Preservation Plan: Cruiser OlympiaPaul B. DeOrsay
Vice President for Operations, Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Updated: January 2, 1997
BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVES:In June, 1995, the Independence Seaport Museum, through its assumption of the Cruiser Olympia Association, effectively assumed both title and responsibility for the two US Navy vessels berthed at Penn's Landing: USS Olympia and USS Becuna. Due to the demands of moving the Museum and opening to the public in July, 1995, the Museum did not taken an active management until January 1, 1996, while the original staff managed the ships in the interim. The purpose of this document is to outline the Museum's preservation and business plans for the future of these historic vessels.
The submarine Becuna, transferred to the COA in 1976, is in relatively good condition and does not appear to require major maintenance at this point in time.
The Olympia, launched in 1891, has been inactive since 1922, and has been on display as a museum / memorial ship since 1957. Over the last 5 years, approximately, the financial situation of the COA has been such as to preclude extensive, necessary maintenance. In essence, this ship needs more than gate receipts to balance its operations budget; significant maintenance or restoration requires outside sources of funds. Therefore, the COA board voted to have the Seaport Museum take over responsibility for the ships, in hopes that this institution could more effectively meet the obligations of preserving and interpreting these ships.
The ISM staff, in consultation with numerous ship preservation experts, has prepared this plan as a preliminary to undertaking serious preservation of the Olympia. It is designed to lay the groundwork for a preservation process which is likely to span 5 to 10 years, and cost in the neighborhood of $5 million. There are several immediate objectives which are addressed herein:
PROJECT SUMMARYThe U.S.S. Olympia, a registered national historic landmark whose engineering plant has been documented by the Historic American Engineering Record, is the sole surviving naval vessel of the Spanish-American War and of the revived American Steel Navy that marked the emergence of the United States as a world power at the turn of the 20th century (Appendix 1.) She served as Admiral George Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, a pivotal event in our national history. In defeating the Spanish Empire in this crucial engagement, the United States, previously regarded as a regional political power, assumed an important position in international affairs, setting the stage for many of the geo-political events of the next century. During World War I she served as the flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. At the end of the war, in 1918, she was sent to Murmansk, Russia, as part of the Allied anti-Bolshevik intervention force. Her last major mission was to transport the remains of America's "Unknown Solider" from Le Havre, France, to Arlington National Cemetery for burial in 1921.
Decommissioned in 1922, The Olympia lay neglected for thirty years at an abandoned pier in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In 1957, the Navy transferred title to the Cruiser Olympia Association, a non-profit entity formed by a group of concerned Philadelphia citizens ( Appendix 2.) The Association exhibited the ship, along with the World War II Fleet Submarine U.S.S. Becuna, until 1995, when its board elected to suspend operations and transfer responsibility for the ships to Independence Seaport Museum ( Appendix 3.) Prompted by its great historical value and its perennial place as one of Philadelphia's major tourist attractions, ISM assumed responsibility for the Olympia, as well as the Becuna, in June 1995.
Olympia is a truly unique and important vessel. She is the only American warship of her period still in existence. Internationally, she is one of only three remaining warships of the late 19th century. (The others are: Boeffel, currently in Rotterdam, which is predominantly a replica, and Aurora, in St. Petersburg, which was maintained by the former Soviet Union and is currently threatened by a lack of funding.) She retains much of her original fabric, including interior furnishings, one of two steam engines, refrigeration and other systems.
ISM believes that it brings several important professional qualities to this project: curatorial and library staff experienced in maritime artifact and document preservation and conservation; a development staff with the capital campaign experience necessary to secure funding for the vessel's restoration and interpretation; and administrative staff with experience in historic vessel restoration.
In preparation for this project, the Museum commissioned Tri-Coastal Marine of New York, New York to carry out a structural survey of the Olympia in the fall of 1994 ( Appendix 4.) The surveyors found that nearly fifty years of creeping deterioration and a chronic lack of consistent preservation policies have left the vessel in a poor state of preservation. Wiring throughout the ship is substandard and does not meet generally accepted professional standards in the field, posing a threat to visitors and the ship itself. The weather deck leaks in numerous places. Resulting water seepage has damaged both the vessel's interior and the artifacts stored within. The collections, assembled haphazardly over the course of thirty years, have never been properly assessed, inventoried or conserved.
