About the USS OLYMPIA
Then: The enemy’s guns had opened up on the Admiral’s fleet as he steamed towards their line of battle. He held fire conserving his limited ammunition until his range had closed enough to ensure effective fire. At 5:22AM on May 1, 1898 United States Navy fleet Admiral George Dewey spoke into a brass communication tube “You may fire when ready Gridley.” With those immortal words the Olympia and the fleet she led, commenced to decimate the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. This command spoken from the bridge of the Olympia would prove to be the tipping point on the United States emergence as a world power and set in motion our longstanding relationship with the people of the Philippines.
|Now: Today Olympia has national historic landmark status and is a museum at the Independence Seaport Museum, at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia. She is the sole floating survivor of the US Navy's Spanish-American War fleet and she is the oldest steel warship in the world that is still afloat. However, the museum is no longer able to fund the preservation costs for Olympia. Olympia has been in the water continuously since 1945 and the hull requires extensive repairs due to corrosion damage. In an effort to save her, the Museum plans to make the ship available for donation to eligible parties who can demonstrate the ability to maintain the vessel and make it available for public display. If no such entity is found, the museum will scrap or scuttle the Olympia. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in conjunction with national organizations such as the National Maritime Historical Society, the Historic Naval Ships Association, the Council of American Maritime Museums etc. are pursuing the necessary funds for the repair of the Olympia's hull such that she could be towed to Mare Island. The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation is actively pursuing bringing her home for display in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco Bay Area Ties: Three years before Admiral Dewey’s famous order the Olympia departed Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo and at 6:30 on the morning of August 25, 1895 she passed through the Golden Gate en route with her date with history. The Olympia was steaming to relieve the USS Baltimore as flagship of the Asiatic Station, a choice assignment, but not one expected to involve sailing into harms way. Certainly no one at the time would have anticipated that Olympia would be tasked to take the offensive against the Spanish fleet following a declaration of war with Spain. A war precipitated by the sinking of the US Navy’s second commissioned pre-dreadnought battleship, the USS Maine in Havana harbor in Cuba.|
|Before leaving Mare Island for the Asiatic station, the Olympia had come to life in the Bay Area over the preceding three years. She was constructed in San Francisco at the Union Iron Works located on Potrero Point. Of interest, the Union Iron Works was the builder of the engines for the first warship built on the west coast, the Saginaw, which was the first warship launched on the west coast at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1859. By the latter part of the 19th century the Union Iron Works had become renowned for mastering the technical and logistical difficulties of constructing the new armor protected cruiser designs of the Navy Department.|
was a time of transition and rapid technological change both in industry
in general and within the Navy in particular. While the Olympia still carried
a full complement of sail, she is steel hulled; one of the first ships to
employ vertical-stroke reciprocating three-cylinder triple-expansion steam
engines; her armor is both unique in its design and is constructed of what
was then cutting edge alloy steel, she employed newly developed electrical
generators and lighting, and hydraulically powered turrets. By the time
Olympia was constructed, the Union Iron Works was a seasoned constructor
of naval warships having launched the cruisers Charleston, San Francisco
and the battleship Oregon. The Olympia was launched in late 1892 and following
the launching she was brought to Mare Island for outfitting. Her bottom
was cleaned and repainted while in Dry Dock to assist with acceptance speed
trials. In addition, anchors were procured, torpedoes were loaded, the binnacle
stand installed; plated ware procured for the junior and warrant officer
messes, ordnance work was completed and the ship was coaled for her transit
to the Asiatic Station and destiny.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation in conjunction with national organizations such as the National Maritime Historical Society, the Historic Naval Ships Association, the Council of American Maritime Museums etc. are pursuing the necessary funds for the repair of the Olympia's hull such that she could be towed to Mare Island. We need to raise $20M in funds support tow of the ship and other site specific costs and infrastructure issues necessary to display the ship at Mare Island.
Learn more about the OLYMPIA and our effort on YouTube - and take a Virtual Tour of the Olympia here.