The SS United States eases into port…
The SS United States is the greatest mid-century ocean liner ever built. Incredibly it’s still afloat.
Although it sits derelict, berthed on the Delaware River in South Philadelphia, it’s not truly abandoned, as passionate fans from around the world strive to fund its restoration.
Philadelphia author and historian, Steven Ujifusa, is one of its champions and he’s just published A Man And His Ship, a biography about naval architect William Francis Gibbs, who designed his technical masterpiece to be the fastest, finest and most beautiful ocean liner of its time.
The 2000-passenger “floating Waldorf Astoria” was “designed to be extremely safe – it was fireproof and had virtually no wood – and she had the speed and maneuverability of a Navy destroyer,” says Ujifusa, in an interview published recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Still, its technical marvels couldn’t compete with modern jet aircraft, and after seventeen years breaking sea records and safely transporting tens of thousands of passengers, the great ship was retired. By 2009, stripped bare to its hull and destined for a scrap ship graveyard in India, it was saved by last-minute funding from entrepreneur and philanthropist Gerry Lenfest, who came to the aid of the non-profit SS United States Conservancy, headed by Susan Gibbs, granddaughter of William Gibbs.
The ship’s long saga isn’t over yet, and its future is as precarious as ever, but there’s hope still to revitalize this former grand dame of the seas. To learn more, go to the Conservancy’s website at www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org.
For an in-person visit to the great ship, it’s best viewed from the Ikea Store‘s large second floor restaurant windows, located at 2206 S. Columbus Boulevard, directly across the street from the ship’s dock site.
Photo courtesy of Telestar Logistics