Bring the SS United States to Manhattan, say Local Preservationists

By DNAinfo Staff on January 8, 2010 7:10am  | Updated on January 6, 2010 12:59pm

The SS United States is currently docked in Philadelphia.
The SS United States is currently docked in Philadelphia.
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Photo: Big Ship Films

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Local activists wants to bring an historic ocean liner that is languishing in Philadelphia to Manhattan before it's turned into razor blades.

The SS United States, which had its maiden voyage in 1952, once carried passengers such as Marilyn Monroe, Harry Truman and Salvador Dali across the Atlantic to Manhattan. Its Norwegian Cruise Line owners have been trying to sell it for more than a yeacrewmer, and if they can't find a buyer soon, members of the SS United States Conservancy fear it will be sold for scrap.

“That would be unacceptable,” aid Dan McSweeney, executive director for the SS United States Conservancy.

McSweeney — an Upper West Sider whose father was a crewmember on the ship during its 17-year run — has now started speaking with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, New York Economic Development Corporation and other local organizations about moving the ship to Chelsea as a stationary attraction. He plans to present his plan at a forthcoming meeting of Community Board 4's waterfront committee.

He isn’t the only one with a plan. Dan Trachtenberg, chairman of another boat-backing group called SS United States Foundation, is moving his Washington, D.C.-based organization to Manhattan this spring to help galvanize the movement to bring the ship here.

“It would be a major tragedy to lose it," Trachtenberg said. "It’s the only one of its kind. It’s an American ship but very much a New York ship.”

The 990-foot-long ship once held the record for fastest trip across the Atlantic — three-and-a-half days — and was retired in the late 1960s when the airplane became the primary mode of trans-Atlantic transport.

SS United States originally sat on Pier 86 in Midtown near where the USS Intrepid is currently located.

Trachtenberg — who worked as a curator for the South Street Seaport until 2008 – believes the ship’s poor fate was due to its quiet excellence.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor on the SS United States. Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy also traveled on the ship.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor on the SS United States. Marilyn Monroe and President John F. Kennedy also traveled on the ship.
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Photo: Courtesy of Charlie Anderson

“There was never one built like it before or since in this country,” said Trachtenberg. “It was flawless and that was the problem. If we had the Titanic, it wouldn’t be sitting in Philadelphia.”

Norwegian Cruise Line said it has tried to find a buyer for the ship to no avail. But they are now working with the SS United States Conservancy to focus on finding one locally.

Trachtenberg said the ship would be ideal for a public space or a museum.

What remains to be seen is how the United States would get to Manhattan as it's is no longer seaworthy.

“Well, it wouldn’t go under its own power,” said McSweeney. “But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

 

The SS United States as it was in its glory days.
The SS United States as it was in its glory days.
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Photo: Courtesy of Janette Gautier

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