The Becuna, one of only twenty World War II Fleet Submarines still in existence, however, is believed to be in a generally good state of preservation. The Museum therefore is deferring a thorough survey of this vessel until the assessment of Olympia is complete.
In November 1996, a staff team carefully toured the ship and drafted a rough outline for a plan of action in response to the poor condition of both the ship and artifact collections. In order to achieve both the long-term preservation of the ship and its collections, and develop an interpretive approach for visitors, the staff recommended that a long-range phased preservation plan be developed as the first step towards this goal. In order to formulate the plan, assessment of both the ship and collections is necessary in combination with documentation. Outside consultants working with the staff will assist in the development of the plan. Once the plan is complete, the Museum will better understand what needs to be accomplished in a rational and orderly fashion.
In January, 1996, the museum assigned a curator/ship keeper to begin a more detailed assessment of the ship's material condition and to manage the daily functions of the two ships. During this recent period numerous additional preservation and safety concerns have been identified, including environmental hazards, presence of excessive flammables and combustibles, leaky plumbing, fire safety and visitor access concerns, superstructure leaks, and an inadequate mooring system. This period of assessment was hindered somewhat by the necessity to restrict access to the Olympia from February 27 to April 30 for survey and abatement of asbestos containing materials. Further assessment, remedial protection, and the preparation of a preservation master plan is ongoing.
Once the preservation master plan is completed, the Museum then proposes to initiate a major national capital campaign to fund the preservation and necessary restoration of the vessel for interpretation in perpetuity. It is intended that this campaign will allow the Museum to put together a coalition of interested and concerned individuals on local, regional and national levels to assist in moving this project to its successful conclusion.
SUMMARY OF PROGRESS TO DATE
PRELIMINARY PRESERVATION ASSESSMENTThis plan has been formatted to conform to the Secretary of the Interior's "Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects." The Museum's staff and consultants are assessing the material condition of USS Olympia in accordance with the recommendations of the phased Guidelines for Protection, Documentation, and Stabilization from the "Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation."
SECTION I: ASSESSMENT OF MAJOR THREATS AND PROTECTIVE ACTIONSThe following list identifies the major threats to the Olympia and lists them in priority of potential damage.
Fire is a serious threat onboard Olympia. There are wooden decks and numerous wooden furnishings onboard. Many spaces are cluttered with combustibles and flammable materials. The detection system is inadequate consisting of only two smoke alarms with a detection range of 25 feet for a 344' long ship with multiple decks and compartments. Escape routes are inadequately marked, and there is only a single pull station that is not readily accessible to the general public.
1A. Actions taken to date:
Upgrade fire detection and alarm systems on board for The safety of staff, visitors, and ship. Enhanced system shall include: (1) adequate detection of heat/smoke throughout ship; (2) manual pull stations; (3) audible/visual local alarms for personnel; (4) off-site monitoring; (5) fire department connection.
Olympia is moored in the Penn's Landing Basin outboard the submarine Becuna. Four sets of pilings are used to moor the two vessels as there are no bollards or cleats on the basin pier. The mooring is inadequate as the wakes of ships passing in the Delaware River cause severe fore and aft motion on both the ship and submarine at high tide (up to 12 feet fore and aft motion), causing serious damage to the deck railings and three brows.
2A. Actions taken to date:
Friable asbestos on pipe insulation has posed a threat to visitor and staff health and safety. The Olympia was closed from February 27, 1996 to April 30, 1996 due to the presence of friable asbestos containing material discovered on the main and berth decks both of which are open to the general public. Numerous additional compartments have asbestos containing material on piping or bulkhead insulation.
3A. Actions taken to date:
4A. Life Rails (Standards p.17, 36)
The life-rail system onboard Olympia does not meet current United States Coast Guard requirements for life-rails on passenger carrying vessels. Code of Federal Regulations #46 states that ladders must be 39 _" high, consisting of a minimum of three courses with a 9" spacing for the lowest rail and 15" spacing between the other rails. There must also be wire mesh below the top rail. The life-rail system presently in use is only 35" tall, with two chain courses.
