JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A little-known project to save a decommissioned U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer and make it a downtown Jacksonville a tourist destination has a motto: "Bring the USS Adams home."
The USS Charles F. Adams was based at Mayport for more than 20 years.
Two groups hope the warship's new mission will be as a museum, café -- even offer overnight stays on board. The multi-million dollar project involves the Adams Class Veterans Association (ACVA) and the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (JHNSA).
We made the trip to Philadelphia, where the ship, nicknamed the Charlie Duece, is waiting for renovations to begin.
Retired Navy Capt. Bob Branco with the ACVA was the tour guide, driving 10 hours from his home in Maine to show off the inside the torn-apart, and rusted-out piece of history he once called home.
"There's certainly a lot of work to be done," Branco said as he shook his head, still amazed at the destroyed equipment and broken floors of this nearly 440-foot-long destroyer.
Branco has an impressive resume. He was once on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanded the USS Adams for two years in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s.
He says it breaks his heart to now see a trashed bridge, though it's a necessity when decommissioning a ship.
"They destroy it so that nobody else can use it again," Branco explained.
However, he's working hard to make this new mission a reality, bringing life back to the warship, soon to be moored off Bay Street, across from the Maxwell House Coffee plant and just a few blocks from EverBank Field.
The warship currently sits at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where it's been since it was retired in 1990.
Now Branco and a team of enthusiastic historians are expecting to have the USS Adams relocated from Philly to Jacksonville's downtown shipyards area by the beginning of next year, expecting an economic impact for the city to be at least $4-million each year.
Other cities have already done it. Baltimore and San Diego to name a few that are making millions after turning a Navy ship into a museum.
Branco is doing everything he can to help, salvaging all kinds of replacement parts and equipment for nearly a decade from scrapped Navy ships across the country.
The target date to have the public climb aboard is the Spring of 2015, pending some governmental red tape on both the federal and local levels.
With $2 million already raised, the two groups heading the project hope to raise a matching $2 million to finish the basics, such as developing the pier and shipyards property with parking spaces and restroom facilities, as well as creating the basic tour routes and first berthing compartment for sleep-overs aboard the USS Adams.
The plan is to allow different youth groups, including the Boy and Girl Scouts, to experience what daily life was like aboard the USS Adams.
The organizing groups tell us you're sure to have your fill of the role Jacksonville and the USS Adams played in history throughout interactive displays and tours.
They also say you'll enjoy a cafe' where the antisubmarine rocket launcher sits, and possible meeting spaces where seamen once ran to for some rest and relaxation.
In a few years, some group members hope to even add a bed-and-breakfast where the warship's top brass once slept.
Stay tunned to News4Jax as we track the progress of the USS Adams' homecoming and debut for its new mission as a floating museum.
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