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Historic Philadelphia Warship Struggles To Stay Afloat

By Matt Rivers

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia warship that has been a staple in the area for nearly 100 years is now struggling to stay afloat, both literally and financially.

The USS Olympia, a cruiser built in the late 1800s, has served as a glimpse into the past since opening to the public as a museum in 1958.

But serious corrosion along the ship’s water line has the cruiser’s jeopardy in doubt.

Major hull work, last done in the middle of the 20th century, combined with other extensive but much needed repairs has the ship’s owners at the Independence Seaport Museum staring up at a minimum of $10 million in costs.

“Our primary goal is to preserve this ship, and we’re exploring every option available to do that,” said Jesse Lebovics, Historic Ships Manager for the museum.

PHOTOS: Historic USS Olympia

That includes transferring the ship out of state. Bidders in South Carolina and San Francisco have expressed interest in the ship, and their vetting will be complete within the year.

The ship would then have to be transferred out of Philadelphia, a massive undertaking in and of itself.

“We would actually have to dredge the river in between where the ship sits now and the open river, and that would be over a million dollars alone,” said Lebovics.

But officials at the museum said despite the massive amounts of work and money needed to save the ship, it is a treasure worth keeping.

“This is the oldest warship left in the world,” said Lebovics. “The history here is incredible.”

Once the most famous warship in the world, the Olympia served as Admiral George Dewey’s flagship in the Spanish-American War, fought in World War I, and, in its final act, returned the body of the Unknown Soldier from France in 1922.

“This is one of the most important ships in US history,” said Lebovics.

For information on how you can donate and help save the USS Olympia, please visit their website at: www.phillyseaport.org

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