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CONTE BIANCAMANO Decked!

Posted on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 by

CONTE BIANCAMANO Decked! by Peter Knego

When beloved ships such as the former FRANCE/NORWAY or HAMBURG/MAXIM GORKIY were recently sold for scrap, there was a hue and cry for certain architectural features, such as their funnels, to be preserved.

Although it could be argued such an undertaking is easier said than done, one rare example of preserving a substantial portion of an old ocean liner deserves special mention.


The Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, Milan.

It looms within the nondescript brick and glass structure of Milan’s Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology. Towering over exhibits of sailing ships and canoes, the entire five deck forward portion of the 1925-built CONTE BIANCAMANO’s superstructure has been enshrined here since its careful removal, transport to Milan and painstaking rebuilding some forty six years ago.

Please click on image to view a larger version. All vintage images are copyrighted to the Maurizio Eliseo collection and all current images are by and copyright Peter Knego 2010, unless otherwise noted.

Ocean Liner Fittings, Furniture and Art For Sale at MidShipCentury.com

Peter Knego Videos Link: ON THE ROAD TO ALANG and THE WORLD’s PASSENGER FLEET, Volume Nine

Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology

Mark Perry’s footage of CONTE BIANCAMANO on YouTube.com

Peter Knego’s Sea Treks Video, “CONTE BIANCAMANO, Then and Now”, on YouTube.com


The CONTE BIANCAMANO on trials in 1925, wearing her original Lloyd Sabaudo colors.

In 1925, the Scottish shipyard of William Beardmore and Company completed the 23,562 gross ton SS CONTE BIANCAMANO for Italy’s Lloyd Sabaudo to carry passengers from Genoa to New York.

Named for the Humberto Ui, who founded the Savoy, the BIANCAMANO was neither the largest nor fastest vessel of her type but she was nonetheless a handsome, well-proportioned ship with a vertical bow, gentle sheer, tall twin funnels and a counter stern. Initially, the vessel carried 280 first, 420 second, 390 third and 660 fourth class passengers. The twin screw liner, capable of 21 knots, was followed in 1928 by the similar, Trieste-built CONTE GRANDE. Internally, both ships were fitted in ornate, almost Baroque style by renowned interior architect Adolfo Coppedé.


CONTE B in Italia livery, circa 1932.

In 1932, the major Italian transatlantic passenger shipping companies merged to form Italian Line, and the CONTE BIANCAMANO was painted in their red, green and white funnel markings. She was switched to River Plate service until 1935, when she was commandeered for trooping duties to Massawa.


A rare view of the then all white “White Handed Count” in Lloyd Triestino’s livery, circa 1937.

In 1936, the CONTE B was chartered to Lloyd Triestino for voyages to the Far East but returned to Italia in 1939 for their South American run.


The USS HERMITAGE (AP-54) in drydock at Bethlehem Steel in 1947.

In 1941, she was seized at Cristobal and requisitioned for service as the World War Two troop transport USS HERMITAGE (AP-54). In 1947, upon completion of her trooping and repatriation duties, the USS HERMITAGE was returned to Italy and given her original name.


Arrival at Monfalcone for a complete overhaul and modernization, 1948.


In 1949, a virtually new ship emerges from Monfalcone.

The well-worn vessel was given a major overhaul along with the CONTE GRANDE. Were there not such an immediate demand for tonnage on the emigrant service, it is entirely possible both ships would have been disposed of in favor of building completely from scratch. Instead, the Italian government sponsored a contest among the nation’s interior and marine designers. For the BIANCAMANO, the work was ultimately awarded to Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale, Umberto Nordio, Alesandro Psarcaropulo and the legendary team of Gio Ponti and Nino Zoncada. Contributions by the finest and most influential Italian artists of the Midcentury era included Emanuele Luzzati (his first sea-going work), Marcello Mascherini, Marco Sirini and others.


The Renaissance begins: The CONTE BIANCAMANO on her post war trials, 1949.


And an aerial stern view at Genoa.


Modernized starboard superstructure towers over Trieste.

Externally, the BIANCAMANO received a new, raked bow, smaller, more modern funnels and sleek bulwarks that gave her a much more streamlined appearance. Her tonnage increased slightly to 23,562.

Ponte Sole.


Wheelhouse, facing starboard.


Port Sun Deck facing forward.


