PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Six groups vying to become custodian of an historic US naval cruiser now berthed in Philadelphia have passed the first hurdle in the takeover process.

The Independence Seaport Museum says it has received letters of intent by the September 1st deadline from six groups from across the country — one in California, one in DC, one in South Carolina, one in Baltimore, and two here in Philadelphia — all saying they can come up with a way to pay for the expensive repairs that the USS Olympia needs.

The one-of-a-kind Olympia is the sole surviving naval ship of the Spanish-American War and served as Admiral George Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay.

John Brady, interim CEO for the Seaport Museum, says selling the Olympia is a delicate matter because of its national historical significance.

“The ship is really important and should be preserved,” he told KYW Newsradio this morning.  “We are looking for an organization that can take on that kind of a national campaign to help the ship and to give it a new home.”

The Olympia was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Brady says a big focus of the museum’s evaluation of potential buyers will be on the finances.  It will cost at least $10 million to take the Olympia out of the water and make repairs.  The hull is thin and there are leaks, since the ship hasn’t been taken out of the water in more than 60 years.

All of the interested groups seem adamant that they can raise the dollars needed.  The business plans are due in the spring, and the actual sale won’t happen until 2013, so it could take a while.

The two Philadelphia groups that are expressing interest in taking over ownership of the Olympia are the Cruiser Olympia Historical Society and the Friends of the Cruiser Olympia.  The ship was decommission here in Philadelphia and has been here since 1957, so these groups say they are fighting to keep her where she belongs.

Reported by Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio 1060

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