The Peking, a steel-hulled four-masted barque built in 1911, which has been a largely neglected fixture at New York’s South Street Seaport for almost the last 40 years, is now in desperate need of a new home.
The South Street Seaport Museum thought that they had an agreement with the city of Hamburg to take the grand old ship. That deal apparently fell through and the future of the old ship is again in doubt. Susan Henshaw Jones, president of the South Street Seaport Museum, said she will hear proposals from anyone with a berth for the old ship. “The ultimate alternative, which is to scrap her, it’s unthinkable,” she said.
The Seaport has been trying to get rid of the Peking since at least 2008. Other events, however, have distracted from that effort. The Seaport collapsed financially in early 2011. In September of 2011, the South Street Seaport Museum was taken over by the Museum of the City of New York. The City of New York also provided $2 million dollars in operating funds but imposed an 18 month deadline to determine whether the seaport museum could be made viable again. The return of the Peking to Germany was part to the plan to lower the operating costs of the museum.
The continued presence of the Peking creates logistical as well as financial problems. The Seaport’s other windjammer, the iron three masted, Wavertree, is losing her berth on Pier 15 to a new retail development and was supposed to move Pier 16 where the Peking is now berthed.
The Peking is one of the Flying-P liners, built for F. Laeisz. She was one of the last generation of great sailing ships, the windjammers, who kept to the seas, paying their way carrying bulk cargoes long after most thought that the “age of sail” was over. The Peking carried nitrates around Cape Horn for over twenty years, then served as a school ship for forty more before being brought to the South Street Seaport in 1975.
Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to the post.