Ponte Lance.


Captain’s Cabin, facing forward/starboard.


Verandina cabin, facing port.


Ponte Passeggiatta.


The magnificently-rendered First Class Veranda by Gustavo Pulitzer Finale.


First Class vestibule balustrade, embedded with sculptures by Marcello Moscherini.


Models adorn the first class stairtower.


First Class Lounge, facing aft/port.


Forward/starboard corner of the First Class Lounge, featuring a wool tapestry by Mario Sironi.


First Class Writing Room, facing aft.


First Class Bar, facing aft.


First Class Dining Room.


First Class suite.

Many of the artists who contributed to the CONTE BIANCAMANO would also do work for the Italia, Lloyd Triestino, Costa, Home Lines, Incres and Adriatica newbuilds that followed through the mid 1960s. Two of them, Genoa-based Emanuele Luzzatti and Roncole-based Enrico Paulucci, contributed as late as 1971 to Sun Line’s STELLA SOLARIS (ex CAMBODGE).


Shared First and Cabin Class Cinema, facing port/forward


Cabin Class Smoking Room, facing aft/port.


Cabin Class Lido, facing port.


Cabin Class outside stateroom.


Tourist Class Ladies Sitting Room


Tourist Class Dining Room.

With a revised capacity of 215 first class, 333 cabin class, and 1030 tourist class, the BIANCAMANO returned to winter River Plate and summer New York service. Carrying wealthy Italian businessmen, clergy and tourists as well as emigrants seeking a better life, the CONTE BIANCAMANO and her equally stylish running mate, CONTE GRANDE remained successfully in service until 1960. By then, a new generation of Italian liners was on the horizon and both of these ladies were nearing the end of their useful lives.


The “face” of the CONTE BIANCAMANO as it appears today.


Aft portion of superstructure from the bottom level of the museum.

The BIANCAMANO went to La Spezia for scrapping, where her superstructure was carefully removed and shipped in sections via train to Milan where it was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1964. The equally splendid GRANDE was broken up in 1961.

CONTE BIANCAMANO Top to Bottom Tour: Today

Top Of The House


Over port wing from top of house.


Top of the house, facing aft.


Top of the house, facing forward.

Ponte Sole


Inboard from starboard wing.


Telegraph on starboard wing.


Port wheelhouse door.


Port Ponte Sole, facing aft.


Wheelhouse, facing port.


Chart room, facing starboard.


Starboard Ponte Sole, facing forward.

Ponte Lance


Captain’s Cabin, facing forward/starboard.


Midships Ponte Lance passage facing aft.


Port Verandina suite, facing port.


Suite sitting area.


Suite w/c.

Ponte Passeggiata


First Class Verandah Lounge, facing forward/port.


Port side of Veranda Lounge, facing forward.


Relief in the Veranda Lounge, starboard side.


Flying ram or bull detail in the gypsum ceiling composition depicting the “Legend of Jason” by Marcello Moscherini.


Veranda sconces and net panel by Righi.


More Veranda ceiling detail by Moscherini.

Although just the First Class Veranda portion of the ship is accessible to the public (it is also used for private meetings and gatherings), there are plans to open up the rest of the CONTE BIANCAMANO to small groups of visitors on guided tours. In the meantime, it is well worth visiting the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology to see this amazing, unique feat of ocean liner preservation in person.


The “face”, facing starboard from balcony perspective.


The “face” from forward.


Starboard side from museum balcony, just aft of the structure.

What a feat of engineering it took to salvage and rebuild the CONTE BIANCAMANO’s remains! Imagine if such a project were undertaken to save a portion of the first MAURETANIA, the second NIEUW AMSTERDAM or even the third FRANCE. One has to salute the directors of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology and the City of Milan for having the vision and fortitude to make such a thing happen.

END: Posted on 7 April, 2010.  Updated April 24, 2010.

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Maurizio Eliseo, Marco Lezzi

References: “Amare Un Cantiere: Egone Missio E Lo Stabilimento Di Monfalcone” by Maurizio Eliseo, “Crociere Nell’Arte: Cruising Into Art” by Matteo Fochessati and Paolo Piccione, “The Lido Fleet” by Peter C. Kohler, “Nino Zoncada” by Paolo Piccione, “Six Wonderful Days” by Paolo Piccione, etc., “Transatlantici, The History of the Great Italian Liners on the Atlantic” by Maurizio Eliseo and Paolo Piccione, “Trieste E Le Navi: Una Storia Per Immagini I Transatlantici” by Maurizio Eliseo and Claudio Erné

Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology

Dedicated to the late Jan Loeff, foremost fan of the CONTE BIANCAMANO.

