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Harrisburg rediscovers lost artifact, Reed speaks on auction - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg rediscovers lost artifact, Reed speaks on auction

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Harrisburg held a week-long auction that drew bidders from across the globe and in the process rid itself of artifacts and baubles collected by former Mayor Stephen Reed.

Or did it?

For the better part of two decades, abc27 News has reported about the Royal Savage, a Revolutionary War ship that was commanded by Benedict Arnold - before he became a famous traitor - and sunk in 1776 in New York's Lake Champlain.

It was brought up to the surface in 1934, and bought up by Reed in 1995 for $42,500.

In 2001, the late Mike Ross reported for abc27 that the ship would be a special exhibit for the Civil War Museum.

In 2009, I reported the Royal Savage was just a pile of boards sitting in a city-owned garage.

Why was the ship not auctioned off in the 2013 artifact purge?

On Tuesday, we asked auctioneer Arlan Ettinger of Guernsey's Auction Company about the Royal Savage.

"It doesn't ring a bell, sorry," he said.

When asked about it Wednesday, Mayor Linda Thompson was equally unaware of the Revolutionary War artifact that her city owns.

"I haven't had time to go down there looking at artifacts," Thompson said. "My time has been better spent at solving the bigger challenges."

Reached by phone, Reed refused to go on camera but did go on the record. I asked about the Savage and he launched into a history lesson about its importance and its background.

But Mayor, I asked, do you know where it is?

He told me the last time he saw it was in that city-owned garage.

Then he said, "I hope those idiots didn't think they were a bunch of boards and threw them away."

So on Wednesday, abc27 went searching for literally sunken treasure. With a city crew, we went back to that garage that housed so many artifacts. In a corner, under plastic hoses and cardboard, we found it: a Revolutionary War ship disguised as a wooden junk pile.

Those city employees didn't know what it was until we told them. They then said it may go in the next artifact auction in the fall.

Reed said he didn't attend last week's auction, but noted 10,000 bidders from 40 countries is vindication of his dream for an Old West Museum.

"The auction proved that there's great interest in these artifacts," he said. He wistfully added, "They would have made a great museum."

The man who is widely criticized for spending millions of dollars in public money to amass his collection criticized the way it was unloaded. He said Guernsey's did the city of Harrisburg no favors in the way it mixed Western artifacts with those of different historical eras.

Reed said too many artifacts went too cheaply.

"Collectors got good deals," he said. "They paid pennies on the dollar on many items."

Thompson bristles at Reed's criticism, not just because it's made by the guy who created the problem in the first place.

"If he could've offered a way to do it better, then I would hope he would've contacted me." Thompson said.

Of course, there are metaphors galore between Reed's vision for Harrisburg and a sunken ship; a once grand vessel siting in a dirty heap, in a dusty garage.

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