4B. Actions taken to date:
The museum has requested estimates from North-East Fence Co. and Everlasting Fence Co. for constructing a new life-rail system. The museum has also consulted with Mr. Kevin McGowan, a welding foreman from PNSY to determine technical requirements for the job.
4C. Recommended further actions:
The museum desires to install a life-rail system separate from the original and with minimal intrusion. Plans are to mount upright stanchions in the 40 awning sockets which run the entire length of the fo'csle and fantail and run cyclone fencing and solid steel pipes between the uprights. This plan would have minimal impact on existing historic fabric as the original rails would remain in place, and provide a safe barrier for visitors.
4D. Ladders (Standards, p. 36)
The exterior ladders of the ship are a potential tripping and falling hazard. The steps are irregularly spaced with spacings between treads up to 10 _" and between the tread and deck up to 13" (BOCA National Building Code allows for 9 _" rise.) The deck edge at the top of the ladder is worn away and needs reinforcement. Chains are used as hand-railings on several of the ladders and do not comprise an adequate handhold for visitors.
The ladders to the bridge wings do correspond to documentary evidence from the 1916 chart. The runs are 5' with a 27" breadth and six steps. These ladders have wooden treads that are bolted to the frame.
4E. Actions taken to date:
The museum has requested cost estimates from North-East Fence Co. and The Iron Shop for the construction and installation of exterior ladders.
4F. Recommended further actions:
Olympia suffers from serious rainwater and plumbing leaks throughout the ship. Leaks have been identified coming through the following spaces: the wooden planking on the main and berth decks; through holes and rusted seams on the uptakes, and vents; rusted and deteriorated gun casemates; rusted deck edges; doors and hatches that can no longer seal properly; skylights; leaky plumbing; and sweating scupper pipes.
The original wooden planked deck was covered with concrete to serve as reinforcement while at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard (Circa 1922-1957) and then coated with a rubberized compound impregnated with asbestos. The deteriorated condition of the deck allows water to pool at low spots causing serious leaking during periods of rain.
Leaks have caused moderate to severe damage from metal corrosion in the following spaces: wing passageways, uptakes, superstructure deck fittings and bulkheads, crew's water closet, berth deck bulkheads, main deck bulkheads, CPO's quarters, entire boiler room, and the inner bottom voids.
Leaks have caused moderate to severe damage from rotting in the following spaces: pilot house, captain's stateroom, admiral's stateroom, flag lieutenant's office, captain's office, wooden main decking, wooden berth decking, CPO's quarters, hammock stowage, and various artifacts on display.
5A. Actions taken to date:
Olympia has no operative automatic bilge pump system and is presently reliant exclusively on portable electrical submersible pumps for dewatering. Rainwater has accumulated in levels up to 36" in the inner bottom bilges causing deterioration of shell plating and structure bearing members.
Olympia also encountered major flooding in the winter of 1994 when a hull rivet popped out after abrading against wooden mooring camels. The rivet was at the junction of the armored deck plating with the exterior hull, two feet below the waterline. Coal bunker B-11 filled with enough water to generate a fifteen degree list to starboard, threatening Olympia with capsizing. The hole was patched by a damage control team from USS Forrestal and USS John F. Kennedy and the ship dewatered by a cooperative effort of the Damage Control division of USS John F. Kennedy and the Philadelphia fire department.
6A Actions to date:
Numerous artifacts and items of historic fabric from Olympia are strewn throughout the ship with no identification, tracking system, or secure storage. The items of ship's fabric include a large quantity of wooden furnishings, tools, valve, handles, wooden decking, electrical fittings, nameplates, hatches, and wooden ladders. Three-dimensional and paper artifacts are threatened by water damage, lack of environmental controls, or loss through fire, flooding, or vandalism.
7A. Actions taken to date:
The Museum has conducted a survey and working inventory of paper-based artifacts through a visit by Ann Craddock of the Preservation Services Office of the CCAHA (Appendix 7). The Museum has also recently finished the MAP II self-study questionnaire to assist in determining artifact management policy (Appendix 8.)
10/96:Paper-based artifacts have been removed from Olympia for safe-keeping at the ISM library, per recommendation of Conservation Center.
7B. Recommended further action:
Weather deck boat winches, skylights, and hammock covers have suffered from exposure. Skylights do have temporary plastic tarps enclosing them during winter months but these tend to be damaged or come loose during strong winds and most are in need of replacement.
