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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The process of transferring the USS Olympia to a new caretaker is moving forward.

Four of the six organizations that applied for ownership of the historic warship have made it through the latest phase of the transfer process (see previous story).

The Olympia, commissioned 116 years ago this month, saw action in the Spanish-American War as Commodore Dewey’s flagship, and after World War I brought the body of the Unknown Soldier back from France.

Since the late 1950s she’s been berthed at Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware.  It’s the oldest steel warship still afloat — but just barely.  John Brady of the the Independence Seaport Museum — the current owner — says the Olympia needs far more work than the museum can give her.

“I don’t know where to begin,” he told KYW Newsradio today.  “She needs her bottom repaired fairly extensively, she needs new decks — that’s the beginning of the list.”

And that adds up to millions of dollars.

So, the search is on for a new steward, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the groups making the decision.

“She’s important on a national scale,” Brady says of the designated historic landmark, “and we’re looking for an organization that’s prepared totake on a national campaign to save her.”

Only one of the groups is located here in the Philadelphia area.  The others are in South Carolina; Washington, DC; and California.

For the next phase of the vetting process, business, education, and restoration plans are due May 1st. In the meantime, the National Trust has set up an account to keep her afloat.

And, for the time being, the Olympia remains open to the public, an important but vulnerable symbol of the transition to the modern Navy.

Reported by Molly Daly, KYW Newsradio 1060

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