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S.S. United States: Looking to the Future

I left you in my last post with the purchase of the S.S. United States by the SS United States Conservancy in the summer of 2010. The Conservancy had saved the historic vessel from the scrapyard, but what do they plan to do with the ship?

The donations from the “Save Our Ship” campaign allowed the Conservancy to purchase the ship and to pay the costs of keeping the vessel as it is today. However, like so many of the United States‘ previous owners, the Conservancy has big plans for the record-setting ocean liner.

In September of last year, the SS United States Redevelopment Project was set up as a division of Atlantic Logistics Agency, Inc. The plan is to refurbish the United States and make the vessel the centerpiece of a “stationary, multi-purpose waterfront destination”, including a museum and education center, retail space, and much more. The Conservancy believes that the potential for investment and development is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to give the historic vessel a second life.

While no concrete plan or contract has yet been drawn up by the Conservancy, several recent developments show that the project is gaining momentum and moving in the right direction. In February, work began to prepare the interior of the ship for redevelopment, as any unuseable metal and other materials are being removed and recycled. The project itself continues to grow, as more and more groups are recruited to the cause. In late March, the SS United States Redevelopment Project recruited New Canaan Advisors as real estate advisors to the growing team.

As with any project of this scale, the problem is funding. The SS United States Conservancy has an ongoing fundraising project to aid in the redevelopment of the SS United States. Part of the fundraising effort are screenings of the documentary film SS United States: Made In America, which had its premier showing at The Mariners’ Museum with Susan L. Gibbs, granddaughter of the ship’s designer William Francis Gibbs, serving as host.

William Francis Gibbs, designer of the steamship United States, stands in front of the ship at a Hudson River Pier in New York. Mr. Gibbs wears his trademark fedora hat.From the Library collections.

The Mariners’ Museum Library has hosted visitors from the SS United States Conservancy, as well as researchers of the vessel. Steven Ujifusa visited The Mariners’ Museum Library on several occasions researching his upcoming book on the SS United States. Ujifusa’s A Man and His Ship, chronicling the design and construction of the United States, will be released in July.

As a student of history and as a citizen, I sincerely hope that the Conservancy succeeds in fulfilling its dream of breathing new life into this national treasure. I look forward to seeing what the SS United States Redevelopment Project has in store for the vessel. One thing is for sure: the SS United States will not go down without a fight.

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