Boats: Ship carries four wooden boats on skids above weather deck. These are reported to have come from Cape May, NJ in the early 1960's; at least one appears to be a USN 26' motor whale boat. All four are in seriously deteriorating condition due to exposure to weather. Port forward boat has a broken keel, and threatens to collapse and fall on weather deck. This boat should be dismantled and removed. Other boats (one is covered) should be thorughly surveyed and evaluated for potential hazards.
8B. Actions taken to date:
The museum has identified deck structures in need of protection from the elements. The museum has also contacted a sail-maker to provide cost estimates for manufacturing more permanent and durable coverings.
12/96: Skylights "shrink-wrapped" in plastic.
8C. Recommended further actions:
Olympia is manned during daytime hours only and needs regular security inspections to investigate for water accumulation, fire hazards, new leaks, vandalism, and damage. There have been no standardized procedures for regular inspections onboard and many spaces had not been entered at regular intervals.
9A. Actions taken to date:
A daily log has been instituted to record ship's list and new accumulations of water in the compartments, as well as significant maintenance activities conducted during the day. The bilges in accessible compartments and wing cofferdams are inspected on a weekly basis by the ship's curator.
9B. Recommended further actions:
The only toilets onboard Olympia flush directly into the Delaware River without any treatment which is a violation of water pollution regulations.
10A. Actions taken to date:
The toilets were secured from operation when the museum assumed operational control of the Olympia. The staff and workers are currently using toilet facilities at the Independence Seaport Museum.
10B. Recommended further actions:
Study the feasibility of installing a sewage containment system onboard Olympia connected to existing toilets that can be pumped onto a containment truck. Alternative: explore possibility of pumping to shoreside sewage connection.
Initially, it was hoped that the Museum could maintain the administrative and management structure of the Cruiser Olympia Association, allowing it to operate semi-autonomously. Upon examination of the situation, it became clear that to attempt to do so would only duplicate services, increase costs, and impede efficiency.
11A. Actions taken to date:
The Museum formulated and implemented a short-term business plan aimed at streamlining the operation of the ships, reducing costs, and focussing the institution's resources and efforts on preservation. (1/96) On board staff were reduced; all business functions were transferred to the Museum (payroll, accounting, etc.); the Museum's Assistant Director assumed direct supervision and responsibility for the ships; a temporary "shipkeeper / curator" was engaged to oversee day-to-day operations and implement Museum policies; a conscientious effort to reduce unnecessary spending was immediately (and successfully) begun.
Remedial preservation training has been given to existing staff and a project of consolidating loose, historic fabric has been planned as an activity for volunteers.
A MAP II survey grant has been awarded to the museum to address the administration of the ship and the artifact collection. To be completed in 1997.
11B. Recommended further actions:
Institute administrative changes in accordance with the recommendations of MAP II.
Fund, find, and engage a full-time, qualified ship manager / curator to establish historic ships as a professionally managed program department of the Seaport Museum.
SECTION II: DOCUMENTATION
The museum needs to locate and study documentary evidence for the accurate preservation, restoration, and interpretation of the Olympia. Even emergency protective measures should not be undertaken without careful research into the history of those parts of the ship impacted.
1A. Actions taken to date:
The Museum is currently identifying sources of documentary material to be used for the long-term restoration. The museum has on hand copies of original plans that have been turned over to the regional branch of the National Archives in Philadelphia. There are also plans available at the National Archives in Washington D.C., the Naval Historical Center, and original plans from the Union Iron Works that have yet to be cataloged but are now at the National Maritime Historical Park San Francisco. The museum has located a collection of photographic prints of the Olympia when it was on active duty.
1B. Recommended further action:
Employ a historic researcher to compile archival evidence to show the material changes of Olympia while on active duty, and to represent an accurate picture of life onboard for the officers and crew.
A photo and video-documentation of the Olympia will provide a fast and relatively effective method of recording the material conditions of the ship and artifacts onboard Olympia.
2A. Actions taken to date:
The museum has contracted for HABS/HAER to conduct a photodocumentary of unique features of Olympia. Field work was completed in July, 1996; final report pending (Appendix 9). The museum staff have also begun to photograph significant areas of deterioration and repairs such as the installation of bilge alarms, exit signs, and watertight fire doors.
