Preservation group is new SS United States owner

February 1, 2011 4:01:13 PM PST
Call it a gale force wind behind the rusted and rundown SS United States. It has a new owner committed to keeping it from the scrap yard.

"What we really need to do is to establish the ship as a viable self-sustaining, multipurpose attraction," Dan McSweeney of the SS United States Conservancy said.

The vessel was launched in 1952 and is considered by some the greatest ocean liner ever built. It still holds the record as fastest ship to cross the Atlantic.

Thousands of immigrants arrived in America on it, but for the past 15 years, it has been berthed in South Philadelphia and neglected.

Susan Gibbs's grandfather designed the legendary liner and she's fought tirelessly to prevent it from being scrapped.

"Unfortunately, it's a short stay of execution for the vessel. We have the funds for 20 months of upkeep so we have a lot of work to do," Gibbs said.

Philanthropist, Gerry Lenfest, has made it all possible after he pledged nearly $6-million.

The new owner now must find a developer willing to restore it into a vibrant attraction.

The price tag could be hundreds of millions of dollars.

The ship is over 3 football fields long and has over 650,000 square feet of usable space. The non-profit would like to turn it into a mixed use property with a hotel, bars and restaurants and even a world class museum.

Joe Rota toured the ship this afternoon. He worked on the vessel in the 1950's.

"[The memories] just never stop and they're all good," Rota said.

Whether the SS United States creates new memories is still uncertain, but for now it has new lease on life.