SS United States

Coordinates: 39°55′06″N 75°08′11″W / 39.91833°N 75.13639°W / 39.91833; -75.13639
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SS United States at sea in the 1950s
United States
NameUnited States
OwnerUnited States Lines
OperatorUnited States Lines
Port of registryNew York
RouteNew York – Le HavreSouthampton (also Bremerhaven)
BuilderNewport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company[3]
Cost$79.4 million ($748 million in 2023[5])
Yard numberHull 488[2]
Laid downFebruary 8, 1950
LaunchedJune 23, 1951[1]
ChristenedJune 23, 1951[1]
Maiden voyageJuly 3, 1952
In service1952
Out of serviceNovember 14, 1969[4]
NotesMultiple owners since 1978[6]
OwnerSS United States Conservancy
AcquiredFebruary 1, 2011
StatusLaid up in Philadelphia[7]
NotesContinual fundraising since 2011 for conservation.[7]
General characteristics
TypeOcean liner
Tonnage53,329 GRT, 29,475 NRT
  • 45,400 tons (designed)
  • 47,264 tons (maximum)
  • 990 ft (302 m) (overall)
  • 940 ft (287 m) (waterline)
Beam101.5 ft (30.9 m) maximum
  • 31 ft 3 in (9.53 m) (design)
  • 32 ft 4 in (9.86 m) (maximum)
Depth175 ft (53 m) (keel to funnel)[8]
Installed power
  • 240,000 shp (180,000 kW) (rated)
  • 247,785 shp (184,773 kW) (trials)
  • 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph) (service)
  • 38.32 kn (70.97 km/h; 44.10 mph) (trials)
  • 43 kn (80 km/h; 49 mph) (claimed)
Capacity1,928 passengers
SS United States (Steamship)
SS United States is located in Philadelphia
SS United States
SS United States is located in Pennsylvania
SS United States
SS United States is located in the United States
SS United States
LocationPier 82, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°55′06″N 75°08′11″W / 39.91833°N 75.13639°W / 39.91833; -75.13639
ArchitectWilliam Francis Gibbs
NRHP reference No.99000609[9]
Added to NRHPJune 3, 1999

SS United States is a retired ocean liner built between 1950 and 1951 for the United States Lines. She is the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States and the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction, retaining the Blue Riband for the highest average speed since her maiden voyage in 1952, a title she still holds. She was designed by American naval architect William Francis Gibbs and could be converted into a troopship if required by the Navy in time of war. United States maintained an uninterrupted schedule of transatlantic passenger service until 1969 and was never used for military applications.

The ship has been sold several times since the 1970s, with each new owner trying unsuccessfully to make the liner profitable. Eventually, the ship's fittings were sold at auction, and hazardous wastes, including asbestos panels throughout the ship, were removed, leaving her almost completely stripped by 1994. Two years later, she was towed to Philadelphia, where she has remained.

Since 2009, the preservation group, 'SS United States Conservancy' has been raising funds to save the ship. The group purchased her in 2011 and has drawn up several unrealized plans to restore the ship, one of which included turning the ship into a multi-purpose waterfront complex. In 2015, as its funds dwindled, the group began accepting bids to scrap the ship; however, sufficient donations came in via extended fundraising. Large donations have kept the ship berthed at her Philadelphia dock while the group continues to further investigate restoration plans.[10]

Design and construction[edit]

SS United States colorized promotional B&W photograph. The ship's name and an American flag have been painted in position here as both were missing when this photo was taken during 1952 sea trials.

Inspired by the service of the British liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of US troops to Europe during World War II, the US government sponsored the construction of a large and fast merchant vessel that would be capable of transporting large numbers of soldiers. Designed by American naval architect and marine engineer William Francis Gibbs, the liner's construction was a joint effort by the United States Navy and United States Lines. The US government underwrote almost 70% of the US$79.4 million construction cost,[3] with the ship's prospective operators, United States Lines, contributing the remaining $28 million. In exchange, the ship was designed to be easily converted in times of war to a troopship. The ship has a capacity of 15,000 troops, and could also be converted to a hospital ship.[11][self-published source]

The vessel was constructed between 1950 and 1952 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia.[3] The hull was constructed in a dry dock. United States was built to exacting Navy specifications, which required that the ship be heavily compartmentalized, and have separate engine rooms to optimize wartime survivability.[12] A large part of the construction was prefabricated. The ship's hull comprised 183,000 pieces.[13]

United States had the most powerful steam turbines of any merchant marine vessel at the time, with a total power of 240,000 shp (180 MW) delivered to four 18-foot-diameter (5.5 m) manganese-bronze propellers. The ship was capable of steaming astern at over 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph), and could carry enough fuel and stores to steam non-stop for over 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi).[14][self-published source]


