The retired Navy destroyer USS Orleck could soon become a Downtown attraction on the St. Johns River.
At a Jan. 11 ceremony at Manifest Distilling, the Jacksonville Naval Museum officially took ownership of the USS Orleck naval museum, according to Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com.
“This will be a wonderful attraction for the city, this will be a wonderful way to honor all of the veterans in Northeast Florida,” said Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association board member Bruce Fouraker.
“Jacksonville has over 250,000 military veterans that live in the area and this is just a wonderful thing to have.”
The association has been working with the city to make the Orleck a naval museum at the Shipyards Downtown. It plans plan to have the top tier of the ship open to the public in 30 days.
“As you all know the city of Jacksonville is the third largest navy installation in our country and like the other 35 cities with warships on display it is time for Jacksonville to have a symbol of the United States Navy and what the United States Navy has meant to Jacksonville and its development,” said association President Daniel Bean.
A sign at the Jacksonville Shipyards west of the unfinished Berkman Plaza II says “coming soon – Future home of the USS Orleck Museum Ship.”
The Orleck is in dry dock in Texas where it was inspected.
The cost to bring the Orleck to Jacksonville has increased from $1.3 million, and $56,000 for paint, estimated in March 2020.
The project now is expected to cost $1.8 million because of $250,000 to repair Hurricane Laura damage and cost increases. The paint is now $65,000.
The association is collecting donations to help offset the cost.
Next to the ship there are plans for a ticket office, gift shop and a park that could include naval aircraft on display.
The museum will feature the “US Navy Cold War Experience,” which is represented by the Orleck.
Named after Lt. Joseph Orleck, the ship was called the “Top Gun” of Vietnam. The Orleck crew fired more than 11,000 rounds, earning it the nickname, “Grey Ghost of the Vietnam Coast.”
The ship received 14 battle stars and dozens of awards.
The Orleck is the most-decorated post-World War II ship and supporters said that is reason enough to save it.
It served during the Korean, Vietnam and Cold War eras.
To fund the only U.S. Naval warship museum in Florida, the group has $2.5 million: $1 million from the state of Florida and another $1.5 million from loans and creditors.
It also will support veterans as a local resource and networking center.
The Jacksonville City Council signed off Aug. 10 on the association’s plan to bring the USS Orleck DD-886 to Downtown Jacksonville as a naval museum. The Council voted 17-0 to approve a 10-year development agreement between the association and the Downtown Investment Authority to move the warship to Pier No. 1 adjacent to the Berkman Marina at the Shipyards along the St. Johns River.
The vote gives the DIA the ability to authorize two five-year extensions.
News4Jax is a Jacksonville Daily Record news partner.