California Chapter with the assistance of Bob Weinstein.
In 1969, Ron began construction of a model of the barkentine KOHALA, which took him nearly 15 years to complete. During this time he wrote a manuscript titled "Rigging of West Coast Barkentines and Schooners" which has details about the construction of his model of the KOHALA. According to Ron, Karl Kortum told him that no one to his knowledge had pursued the study of structure and rigging of West Coast barkentines to the extent that Cleveland had over this 15 year period.
The KOHALA was a four-masted barkentine that was built at Fairhaven, California in 1901 by the Bendixsen Shipbuilding Co. for the management of Hind, Rolph & Co., San Francisco and was first primarily used in the West Coast lumber trade. Later she established herself in the sugar trade on a cargo route to Hawaii from San Francisco, and is named after the North Shore and volcano of the Big Island itself. Her last sail passage was in 1921 and she was later turned into a fishing barge. On December 25, 1941 the KOHALA was mistaken for a possible Japanese submarine and accidentally sunk by American bombers near Redondo Beach!
In 1985, Mr. Cleveland donated the KOHALA model to San Francisco Maritime NHP. The model of the KOHALA is on display in the San Francisco Maritime Museum at 900 Beach Street - come check it out! In addition to this model of a vessel that played a role in 20th century maritime history and commerce, Ron's extensive research and notes are a valuable resource about how the KOHALA was constructed and can be found in his manuscript collection, also held here at the San Francisco Maritime NHP (HDC 1061, SAFR 12782). Although the age of sail has past, Ron's model of the KOHALA literally and figuratively preserves a small piece of that history with remarkable accuracy.

Check out the finding aid on the Online Archive of California to learn more about the nearly 3000 photographs in the Ron Cleveland photograph collection! Some of the photographs have been scanned and can be viewed on NPS Focus (http://npsfocus.nps.gov/npshome.do?searchtype=npshome) by searching for "Ron Cleveland Photographs".