SS UNITED STATES Pilgrimage, Part Three: Elegant Exterior

Peter Knego continues with his tour of the famed SS UNITED STATES during his recent visit to Philadelphia, with a look at the ship’s exterior and classic MidCentury Ocean Liner forms.



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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.

Monday, September 17, 2012, ctd.

Today, the UNITED STATES is the ultimate maritime “My Fair Lady” awaiting her transformation. Looking beyond the obvious superficial decay, she is an apparition of symmetry, grace and power. Bound by her shackles and streaked by time, she nonetheless appears to be racing forward — and hopefully, not just metaphorically — towards a brighter future.

Stateliest stern.
Aft superstructure.

After disembarking, I had some time to take photos from various vantages around her berth. I began at the stern, with its gracious curves, rounded plating and lovely cruiser spoon.

Under the wing.
Port bow view.

From there, I worked my way along her port side for views of her superstructure and powerful bow.

Utter prowess.
The razor’s edge.

Under the bow, itself, it was easy to imagine the ship at full speed, slicing through the Atlantic.

Wing and fins.
Bow tied.

Although the sun was still illuminating her port side, the exposed starboard side offered the most dynamic, unencumbered views.

3/4 view.

And the ultimate 3/4 perspective of one of the handsomest liners to ever grace the seas.

Ship of wonder.

After leaving the terminal, I wandered the region across from the terminal for various views that Philadelphians can take in at any time. At the Ikea store, which did not exist when I last visited, some very clever people put up signs explaining what “the big ship” across the street is.

Ikea dining area.

While I don’t have much of a need for new furniture, I would make a frequent ritual of dining or having a coffee at Ikea were I a Philadelphian.

Fins over Philadelphia.

And one more peek, up close and magnificent.

Stacks and tracks.

Afterwards, I walked down I-95 and took a few more photos before packing up my gear.

In March of 2011, philanthropist Gerry Lenfest contributed 20 month’s worth of docking fees to allow the Conservancy to find a new home for the ship. In tandem with the SS US Redevelopment Project, proposals have been submitted to key waterfront cities to make the UNITED STATES a viable attraction, hotel and convention hall.

Here is an excerpt from the latest news post on the Conservancy’s website by Dan McSweeney, head of the SS US Redevelopment Project:

“Over 200 firms were contacted with news of our intention to re-purpose the SS United States as a permanently moored adaptive mixed-use development. Out of the dozen serious respondents, we have selected two finalists to submit full proposals and we are working closely with each to ensure comprehensive plans are presented to our Blue Riband Panel for review. A recommendation on the winning proposal will then be sent to the Conservancy’s board of directors for their official selection.

SS United States as part of a multi-use redevelopment plan. Rendering by Stephen Varenhorst Architects.

A proposal to site the ship next to the highly successful Harrah’s Casino in Chester, PA offers a synergistic approach to the preservation of the ship. In this plan, the SS United States would house a hotel, dining facilities, event spaces, and a world-class museum. The ship would feature significantly in larger, ongoing community and economic development efforts in this historic city.

A proposal to site the ship on the Hudson River in Midtown Manhattan could tie into other major development projects occurring in this neighborhood. This plan would return the SS United States to her original home port in a complex featuring hotel, dining, retail, event space, state-of-the-art experiential museum, and other uses. The plan calls for maximizing green energy systems.

Please stand by for more details as we complete our assessment and selection process. Needless to say, this is an exciting time and we are very fortunate for the vision, commitment, and talent of our two potential development partners. They clearly understand both the historical and cultural significance of the SS United States and the incredible commercial potential offered by the vessel’s more than 500,000 square feet of usable space…”


In the meantime, you can do more than sit, wait and worry. Get involved with the Conservancy and if you can, make a donation.


You can even purchase a square inch of the ship with proceeds going to support the Conservancy’s efforts (Mac users, Firefox is not much up to the task on this, so I suggest trying Safari). I am now the proud owner of 250 prime virtual inches of aluminum in the forward funnel. I hope to match that with the aft funnel soon.

Ironically, after forty years of dormancy, the UNITED STATES seems more now on the verge of “something wonderful” than ever before. But whatever happens, no one should later ask, “Was there anything I could have done?”

End of SS UNITED STATES Pilgrimage, Part Three: Elegant Exterior
Very Special Thanks: Mike Alexander, Robert Brieschaft, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Susan Gibbs, Dan McSweeney

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 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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