SS United States Saved From Scrap Yard - FOX 10 News |

SS United States Saved From Scrap Yard


The SS United States docked on Columbus Boulevard has been saved from the scrap yard.

A group of preservationists has raised $3 million to buy the ocean liner, and it will be refit in Philadelphia, according to the SS United States Conservancy.

The Conservancy announced Thursday a donation by Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest of up to $5.8 million.

Fox 29's Mike Jerrick and Steve Keeley previously talked about the effort to save the ocean liner and possible reuses for it on "Good Day."

An event for the announcement is being held Thursday night at a "National Flagship Celebration" from 7 to 10 p.m. in the parking lot of the Ikea in the Columbus Commons, located at 2206 S. Columbus Blvd.

The news was first reported Thursday on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

The conservancy said in a news release, "The funds will be used to purchase the vessel from its current owner, Norwegian Cruise Line/Genting Hong Kong (Norwegian/Genting), and maintain the ship in its current berth for up to 20 months, while redevelopment and refurbishment plans are solidified."

"We are thrilled that the SS United States has received a new lease on life. This is a game-changer in our work to save this irreplaceable American icon," said Conservancy Board President Susan Gibbs, granddaughter of the vessel's designer, William Francis Gibbs. "Mr. Lenfest's vision and generosity give us a fighting chance to preserve the SS United States for generations to come. We also want to recognize the support of Norwegian/Genting. They first listed the ship for sale in early 2009 and turned down higher offers to partner with us in this patriotic effort."

The SS United States has had a variety of owners since being removed from service in 1969. Still the holder of the "Blue Riband" (transatlantic speed record), set 58 years ago on her maiden voyage from New York to England, she is widely considered the greatest ocean liner ever built.

The conservancy says the ship was also a secret weapon during the Cold War, able to be converted to a troop ship capable of carrying an army division 10,000 miles without refueling or replenishment.

The ship became an icon of its era, transporting four American presidents and other heads of state, military and business leaders, and countless celebrities. She also brought many immigrants to America.

The ship was purchased in 2003 with plans to be returned to ocean-going service, but then bids from scrappers were accepted in February 2010.

"Having established a relationship with the Conservancy in 2009, Gerry Lenfest literally swept in at the 11th hour to save this national treasure," said Dan McSweeney, executive director of the organization, whose father emigrated from Scotland to work as a crew member aboard the ship.

The conservancy said it plans to establish a public-private partnership to own and operate the ship as a multi-purpose stationary attraction.

"We are reaching out to potential partners in Philadelphia, New York, and beyond as we begin laying the groundwork for the SS United States' next chapter," Gibbs said in the news release. "The ship offers some 550,000 square feet of space to develop, and her interiors can be configured in a variety of ways. We are putting together plans for a self-sustaining mixed-use complex with restaurant, retail, entertainment, and museum offerings. She has the potential to be a dazzling and dynamic waterfront attraction. The SS United States was an American original and we'll pay tribute to the ship's extraordinary history as we redevelop her for a new era."

The conservancy plans to add new office space in Philadelphia and New York, an expanded board of directors and new "Blue Riband Council" of influential Americans, as well as an Advisory Council of maritime experts and individuals with close ties to the ocean liner.

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