As Jay discussed in a previous post, The Port of Call blog would like to begin a conversation about the famous S.S. United States, a ship with a fabled history that was built right here in Newport News. As a current history major and future Museum Studies student, I am very passionate about the conservation of any piece of American history. But as a resident of Newport News for the last four years and a student at Christopher Newport University, I am especially devoted to preserving a historic ship as closely tied to this community as the S.S. United States.
So what is the current state of the United States? After being removed from service in 1969, the United States passed through a number of hands, each with their own plans for resurrection or reconstruction that were all quickly shelved. In 1996, United States was towed to its current location on the Delaware River, just outside of downtown Philadelphia.
The owners of the ship at that time, Norwegian Cruise Line, developed what was perhaps the most ambitious plan to date. They hoped to rebuild and refurbish the United States as the flagship of a new American line. However, the market for a new cruise line just did not exist, and the costs associated with reconstructing the vessel were simply too high.
The United States faced its demise in 2010, as Norwegian Cruise Line, tired of absorbing the costs associated with keeping the unseaworthy vessel moored without a purpose, began taking bids to scrap the ship. Enter the SS United States Conservancy, a non-profit organization incorporated in 1992. After learning that the ship would be for sale, the Conservancy started its “Save Our Ship” project to raise funds for the purchase and conservation of the United States. On July 1, 2010, after a hefty donation of $5.8 million from a wealthy philanthropist, the Conservancy purchased the United States from Norwegian Cruise Line. It seemed that the United States had been saved from the scrapyard, and would live to see another day.
Look for more about the current state of the S.S. United States in the coming days, as well as more information about the ship’s ties to Christopher Newport University. If you have any questions or comments, and especially if you have any memories of the great ship, feel free to share them here!