Could the massive ship have a future after 25 years or remain inactive?
PHILADELPHIA CREAM – If you’ve ever walked through South Philly along Columbus Boulevard, you’ve surely glanced at the SS United States.
You may have even wondered a few things. How long has he been there? How did it come to this? Why is he still sitting there?
In 1951, at a cost of over $ 79 million, it left Newport News, Virginia, for its port of registry – New York.
The ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs, originally from Philadelphia, grew up dreaming of designing the world’s fastest ship.
Gibbs saw that dream come true on the ship’s maiden voyage to the UK at 38 knots or 44 mph, breaking the transatlantic speed record in just under 3.5 days.
This record is still held to this day by a passenger ship.
“She set the record with only two-thirds of her power. We don’t know how fast she could have gone,” said Susan Gibbs, Gibbs’ granddaughter.
Susan wants the history of the SS United States to be preserved so that future generations will remember how an engineering marvel this ship is.
“It simply symbolized the strength, resilience and post-war greatness of our nation,” said Susan.
In 1969, with air travel becoming a faster and more efficient means of crossing the Atlantic, the giant ship was withdrawn from service. After many changes of ownership and having been completely stripped of her art deco-themed interior over the years, she made her way up the Delaware River towards Philadelphia.
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The SS was so large that part of its mast had to be removed in order to pass under the Walt Whitman Bridge with only five feet of clearance.
The SS United States has made its home at Pier 82 in South Philadelphia since 1996. It is 175 feet tall and almost 1,000 feet long. He slept there for 25 years.
Although it would be too expensive to remake the ship and the liner, some believe the ship could still be used for something.
Now, some are wondering if anything can be done to bring the ship back to its glory.
“We think the SS United States is an incredible candidate for revitalization. There is 500,000 square feet of usable space. So it could be a mixed-use museum and a development complex,” said Susan.
The massive liner has shown its age over the years. The exterior paint has chipped off the structure. Heavy rust corrosion can be observed, from the railings to the parts of the bridge where you can see through.
However, because it was so well built, the bones are there to make the ship an attraction.
“She’s had a hard time since she was taken off the service. She’s been waiting a very long time. She’s shown great grace and patience, but yes, we have to do this job. It’s her time.” , added Susan.
Part of the ship’s mast had to be removed to leave only a few feet of clearance under the Walt Whitman Bridge.
Currently the ship is owned by the SS United States Conservancy, a nonprofit organization founded in 1992. It costs $ 60,000 a month to moor the ship here in Philadelphia.
Frank DeGiulio, who is himself a sailor, is a member of the conservation board and he hopes they can have it preserved so that future generations can see how much of a technological achievement it is and artistic.
“We have a partner in RXR Realty, they’re in it, both feet in, and they’re doing whatever they can to try to refit this ship,” DeGiulio said.
If you’re wondering why someone doesn’t just turn it back into a cruise liner, the answer is simple.
“The work it would take to get her back to sea would be prohibitively expensive,” DeGiulio said.
So what can we do now while she waits?
As you walk around the old ballroom is completely empty, but once inside you can feel the energy. There is a presence in the room.
Perhaps it was from the dignitaries, stage and film stars who stepped his stern. Or, maybe just the thousands of former passengers who stayed in the cabins that make you feel like she still has something to give.
The conservancy is hoping that someone will come and save it. No doubt it will require a lot of money, but it will take the right vision for the SS to achieve a rebirth.
The once vibrant interior has been stripped down over the decades.
“We’re taking it month by month, but I’m encouraged,” Susan said.
“The ship is famous around the world, especially among sailors like me. You can talk to a sailor anywhere in the world and they know this ship, because of how new it is in speed and design.” , added DeGiulio.
If you’re thinking that maybe it’s time to scrap that towering keel and end her time on the water, Susan Gibbs has an answer for that.
“It would be like destroying a very important part of our history as a nation. I absolutely hope it doesn’t come to this, and I don’t think it will,” she explained.
“I see this illuminated ship, full of people in awe of what she was and what she will become, and she will remain as this remarkable expression of American history, but also a technological innovation and she will simply be alive,” said added Susan.
July marks the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the SS United States in Philadelphia. If you want to help or learn more, visit the conservation website.
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