New Features Coming for Battleship New Jersey
The Battleship New Jersey is a work in progress.
But progress is definitely being made, officials said Monday, as they seek new funding and plan projects beyond the maintenance of the storied warship.
The painting of the hull - right down to the iconic "62" on the bow - was finished this month.
A new coat of gray paint also has been applied to the New Jersey side of the ship, above the hull, and will be added on the Pennsylvania side in the spring.
That work has taken place as new teak decks are installed, a job that will take up to five years.
Even more ambitious plans call for the development of an engineering tour of the ship, costing $500,000, and a ferry service between Penn's Landing and Camden during the fall and winter months when the RiverLink is not running, said Philip P. Rowan, executive director of the Home Port Alliance for the Battleship New Jersey, which owns and operates the ship.
"I'm committed to getting the ship restored," said Rowan, who took over as executive director in 2012. "As we polish the apple, tourism will go up.
"Attendance has increased - in 2012 over 2011, 2013 over 2012, and this year over last year," he said, adding that the numbers have been rising steadily, if not sharply.
To draw more visitors, the ship plans to offer new attractions and is looking for funding.
Last month, Rowan requested the donation of $250,000 from the Battleship New Jersey Historical Museum Society, a nonprofit that helped bring the historic vessel to the state and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last spring, the society donated $300,000 to the battleship, he said. About $100,000 was used to replace teak decks, $100,000 went for painting, and $100,000 was spent on marketing.
The society's president, Vincent Falso, said his organization's five-member board would likely vote in favor of the request some time after the holidays.
"I can't write a check myself," said Falso, 84, who sailed on two cruises aboard "Big J" from 1951 to 1953, in the gunnery division and commissary section. "I have to go through a process."
"But I'm pretty sure we can do it," he said.
The $250,000 would be used as a part of an application for a matching amount from an area foundation, Rowan said.
The $500,000 would then pay for the cleanup of the engineering spaces of the ship, the installation of safety railings and platforms, and the addition of interpretive devices in the boiler and engine rooms.
Much of "Big J" - most decorated battleship in U.S. history - is already open for tours, including Turret 2 with its 16-inch guns, and "Broadway," the long main corridor linking Turrets 1 and 2.
"What we're trying to do is finish the tour of the ship," Rowan said. The engineering section "is the last piece everybody has been asking for.