A Beaufort organization is making a bid to become the next home of the Cruiser Olympia, which gained fame as Commodore George Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
For the past 90 years the Olympia has been a part of the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia. But the museum that currently operates the vessel as a tourist attraction says the ship no longer fits in with its increasingly regional maritime thrust.
“She’s expensive and she doesn’t connect with our mission,” said Capt. John Gazzola, president of the Independence Seaport Museum. The 344-foot ship otherwise might face being scrapped or scuttled unless a new owner is found, the museum said.
Earlier this month, officials in Philadelphia hosted a summit on the ship’s future where a half-dozen organizations from around the country showed an interest in staking a claim. One of the last entries came from the Beaufort-based S.C. Olympia Committee.
Group spokesman Pete Richards said they envision the ship being a focal point of a national remembrance site to the Spanish-American War, where an overmatched Spain was soundly thumped by U.S. might, leading to territorial expansion across the globe.
The Beaufort group met with representatives of Patriots Point on Wednesday to lay out their plans and seek advice about launching a museum project, Richards said.
Five other organizations have also shown an interest in the Olympia, among them one from Newport, R.I.; one from the Washington, D.C. area; San Francisco (where the Olympia was built); Texas; and another group in Philadelphia, according to published reports.
The Beaufort area played a major role in supporting the Navy during the war, including with a dry dock available to the Atlantic fleet.
The dry dock is still there, but buried in the mud on Parris Island. Richards hopes to clear the muck away and put the ship in its place.
Fund-raising for the effort would run into the tens of millions of dollars.