The SS United States once had the reputation of being the largest ship ever built by the country of its name, but it is now long forgotten.
Today is the age of giant cruise ships and the golden age of ocean liners is long gone. Two ships in the United States moored reminiscent of those days of luxury transatlantic voyages to the Titantic are the RMS Queen mary and “America’s Flagship” the SS United States.
Today, the RMS Queen mary is a hotel and attraction in California (currently closed for restoration). While the SS United States languishes and rusts on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Preservation efforts are underway to restore the ship and once again make it a proud American attraction.
The early years and the records
The SS United States was built between 1950 and 1951 and remains the largest ocean liner ever built entirely in the United States. She was built for United States Lines and holds the record for the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic (in both directions).
- Built: 1950-51
- The biggest: The largest ocean liner ever to be built in the United States
- The fastest: The fastest liner to cross the Atlantic
- 100 feet: Longer than the RMS Titanic
The SS United States managed to maintain the record for the fastest transatlantic speed since its maiden voyage.
It was even designed so that it could be converted into a personnel carrier if the Navy demanded it in wartime. She continued to maintain an uninterrupted transatlantic passenger service scheduled until 1969.
The decline of ocean liners and retirement
As the SS United States landed, a new era dawned on the horizon, and by the 1970s transatlantic airliners took over from traditional liners. It has been sold several times since the 1970s, with each new owner failing to make it profitable.
Today, the RMS queen mary 2 is the last liner still in active service and continues to perpetuate the era of transatlantic liners. It is the last liner still in service in the world, the vast majority having been retired for a long time.
- RMS Queen Mary 2: The last liner left in service (also the second largest passenger ship ever built)
Ultimately, the SS United States’ props were auctioned off and its hazardous waste (like asbestos) was removed from it. In 1994, she was completely undressed. Around 1996, she was towed to Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia and has been stuck there ever since.
- Stripped: The SS United States was dismantled in 1994
- Moored: At Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia
Subsequent preservation efforts
Today, efforts are being made to preserve the record-breaking liner named after the United States. Since 2009, the SS United States Conservancy has been trying to raise funds to preserve the ship.
- SS United States Conservancy: The preservation group trying to preserve the ship
The group purchased the ship in 2011, but none of their plans for restoring the ship have come true.
Things looked grim for the SS United States in 2015 as funds ran out and the preservation group began accepting offers to scrapped the ship. However, this did not happen as enough donations were raised to keep her docked and keep her hopes of a possible restoration alive.
- Disposal: The SS United States was almost scrapped in 2015
If one visits the incredible Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, one can find one of its four-bladed propellers on display mounted at the entrance to the museum. It had four other manganese bronze propellers and two outboard screws and two inboard screws.
- Propellers: Stripped from the ship and exhibited in museums
Its other propellers are on display at other sites across the country, including the grounds of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va., And near the SUNY waterfront. Maritime College in Fort Schuyler, New York.
Latest preservation plan
According to the SS United States Conservancy, the latest proposed plan is for it to be part of a large real estate project. The project is located in the New York tri-state area and the developer is RXR Realty. On March 10, 2020, it was announced that:
“…the ship will be transformed into a permanently moored floating structure, anchored by a hotel program and a collection of unique hospitality and cultural spaces within the 600,000 square feet available for development. These offerings would include a world-class museum honoring the ship’s history and exploring mid-century design, art and innovation. “
There have been no further updates to the site since then, it is not clear whether this latest plan is finally paying off or not.
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