Murdock trust helps local maritime, economic projects

By: Edward Stratton - May 07, 2021
Source: The Astorian

Money for Lightship Columbia, underserved entrepreneurs

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded grants to a historic vessel restoration by the Columbia River Maritime Museum and new lending staff for Craft3 to help underserved entrepreneurs.

The Astoria museum received $383,000, a third of the cost needed to dry dock the Lightship Columbia and open further areas of the vessel to the public. The lightship, commissioned in 1951 and sold to the museum 40 years ago, is a national historic landmark that once guided ships into the mouth of the Columbia River.

The vessel is about five years overdue for a dry dock. In October, it heads to Diversified Marine in Portland, where crews will rehabilitate the hull to withstand the region’s brackish water. The museum has been fundraising for a $1.1 million project to maintain the hull and make areas of the ship, such as the engine room and crew quarters, safe for the public.

Bruce Jones, the deputy director of the museum and the Astoria mayor, said the museum’s board has wondered periodically whether to keep spending money maintaining the lightship. But the vessel is an integral part of the museum experience, Jones said, and was boarded by 60% of the 115,000 visitors in 2019.

“It’s one thing to walk through the galleries and look at pictures and look at little small artifacts," Jones said. "But to actually be able to go on a ship that was a working ship on the Columbia River Bar and walk through the space and see where the crew ate, where they slept, to see the bridge, see the engine room — that’s kind of an irreplaceable experience.”

The museum raised 40% of the project cost privately before applying for the Murdock grant, Jones said. It still has to raise $307,000 for the rest of the work and has applied for grants through the National Park Service and the state Cultural Resources Economic Fund.

The lightship overhaul was endorsed by the Cultural Advocacy Coalition, which is lobbying the state Legislature for around $305,000 to help the museum, part of a $9.5 million ask for 11 cultural construction projects around the state in the coming two-year budget cycle.

Craft3 received a $234,000 grant from the Murdock trust to hire new lending staff to assist underserved entrepreneurs.

"The grant from M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust will support a new position at Craft3 that helps our commercial loan applicants and customers navigate resources within the community to improve the resilience of their businesses," a spokesperson for the lender said in a statement. "We expect to announce a hire in the next few months."

The lender has spent the past several years developing a new loan program launching this year focused on marginalized groups less able to gather the cash equity necessary for traditional financing or access new markets because of systemic racism.

The Murdock grant comes on the heels of a $10 million donation to Craft3 from MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist, author and ex-wife of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.