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Nonprofit Organization Charts Course to Bring Floating Navy Museum to Erie

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The Oliver Hazard Perry Shipyard is seeking to create a floating Navy museum, shown in this architectural rendering by JW Architecture & Design, along the eastern basin of Presque Isle Bay, about a half mile northeast of the Bicentennial Tower in Erie, PA.

The importance of maritime history in Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania cannot be understated. The Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 marked one of the largest naval battles and a turning point of the War of 1812. American Naval forces under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry changed the course of U.S. history that day.

The Oliver Hazard Perry Shipyard is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to secure the decommissioned ex-USS HALYBURTON (FFG- 40), one of the 51 Oliver Hazard Perry class Guided Missile Frigates built for the U.S. Navy, through the U.S. Navy’s ship donation process and install it as a museum ship in Erie. Already years in the making, the organization has been working closely with the Navy to develop a plan for securing the USS Halyburton and opening it to the public.

Perry Shipyard Executive Director and CEO Joe Pfadt, Ph.D., stands on the deck of the ex-USS HALYBURTON in Philadelphia during a visit to the ship.

The mission of the Perry Shipyard is to honor the veterans of America’s Armed Forces who served with distinction by providing them with a historic Navy vessel. Additionally, the museum would offer a unique view into the technology and history of the U.S. Navy as the most modern warship available to the public.

Erie and the surrounding areas have a dense population of veterans, with more than 9 percent of the population in Erie County having served their country. The Perry Shipyard would encourage veterans and their families from across the country to travel to Erie to experience the history and culture of the U.S. Navy and its technology.

AT THE HELM

Joe Pfadt, Ph.D., an Erie native and veteran, is currently leading the charge to bring the Halyburton to Erie as the executive director and CEO of the Perry Shipyard Project. Dr. Pfadt has dedicated his life to serving the nation — in his role as an educator, as a National Guard member, and through his ongoing work to promote and honor veterans. The Perry Shipyard is the culmination of decades of community- building initiatives he has led.

“Our mission is to bring the USS Halyburton to Erie to create a place where we can honor veterans and provide educational opportunities about the U.S. Navy and its technology,” said Dr. Pfadt. “We know this museum ship would be of great importance to Erie and the nation as a whole, while also providing significant economic and educational opportunities to the community.” Securing the USS Halyburton has not been an easy task for the Perry Shipyard. The U.S. Navy has a tedious three-phase ship donation process for evaluating whether an organization is fit to receive, maintain and utilize a ship like the USS Halyburton.

Throughout the process, the Perry Shipyard has provided business, financial and environmental plans for the museum. The Perry Shipyard will hear from the U.S. Navy if it will advance to Phase III.

The Perry Shipyard hopes to bring the USS Halyburton, a now-decommissioned U.S. Navy frigate, to Presque Isle Bay as a museum ship.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND

Once relocated to her new home in Presque Isle Bay, the USS Halyburton would afford the public a unique opportunity to explore a modern fighting vessel. Visitors would experience firsthand what life was like onboard as they tour the vessel, participate in overnight visits, sleep like sailors, and hear personal stories from those who served. Furthermore, the Perry Shipyard museum would provide a hands-on visible teaching platform and STEM learning opportunities for students of all ages, from elementary school to higher education.

Based on an economic impact study, the project predicts the museum ship would support and sustain 174 jobs and bring in 100,000 tourists in Year 5 of operations. The project is expected to have an impact of $18 million on Pennsylvania’s economy by Year 5 of operations, with a cumulative impact of $80.6 million over five years.

As a nonprofit organization, the Perry Shipyard project relies on tax-deductible charitable donations — both individual and corporate — to help advance its educational mission. To learn more, visit perryshipyard.org.