SS United States: Rescue Sought For Once-Fastest Ship

The SS United States, also referred to as “America’s Flagship,” at one time was known as the fastest and most famed ocean liners in the world. The once grand ship now sits stranded on the Delaware River at Pier 82 in Philadelphia, in dire need of rescuing. The ship’s savior group’s dream is to bring the ship back to its original home port of New York, in order to find a new use for it.

The SS United States Conservancy is searching to find a hero to swoop in to save the ship from the scrap yard, as reported by USA Today on October 28. They are hoping for an angel to save it, by possibly turning it into a grand hotel, convention center, or shopping center. This type of undertaking is a huge job, at an enormous cost, which is well beyond any funds that the group has.

The quest of the group, to find help to conserve the ship, can be seen in a tweet posted over a year ago.

As of now, the amount of money needed just to keep the ship’s rotting corpse afloat is $60,000 a month. One propeller has already been sold off to help pay the ship’s bills. The other 30-pound propeller sits on deck as if waiting for the time when it must be sold off as well.

The SS United States launched within the decade following the end of WWII. The government funded two-thirds of the original $70 million cost of construction, with the notion that the ship would be used to carry troops to Europe, if needed. The ship was constructed to be quickly adaptable to hold up to 14,000 troops, get underway within 48-hours, and to travel 10,000 miles without the need of refueling.

According to the SS U.S. Conservancy, the vessel had a secret of being the fastest ship, able to reach a speed of beyond 38 knots. On its very first journey, leaving the U.S. for England on July 3, 1952, the SS United States vessel surpassed the United Kingdom’s R.M.S. Queen Mary‘s 14-year-old title of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in record time. Traveling at 36 knots, the famed ship took only under 10 hours to make its maiden voyage.

With the United States feeling more at ease as the Cold War threat dwindled, along with air travel becoming more accessible and popular, the SS United States was docked for good in 1969. It sat in its birth place of Newport News, Virginia, being shredded of all of its contents before being towed to Philadelphia in 1996.

“I’ve never seen anything like the SS United States. It’s been stripped of every surface, decoration and furnishing. All that’s left is the ship’s plaque, welded to the superstructure,” noted the expert speaking in the USA Today video.

In a July 16 tweet, the SS U.S. Conservancy showcased a vintage brochure featuring the once beautiful interiors of the ship.

If the conservancy group does not find a savior for the vessel, its fate might have it die as mere scrap metal. The last time the organization searched for assistance was in 2010, when the then-owner was seeking to auction the ship off. Luckily they got a reprieve from a benefactor who stepped up with aid to keep the vessel afloat. Calling it “A symbol of our nation” Susan Gibbs, the granddaughter of the ship’s architect, has devoted the past 10 years to help preserve it.

The SS United States may have found a champion to help rescue the once grand luxury liner. John Quadrozzi, Jr., owner of the Gowanus Bay Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, is interested in saving the ship. According to an October 28 New York News report, Quadrozzi, Jr. seeks to turn the ship into a multifaceted office and entertainment complex that will be docked at his waterfront terminal.

Quadrozzi has impressive thoughts for fashioning the SS United States‘ gutted interior. His ideas are as grand as the 12 deck, huge ship. Quadrozzi is proposing to fill the vessel’s space of 13 football fields with offices, a gym and swimming pool, places to dine, and a theater, along with a maritime school and a maritime museum. Also impressive is Mr. Quadrozzi’s quest to make the ship eco-friendly. He is proposing to customize the revamped grand ship with the self-sustaining abilities of solar and wind for power, and utilizing waste as a source for energy.

To remake the SS United States into the new impressive structure will be extremely costly. The conservancy estimates the rehab price could be anywhere from $50 million to $200 million. In addition, there will be a $2 million cost just to have the ship towed from Philadelphia to New York. Quadrozzi is offering to give the ship a rent-free home at his terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He is working with the conservancy to speak with potential investors and developers, as well as government agencies, in the hopes of finding enough funding for the undertaking of remaking the ship into a viable community structure.

Quadrozzi is hoping that the conservancy group gives his plan the go-ahead, so that he may begin the project by getting the Red Hook neighborhood involved with planning efforts. He proposes that a steering committee of community members be started. Quadrozzi wants the public to be involved in understanding, and in having a say, as to what the ship’s impact will have on their surroundings.

Gowanus Bay Terminal in Red Hook may be the perfect location for the SS United States to call home. Red Hook already plays home to many rescued vessels that have been reborn into new uses. The 77-year-old Mary A. Whalen, an oil tanker that carried fuel between Brooklyn and Maine, is now being utilized as a floating education space. A listed National Register of Historic Places 100 year old barge, now serves as home to the Waterfront Museum. In 2013 Quadrozzi gave the now nearing 110-year-old SS Yankee a place to call home, after being kicked out of its previous home in Hoboken. The owners of the SS Yankee are seeking to open it as a museum and gallery.

The prospect of having the SS United States make Red Hook its home has members of the community already talking.

“It would have an incredible impact, it would create a huge space of commercial and industrial use in Red Hook which is really in line with what the neighborhood uses are now,” said Victoria Hagman, a member of Community Board 6, who has lived in the area for 13 years. “It will be really exciting to have a historic ship located right here.”

As to the fate of the ship, the conservancy is aiming to make a final decision by early November. The group is presently looking at Quadrozzi’s Red Hook plan, along with another location in Manhattan that has yet to be disclosed. If neither of the New York locations work out, then the conservancy may have to send the SS United States to the scrap yard. Hopefully, there is a guardian angel looking after the ship to seal its fate as a home to be filled with people once again enjoying its structure in its reborn incarnation.

[Photo by Hulton Archive/ Getty Images]