The maritime museum was until recently housed in a Streamline Moderne (late Art Deco) building that is the centerpiece of the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark at the foot of Polk Street and a minute's walk from the visitor center and Hyde Street Pier. The building was originally built (starting in 1936) by the WPA as a public bathhouse, and its interior is decorated with fantastic and colorful murals. The architects were William Mooser Jr. and William Mooser III.
The Steamship Room illustrates the technological evolution of maritime power from wind to steam, while the second-floor displays include three photomurals of the early San Francisco waterfront, lithographic stones, scrimshaw and whaling guns. The third-floor gallery is used for visiting exhibitions and is in 2005 exhibiting "Sparks", an exhibition of shipboard radio, radiotelephone, and radioteletype technology.