|Peking in her berth at South Street Seaport Museum|
Last weekend was is the final chance step aboard Peking — the storied, black and white ship that has towered above the South Street Seaport since 1974. She’ll be hauled back to her birthplace in Hamburg, Germany, next spring and will be replaced by the Wavertree, another tall ship that has more New York history than the Peking.
The South Street Seaport Museum has been in financial straits since Hurricane Sandy and started negotiating a deal with Germany back in 2012 to get the Peking back home.
The museum was willing to give her away as a gift but needed the cash to get her across the Atlantic. Finally the German government agreed to invest over $30 million in bringing the Peking back and restoring her for her 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 decision to give Peking to Germany is in the best interest of the museum and the ship.
“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.”
Built in 1911 by the German company F. Laeisz, Peking is part of the last generation of sailing ships, constructed right as steam-powered vessels started to dominate the market. She is reputed to be the last square-rigger to double Cape Horn.
The Peking arrived in the city in 1974 at the ripe age of 63 after narrowly avoiding spending the rest of her life in a scrapyard. She has a long history as a merchant ship from South America to Europe, where she transported nitrates, essentially bird droppings to be used as a fertilizer, between the two continents. She later fought in World War I, spent some time as a training ship and eventually became a school for boys in England, where she was briefly renamed the Arethusa. Peking eventually outswam her usefulness and was headed to the scrapyard when a wealthy navy lieutenant rescued her and brought her to the South Street Seaport Museum, where she has lived ever since.
|Peking as she sits today|
Until next time,