The maximum speed attained by United States is disputed, as it was once held as a military secret,[15] and complicated by the alleged leak of a top speed of 43 kn (80 km/h) attained after the first speed trial.[16] For example, The New York Times reported in 1968 that the ship could make 42 kn (78 km/h) at a maximum power output of 240,000 hp (180,000 kW).[17] Other sources, including a paper by John J. McMullen & Associates, placed the ship's highest possible sustained top speed at 35 kn (65 km/h).[18] The liner's top speed was later revealed to be 38.32 kn (70.97 km/h), achieved on its full-power trial run on June 10, 1952.[19][20]

Interior design[edit]

The interiors were designed by Dorothy Marckwald & Anne Urquhart, the same designers that did the interiors for SS America. The goal was to "create a modern fresh contemporary look that emphasized simplicity over palatial, restrained elegance over glitz and glitter".[21][22] An additional goal of the interiors was to replicate the smooth lines seen on the exterior and visualize the ship's speed.[23]: 93 

To achieve the look, the liner was furnished around the concept of mid-century modern, amplified by plentiful use of black linoleum decking and the silver lining of edges. While visually unique compared to her competition, the simplicity of decorations compared to the expected grandeur of ocean liners saw the interiors described as what would be found on a 'navy transport' by those accustomed to the older style.[23]: 93 

Also hired were artists to produce American themed artwork for the public spaces,[24] including Hildreth Meière, Louis Ross, Peter Ostuni, Charles Lin Tissot, William King, Charles Gilbert, Raymond Wendell, Nathaniel Choate, muralist Austin M. Purves, Jr., and sculptor Gwen Lux.[25][failed verification] Interior décor also included a children's playroom designed by Edward Meshekoff.[26] Markwald and Urquhart were also tasked with the challenge of creating interiors that were completely fireproof. This posed an exceptional difficulty when selecting materials, such as those for usually flammable items such as drapes or carpet. [23]: 93 

Fire safety[edit]

As a result of various maritime disasters involving fire, including SS Morro Castle and SS Normandie,[27] William Gibbs specified that the ship incorporate the most rigid fire safety standards.[28]

To minimize the risk of fire, the designers of United States prescribed using no wood in the ship, aside from the galley's wooden butcher's block. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal, and spun-glass fiber, to ensure compliance with fireproofing guidelines set by the US Navy. Asbestos-laden paneling was used extensively in interior structures.[29] The clothes hangers in the luxury cabins were aluminum. The ballroom's grand piano was originally designed to be aluminum, but was made from mahogany and accepted only after a demonstration in which gasoline was poured upon the wood and ignited, without the wood itself ever catching fire.[30]


The liner was decorated by hundreds of unique art pieces, ranging from sculptures to relief murals and paintings. Aluminum was commonly incorporated into the artworks, allowing pieces to be light, fire proof, and match the black-and-silver color theme. For instance, nearly 200 aluminum sculptures were used in first class stairway, with a large eagle located on the landing of each deck joined by the bird and flower of each state. [23]: 93 

Funnels and superstructure[edit]

The funnels became an icon due to their unique shape and size

The primary purpose of a ship’s funnels is to ventilate the vessel’s engine rooms, allowing exhaust to escape. Gibbs believed that funnels also serve to create a unique and iconic character for both the ship and her owners.[3]: 246–248 

To create an unforgettable silhouette, Gibbs had the liner topped off with two massive, red-white-and-blue, tear-dropped shaped funnels located midship. Standing at 55 feet (17 m) tall and 60 feet (18 m) wide a piece, they were the largest funnels ever put to sea.[3]: 246–248 

The funnel design was a pinnacle of Gibb’s experience from the Leviathan, America, and Santa-class liners. To prevent soot from the funnels from coating the deck and passengers, horizontal fins located on each side of the funnels deflected the pollutants away from the ship. During the retrofit of the Leviathan decades earlier, it was discovered that her tall funnels served to compromise the stability of the entire vessel. To avoid this issue on United States, Gibbs decided that the funnels and the entire superstructure would be made out of lightweight aluminum to prevent her from becoming top-heavy and at risk of capsizing. At the time, the ship was the world's largest aluminum construction project and the first major application of aluminum on a ship.[3]: 246–248 

The main downside to making the funnels and superstructure out of aluminum was that the metal was extraordinary hard to mold and handle compared to the conventional metals, making the funnel’s fabrication easily the most complex part of her construction. In addition, special care was needed to prevent galvanic corrosion of the aluminum when welded to the steel decking. While shipyard workers were antagonized by the laborious progress, no problems arose during construction and progress continued as planned. [3]: 246–248 

Class system[edit]

A conservative idea added to the design by Gibbs was the incorporation of a conventional three-tiered class system for passengers, replicating those found on RMS Titanic and other classical ocean liners. Each class was segregated, having its own dining rooms, bars, public spaces, services, and recreation areas. Gibbs envisioned having passengers enforce the separation, only intermingling in the gymnasium, pool, and theatre.[23]: 70  The stark and physical class separations, an idea associated with the old world, served in contrast to the overall American theme of the ocean liner as the United States was often seen as a nation removed from the old money and class distinctions of old.[31]