2B. Recommended further actions:
The museum staff will also conduct a full video-documentation of the entire ship to assist in the preparation of the long-term preservation plan.
SECTION III: STABILIZATION
Almost the entire hull and superstructure deck needs rust removal, priming and painting. The exterior spaces are suffering running rust and severe paint flaking. Many areas have been over painted as well, so that undercoats are beginning to crack. The museum submitted paint samples for lead and chromium content May 13, 1996 and is awaiting results, but the primer appears to be red-lead from visual inspection. Olympia's present location at Penn's Landing may preclude proper surface preparation due to environmental restrictions, but at present it appears feasible to paint on site.
1A. Actions taken to date:
The museum is currently researching coatings, surface preparation techniques, painting and blasting contractors, and lead abatement regulations and techniques. Discussions are currently underway with at least three each of blasting contractors, paint manufacturers, and painting contractors. Research is also being conducted on lead regulations and with coatings experts.
1B. Recommended further actions:
To prep and coat exterior steel surfaces above the waterline with modern epoxy primer and urethane finish. This requires surface preparation to SSPC standards (hydro or sand blasting) which introduces the challenge of containment and disposal of lead-containing paint. It appears as of 12/96 that this is an achievable objective. Funded by Keystone Preservation Grant for 1997.
The hull below the waterline of Olympia has not been painted or repaired since 1957 and has suffered severe but localized wastage of the steel shell plating and deterioration of the interior structure-bearing members. Some part of this deterioration may be due to galvanic corrosion, which could be brought under control with modern cathodic protection systems. This appears to be an area where there are serious differences of opinion as to effectiveness of particular systems. Careful and extensive research is called for.
2A. Actions taken to date:
The museum did electrolytic potential testing of the Olympia's hull in June, 1996, with Mr. Bob Bardsley of the NSWC, Carderock Division. Testing results showed a freely corroding hull.
The museum is currently studying the feasibility of installing a cathodic protection system onboard Olympia and has consulted with Mr. Bardsley, Mr. William Miller a cathodic protection engineer from Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Shop 106, and Erik Bonner of Harco Technologies to determine specific protection requirements while the ship is moored at the Penn's Landing Basin.
2B. Recommended further action:
Conduct a visual hull inspection of hull with a diver or ROV from NSWC.
Conduct cathodic protection tests on Olympia's hull using portable magnesium anodes.
Install temporary (external) system once there is consensus on need.
Install anodes or impressed current system while in drydock pending results of cathodic protection testing.
Olympia Advisory CommitteeRussell Booth, Ship Manager
National Maritime Museum Association
San Francisco, California
Mr. Booth has more than 20 years experience as a museum professional and has participated in the restoration of several historic vessels. Currently, he is the manager of the U.S.S. PAMPANITO, a World War II submarine. He also oversaw the vessel's restoration. He is a past president of the Historic Naval Ships Association and has experience with CAP surveys.
Strafford Morss, President
Mr. Morss serves as the principal partner in Morss Ship Restoration, which provides preservation and restoration consulting services to historic naval vessels. He has participated in numerous vessel restoration projects including U.S.S. TEXAS and U.S.S MASSACHUSETTS.
Cdr. Robert Eaton, USN (Ret.)
Cdr. Eaton is a museum professional experienced with historic vessels. He was an advisor on the Flagship NIAGARA replication project (1984-1994). During his 27 year career in the U.S. Navy, he served on destroyers, amphibious assault ships and submarines (including service as Third Officer of the U.S.S. Becuna). He holds an M.A. in Museum Studies and is a member of the Historic Naval Ships Association.
Don Birkholz, Jr.
Mr. Birkholz is a widely-known and respected expert in the field of historic ship preservation and restoration. He has participated in the restoration of the U.S.S. TEXAS and the 19th-century barque ELISSA. He has also served as a consultant to South Street Seaport in New York City and the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco. He is a contributing author of the Department of the Interior's "Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects, with Guidelines for Applying the Standards," and "Standards and Guidelines for Documenting Historic Vessels."
PRESERVATION PLAN: CRUISER Olympia