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The USS Olympia

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She is

  • the sovereign territory of the United States from which Americans sailed into harms way.
  • the platform from which the United States emerged as a world power.
  • the flagship that ended over 300 years of colonial rule of the Philippines
  • an American Icon that was recognized world-wide.
  • one of the United States’ greatest historical artifacts.
  • a National Historic Landmark designated in 1964.
  • a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark designated in 1977.
  • the sole surviving Warship from the Spanish American War.
  • the world’s oldest surviving steel hulled warship.

The Moment in History:

Battle of ManilaMay 1, 1898: 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  United States Navy fleet Admiral George Dewey spoke into a brass communication tube “You may fire when ready Gridley.” With those words the Olympia and the fleet she led, commenced to decimate the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. It would prove to be the tipping point on the United States emergence as a world power and ended over 300 years of Spanish Colonial rule of the Philippines.

The Ship

USS Olympia (C-6/CA-15/CL-15/IX-40) is a protected cruiser that saw service in the United States Navy from her commissioning in 1895 until 1922. She became famous as the flagship of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The ship was decommissioned after returning to the U.S. in 1899, but was returned to active service in 1902.

She served until World War I as a training ship for naval cadets and as a floating barracks in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1917, she was mobilized again for war service, patrolling the American coast and escorting transport ships.

Following the end of World War I, Olympia participated in the 1919 Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, and conducted cruises in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to promote peace in the unstable Balkan countries. In 1921, the ship carried the remains of World War I’s Unknown Soldier from France to Washington, DC, where his body was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.  Olympia was decommissioned for the last time in December 1922 and placed in reserve.

Unknown Soldier returns home to Washington Navy YardIn 1957, the U.S. Navy ceded title to the Cruiser Olympia Association, which restored the ship to her 1898 configuration. Since then, Olympia has been a museum ship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is now part of the Independence Seaport Museum (ISM). Olympia is a NAtional Historic Landmark, and she is the oldest steel US warship still afloat.   However, ISM has been unable to fund essential maintenance for the old ship, and attempts to secure outside funding have failed. In 2012 ISM announced that the ship was available to a new entity, provided they met certain requirements. If no such entity was found, the ISM’s stated intent was to scrap or scuttle the Olympia.

The Mare Island Historic Park Foundation actively pursued bringing Olympia  home for display in the San Francisco Bay Area, out of water in Mare Island’s historic granite dry dock – until being notified that the ISM was ending the donation process.

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. She had been launched in 1892 from Union Iron Works in San Francisco at commissioned at Mare Island earlier in 1895.  The Olympia was steaming to relieve the USS Baltimore as flagship of the Asiatic Station. 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.

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The Future of The Olympia

Following the 2011 announcement by the Independence Seaport Museum (ISM) of their intent to either sink or scrap the Cruiser OLYMPIA the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation (MIHPF) submitted an expression of interest to acquire the Spanish-American Warship OLYMPIA and bring her back home to the San Francisco Bay Area for display at Mare Island’s historic Dry-Dock 1. In August 2011, the Phase I application for OLYMPIA was submitted to the Independence Seaport Museum, the Navy, and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  MIHPF continued the application process until April 3, 2014 when ISM, unexpectedly announced that they are terminating the donation process and that they will retain stewardship of the Cruiser OLYMPIA.  At that time the MIHPF ceased all fundraising activity on behalf of the acquisition of the OLYMPIA and modified our various marketing materials to reflect the changed status of the ship.  Our plans include moving forward with an existing plan to increase awareness of this iconic ship by preparing an exhibit in our museum on Mare Island highlighting the role that Mare Island and the OLYMPIA played in the Spanish American War.

The ISM also announced their intent to launch a fundraising campaign for the preservation of the National Historic Landmark ship.  Together with the National Alliance we formed with the South Carolina OLYMPIC Committee and Maritime Heritage US we are evaluating whether the ISM’s effort to retain the ship in Philadelphia warrants our support.

Please support the MIHPF

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation receives no funds from the U.S. Navy and relies on the generous gifts and contributions of individual donors and corporate sponsors. All gifts are tax deductible and are recognized appropriately.

Ways To Give

  • Gifts of cash, stocks, bonds, real estate and tangible property
  • Checks (made payable to the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation) Contributions should be mailed to:
  • Mare Island Historic Park Foundation, 328 Seawind Drive, Vallejo CA 94590
  • Paypal, Master Card, VISA, American Express and Discover Card by clicking on the link below. We do not handle Debit Cards.




Gifts of cash, stocks, bonds, real estate and tangible property
Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT’s) have been in existence since 1969. These multi-faceted trusts provide the following benefits:

  • Defers or eliminates capital gains tax
  • Provides present income tax deduction
  • Generates income stream o Payments can be a fixed amount or percentage of trust assets Terms are made for beneficiaries’ lifetime, up to a term of 20 years, or combination of both
  • MIHPF receives the asset at the end of the trust term
  • The asset is removed from donor’s estate

Giving Through Your Will or Trust

A bequest through your will or trust is one of the most convenient ways to donate to MIHPF’s mission and vision. To create this gift, all you need to do is name the MIHPF as a beneficiary of either a percent, specific asset, or the residual (what is left over) from your estate.

Percentage gift:
Name the MIHPF as a percentage beneficiary in your will or trust. Sample language: “I hereby give, devise, and bequeath an amount equal to ____% (_______ percent) of the total value of my estate to the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation, 328 Seawind Drive, Vallejo CA 94590.”
Specific gift:
Name the MIHPF as beneficiary of a specific monetary amount from your estate or a specific asset or group of assets (such as securities, real or tangible property) from your estate.
Sample language: “I hereby give, devise, and bequeath a monetary amount of $____ to the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation 328 Seawind Drive, Vallejo CA 94590.” Residuary gift:
Name the MIHPF a residuary beneficiary in your will or trust. The residuary of your estate is any property that is not specifically left to someone and that which remains in the estate after all estate costs have been deducted. Sample language: “I hereby give, devise, and bequeath the residuary of my estate to the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation 328 Seawind Drive, Vallejo CA 94590.”

When designating the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation in your estate plans, include the Museum’s tax identification number (68-0352022) in your will or estate instructions. Please send a copy of your estate designation to:

Ken Zadwick, President
Mare Island Historic Park Foundation
328 Seawind Drive Vallejo CA 94590