25 Responses to CONTE BIANCAMANO Decked!

  1. JON FOSTIK

    April 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Que Belleza!!! When I was on a cruise a few years ago on the MSC Opera, a dining room waiter and I struck up a conversation about famous Italian liners. I told him of those I visited ” back in the day” at Pier 84 including the Conte B. He was overjoyed and mentioned that his father worked on the very same liner. It would have been nice to have either Costa or MSC name some of their ships after the “Gloriosi Conti” or other fabled Italian liners. The tongue twisting names of MSC and Costa vessels, while novel, just can’t compete with the classic’s.

    Jon Fostik

  2. Dan

    April 9, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Absolutely amazing! What a fantastic and informative article, including the deck plans was brilliant. You really brought a ship I did not know that much about to life for me.

  3. Ken Malcolm

    April 9, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Fantastic! That is truly amazing!

  4. Croix Picoriello

    April 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Aw Peter, thanks so much for that.. All those months I was porting in Genoa every other week, I would have gladly hopped the train to Milano to see this.. It is now on my bucket list for the next time I’m in Italy..

    Cheers

    Croix

  5. Cindy Spaziani

    April 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Appreciate the time spent putting this information together. My mother in law was born in Italy and sailed on this ship, arriving in NY City in 1930. She is now celebrating her 90th birthday. This has brought back many memories for her. Thank You!

  6. Peter Knego

    April 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Thank you for the kind words! :) Cindy, coincidentally, I just posted a video clip for CONTE B today. You can find it on the front page in the far right column. How wonderful that your mother can share such memories with you. Please give her my best wishes for a most happy birthday!

  7. Giuliano

    June 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Unbelievable, I actually was one and half years old when my Mother and I left Italy to live in Canada on this ship. Wow pictures of the ship we sailed on in 1954, thanks a lot for the info and pictures.

  8. Patricia

    August 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been looking for photos and information on this ship. My grandfather served on this ship when it was the USS Hermitage. It brought tears to my eyes and has helped us put more information together on my grandpa. Awesome!

  9. michelle

    December 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

    i have a menu and other stuff that was my grandmas when she sailed to the US in 1952

  10. Robert Berridge

    February 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Norman Rockwell along with a couple of his buddies sailed from Gibraltar to NYC – September 14th thru 21st, 1928 on this steamship.

  11. Salvatore Mazzaferro

    April 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I sailed on the Conte, with my mother and four brothers from the Port of
    Naples the last week of August 1952 voyage to Canada, arrived at Port
    Of Halifax, Pier 21 on the first week of September and then the train trip to
    Montreal. I’ve been looking for the passenger list of that voyage but to no avail, if by any chance if somebody out there has this document, it would be gratefully appreciated.

    salmazz@videotron.ca

    Thank you

  12. Kenneth Eden

    April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Salvatore,

    You could try http://www.nautiques.net or, Peter Knego, at mid-century, just ask, these two great sites may be of help

  13. Peter Knego

    April 16, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Thanks, Kenneth. Unfortunately, I only have things that were once integral parts of the ships, themselves. Nautiques or Ebay might be the best bet for passenger lists.

    All the best, Peter

  14. Darlina

    June 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    This is the ship my father sailed on when he left Italy in the early 50’s and started a new life in Toronto, Canada. I have heard many stories of his voyage and hope we can visit the museum on a future trip to Italy. Amazing history and thank you.

  15. pasquale ranucci

    January 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    dont know if it matters much to any one but i was born aboard this ship on oct 26 1951 the captain was my god father any one have info

  16. Frank Mastronardi

    April 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    We sailed on the Conte Biancamano from Naples in February 1960 and arrived in Halifax on February 22, 1960. I was only 9 years old and immigrating to Canada with my parents. I still have a fond memory of our dining room maitre who would sneak me a chocolate bar at night after diner. It was a hectic crossing because the seas of February can be very turbulent. However with the passing of time it still holds some fond memories.

