New York’s South Street Seaport bids farewell to the 1911-built four-masted sailing ship PEKING after 41 years.
The South Street Seaport Museum, recovering from the recession and damage from Hurricane Sandy, needed to focus on saving a one of its tall ships, and chose the one with stronger ties to the port of New York. The WAVERTREE, now completing a 16-month $13 million restoration, will soon return to the very berth being vacated by PEKING.
While the prospect of the 377-foot long PEKING being scrapped loomed, lengthy negotiations have resulted her being gifted back to her home country German. The German Government is paying some $30 million to transport the vessel back to Hamburg and restore her for a new home at the Stiftung Hamburg Maritim, the maritime museum of Hamburg.
Captain Jonathan Boulware, executive director of the South Street Seaport Museum, said “The gift of PEKING to Hamburg, where they’ve got 30 million euros to restore her, is good for our Museum; it will allow us to focus our growing resources on a leaner fleet, the centerpiece of which will be the mighty three-masted ship WAVERTREE, which will shortly return from a massive restoration project.” The WAVERTREE is expected back at the museum on September 24th.
“It’s also good for Hamburg; they’ll have a restored ship they can be proud of. She was built in Hamburg and sailed from there. She belongs on the Hamburg waterfront. And it’s good for PEKING; she’ll have the resources and the attention she deserves.”
The PEKING closed as a museum exhibit on September 4th, and was towed September 6 from Manhattan over to Staten Island where where will be prepared for the journey to Hamburg next Spring on a heavy-lift ship after first spending the winter at the island’s Caddell Dry Dock.
The riveted steel hull PEKING was built in 1911 by the German company F. Laeisz, she was the last generation of sailing ships, constructed right as steam-powered vessels beginning to dominate the trade routes. PEKING has a long history as a merchant vessel, sailing from South America to Europe, where she transported nitrates, bird guano to be used as a fertilizer and explosives. She was in Valparaiso at the outbreak of World War I, and was awarded to Italy as war reparations. Later she was sold back to the original owners, the Laeisz brothers in 1923. PEKING was converted to a training ship and later became a school for boys on the River Medway in England, renamed ARETHUSA II. Requisitioned by the Royal Navy and moved to Salcombe, Devonshire for the duration of the war she was temporarily renamed HMS PEKING (as there already was an HMS ARETHUSA in the Royal Navy). Returned to her owners at the end of the war and given back her old name PEKING was later sold at auction and was towed from London to New York arriving in the lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport Museum in 1975 after narrowly avoiding being scrapped.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.