Atomic Aesthetic: NS SAVANNAH, Part Two

Peter Knego continues his tour with the Googie-style Promenade and A Decks of the world’s only nuclear-powered commercial passenger ship, the NS SAVANNAH of 1962.

NS SAVANNAH Association Website

NS SAVANNAH Virtual Tour

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All photos and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012, ctd.

Promenade Deck

Promenade Deck plan. Peter Knego collection.

The NS SAVANNAH’s public spaces, especially after her recent refit, are among the most well-preserved vintage public spaces on board any ship. Key works of art and furniture were kept safely stowed away during the ship’s layup and systematically retrieved and redisplayed for her current incarnation.

Luminous signage.

Promenade Deck forms the base of the teardrop structure and is a showcase of the Googie style that was typical of the post-war era when the atom and space exploration inspired an entirely new aesthetic. Googie was all about ellipses, obtuse angles and asymmetrical shapes.

Forward promenade, facing starboard.

An exquisite walkway fronts the enclosed part of Promenade Deck. Conical windows set into the sharply angled bulkhead peer out onto the bow.

Starboard promenade, facing aft.

The promenades continue aft with sheltered walkways on either side of a suite of public rooms.

Port promenade, facing aft.

The sharply angled bulwarks contribute to the SAVANNAH’s racy lines.

Lounge, facing port.

Directly aft of the enclosed promenade, the elliptical, multi-purpose Main Lounge functioned as a gallery of American art during the ship’s demonstration voyages and a lounge and cinema during her brief passenger service.

Petrified chic.
Main Lounge table top.

Key focal points of the Main Lounge were two angular coffee tables topped with three-inch-thick slabs of petrified wood contributed by the National Parks Service. When SAVANNAH was laid up, they were sent to the Smithsonian along with other key artifacts. One of these tables was brought back to SAVANNAH after her refurbishment.

Veranda, facing aft.

Enclosed galleries on either side of the main stairtower lead aft to the Veranda Lounge which featured angled, full-length windows with a view of the pool area.

Veranda, facing aft in its heyday. Peter Knego collection.

In its heyday, the Veranda was the epitome of American sleek with its polished linoleum dance floor and custom furnishing. Some of the original furnishings, such as the chairs, have disappeared. Vintage replacements were hand-picked from since-scrapped freighters in the U.S. Reserve Fleet.

Atomic Conic.

Although the cocktail tables in the Veranda are no longer illuminated, they are still remarkably stylish with their thick glass tops and inverted conical bases.

Time zone time warp.

A trio of clocks representing time zones in Moscow, Tokyo and Honolulu are on the port side bulkhead just forward of the bar. There are six in all.

Googie style.
Honeycomb elements of blue, white….
…and red.

The Veranda’s key focal point is a glass and metal sculpture behind the bar representing the Periodic Table of Elements.

Circles and seats.

No doubt designer Jack Heaney had fulfilled Eisenhower’s vision in making the SAVANNAH the ideal showcase for his “Atoms For Peace” initiative.

Circles and signage.
Grill detailing.

Although simplistic and in some ways sparse, the SAVANNAH’s design has stood the test of time, brimming with little details waiting to be discovered.

A Deck

Barber Shop porthole.
Barber Shop, facing forward.

A Deck spans the full length of the ship, from the fo’c’sle to the fantail, beginning and ending with the cargo loading areas. Within the superstructure, it commences with port and starboard passageways flanked by the ship’s 30 passenger cabins. On the starboard side, there is a barber shop with most of its original gear still intact. A beauty salon on the port side is awaiting possible restoration.

Operating theater, facing forward.

Across from the barber shop, there is an infirmary that would make a great set for a 1950s sci-fi flick with its polished steel surfaces and massive overhead lighting fixture. The infirmary also had a physics lab to monitor possible effects of radiation.

Purser’s Lobby, facing aft.
Vintage lobby image. Peter Knego collection.

When I last saw the SAVANNAH, her purser’s lobby was a shambles and its famous inverted “S”settee was faded and torn. Now it is resplendent in new linoleum and the settee has been restored to its original, “funky” glory.

Global detail and SS SAVANNAH in Purser’s Lobby.
Deck plans and lobby signage.

In the forward portion of the purser’s lobby, there are nice details, including an aluminum deck plan, a map of the world and a model of the first SAVANNAH.

Purser’s Desk.

And here is a close up of the purser’s counter in the aft portion of the lobby.

NS SAVANNAH suite. Peter Knego collection.

The SAVANNAH had a large suite with a separate bedroom and sitting area that now serves as one of the ship’s offices.

Refurbished stateroom number 3, facing starboard.
Stateroom 3, facing port.
Stateroom 3 WC.
Stateroom 3 vanity.

There were twenty nine spacious staterooms, all exteriors with a porthole view. Only one thus far has been restored and that is #3 on the starboard side of the ship.

We still had quite a bit left to cover…

End Of “Atomic Aesthetic: NS SAVANNAH, Part Two”

Much More To Come…

NS SAVANNAH Association Website

With Very Special Thanks: Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Erhard Koehler

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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