  17. Daniel Rosenzweig

    November 5, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Fascinating! My father, his parents, and his little sister sailed on the Conte Biancamano to Shanghai in 1939, having fled by train from Frankfurt, Germany, to Italy. Its amazing to be able to see the ship! However, he didn’t trvel first class.

    Thanks so much for these pictures and the information!

  18. siran khachadourian

    June 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    My parents,brothers and I immigrated to NY and arrived 7-5-56 on the conte biancamano from port in Lebanon.I’m certain my love for Italian music and food is from this time of travel.We sailed 3rd class and didn’t attend the evening festivities,but the memories of the beautiful music and formal gowns in the ballroom have never left me. We don”t have any pictures of this trip sad to say. If anyone may have pictures to share,I’d be thrilled. Looking forward to next trip to Italy to include seeing this ship again. So surprised to have found this site,just took a chance to google ship name as I had just come across our passage receipt for 700.00 for 5 of us. kacha_dorian@sbcglobal.net

  19. Frank Gallucci

    August 11, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Great article. My mother, brother and sister landed in Halifax, Pier 21 from Italy. We travelled to Canada on the Conte Biancamano. Nice to read the history of the ship that brought us to our new land.

  20. Isabela B. Gonzalez

    October 19, 2013 at 9:21 am

    WOW! Il Conte Biancamano!! Your wonderfully detailed article on the ship that took my sister and I and step father and mother(Isang Tapales) back to the Philippines in 1938 to escape the Nazi threat in Europe. Isang Tapales (my mom) was a filipino opera singer, who enjoyed a 17 year operatic career in Europe, launched in Milan, via the Scala di Milano’s Opera company in 1922 and ending in 1938. She was hailed as the greatest Madam Butterfly of her time by the Italian columnists of the day – one in the daily paper, Il Popolo D’Italia, called for the Italian sopranos of the day to go and learn from this diminutive ‘Japanese’ singer (the Philippines at the time was unknown as it belonged to the USA!!) with the big voice and the musicality of angels.” Finding the Biancamano in your article, took me back to that time, the journey ‘home’ and the many memorable events on the ship; all still fresh in my memory. Thank you so much for a pleasurably nostalgic moment!!
    Isabela Gonzalez
    in my memory

  21. Peter Knego

    October 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Dear Isabela,

    What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing these vivid memories of your mother and the CONTE B!

    Warmest regards from California,

    Peter (MaritimeMatters)

  22. Pasquale Valente

    December 7, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    The Conte Biancamano brought my Family and I to Canada in 1955 I was 4 1/2 years old at the time.
    I don’t remember any of the trip but it must have been quite the experience for my parents to immigrate to a new land with 3 very young kids

  23. Luis Viveros

    April 15, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Dear Peter,

    The mother of a dear friend of mine was in the group of Polish immigrants traveling from India to Mexico, sailing from Mombai to Los Angels onboard the USS Hermitage in 1943. I started some online research and found your article, it’s fantastic! I am based in Geneva, Switzerland and will go to Milan just to visit SS Conte B’s deck.

    Do you know by any chance if there is a book published about this fine ship, or if it is possible to find parts after the 1948 refurbishment or the scrapping in 1964? I know absolutely nobody in the maritime collectibles industry, could you lead me in the right direction to a maritime antique shop in Genoa?

    Many thanks,

    Luis Viveros
    viveros@bluewin.ch

  24. Peter Knego

    April 18, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Dear Luis,

    Thanks so much for your wonderful message. I’m so happy you were able to discover that a part of the old CONTE B lives on. There are a number of great books by Maurizio Eliseo and Paolo Piccione that cover the history of the great Italian liners but none dedicated specifically to this ship. After 50 plus years, it’s unlikely anything is left of her for sale but your best bet would be to take a train to La Spezia (south of Genoa) and look in the various antique stores there. I understand a few have bits from the ships that were broken up there but the prices are most likely staggering.

    Thanks again,

    Peter

  25. Ann Marchesini Brisbois

    November 21, 2014 at 6:03 am

    My mother with 3 small children ,myself being the oldest sailed on the Conte Biancamano from Genoa mid July 1955. We landed in Halifax July 21 1955. This summer I will be travelling to Halifax to mark the 60 th anniversary of my arrival in Canada. My children and grandchildren will be joining me at Pier 21.

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