At maximum capacity, the liner could have carried 894 first, 524 cabin, and 554 tourist-class passengers.[23]: 16  During wartime, the passenger spaces could have been retrofitted to carry a 14,400-man strong US Army division.[23]: 12 

During a normal season, a first class ticket would start at $350 ($3,971 in 2024), a cabin ticket $220 ($2,496), and a tourist ticket $165 ($1,872).[32]

First class[edit]

Tour of first-class spaces in current status
video icon

First Class passengers were entitled to the best services and locations the ship had to offer, including the grand ballroom, smoking room, first-class dining room, first-class restaurants, observation lounge, main foyer, grand staircase, and promenades. Most of these facilities were located midship, distant from the vibrations and distractions of both the engines and outside.[23]: 59,64 

The first-class open promenade, one of several promenades and class-exclusive locations onboard

The liner’s famous passengers favored first class due to its prestige, priority service, and spacious cabins. Popularized by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the 'Duck Suite' was the most well known stateroom onboard. It was created by combining three staterooms into one singular suite, containing four beds, three bathrooms, two bedrooms and a living room. The name came from the walls, decorated with paintings of various waterfowl. Up to 14 similar suites could be created in a similar way, establishing a level of stateroom even above that a standard first class ticket would fetch.[23]: 59,64  Tickets for the two-bedroom suites started at $930 (10,552), aimed at the wealthiest passengers onboard. Much like the 'Duck Suite', these rooms reflected a post-war American standard of living, lacking in intricate details and adorned with natural scenes. All suites were spacious and equipped with dimmed lights, luxuries not seen on any other vessels.[3]: 262 

Cabin class[edit]

Cabin class was aimed towards the middle class, striking a key balance between the affordability of tourist and the elegance of first class. Each cabin held four beds and a private bathroom, located primarily aft. While inferior to first class, passengers received service and had access to amenities historically reserved to the highest class on other ocean liners.[23]: 66–67 The food, pool, and theater were shared with first-class passengers, making cabin class ideal for those who wanted the first-class experience in a more relaxed atmosphere.[31]

Gallery of passenger spaces
video icon

Tourist class[edit]

Cheapest of all tickets, spaces for the tourist class were tucked away to the peripheries of the ship where rocking and noise were most pronounced. These small cabins were shared among passengers, each room containing two bunk beds and simply furnished with little detail. Bathrooms were communal, shared among all cabin class passengers in the same passage. Service from the crew was lacking compared to the others, as this class received the lowest priority. While equivalent to the steerage or third-class on other vessels, these poorest conditions on the United States were noticeably better than what was offered on other vessels.[23]: 68, 70 

The class was aimed at those who were unable or unwilling to spend much on a ticket, often booked by immigrants and cheap students.[31]


Commercial service (1952–1969)[edit]

United States photographed from Portsmouth during her return maiden voyage to New York, summer 1952

On her maiden voyage—July 3–7, 1952 —United States broke the eastbound transatlantic speed record that was held by RMS Queen Mary for the previous 14 years by more than 10 hours, making the maiden crossing from the Ambrose lightship at New York Harbor to Bishop Rock off Cornwall, UK in 3 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes at an average speed of 35.59 kn (65.91 km/h; 40.96 mph)[33] and winning the coveted Blue Riband.[34] On her return voyage United States also broke the westbound transatlantic speed record, also held by Queen Mary, by returning to America in 3 days 12 hours and 12 minutes at an average speed of 34.51 kn (63.91 km/h; 39.71 mph). In New York her owners were awarded the Hales Trophy, the tangible expression of the Blue Riband competition.[35]

During the 1950s and early 1960s the United States was popular for transatlantic travel, sailing between New York, Southampton and Le Havre, with an occasional additional call at Bremerhaven.[36] She attracted frequent repeat celebrity passengers, such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, along with celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Salvador Dalí, Duke Ellington, and Walt Disney, who featured the ship in the 1962 film Bon Voyage!.[37] An unrecognized celebrity on the ship was Claude Jones, a trombonist who had performed with Ellington. He worked as part of the waitstaff and died on board in 1962.[38]

By the mid-to-late 1960s, with the advent of jet-powered airliners, the market for transatlantic travel by ship had dwindled. America was sold in 1964, Queen Mary was retired in 1967, and Queen Elizabeth in 1968. United States was no longer profitable. Unbeknownst to her passengers, crew, or the public, United States completed her last voyage (Number 400) on November 7, 1969, when she arrived in New York.[citation needed]

In late 1969, before the decision was made to retire the United States, United States Lines announced a 55-day Grand Pacific Cruise set to sail on January 21, 1970. The cruise was canceled in December 1969.[39]

Layup in Virginia (1969–1996)[edit]

External image
image icon The Liner "United States" Passing 42nd Street, New York (c. 1952) by Andreas Feininger, Metropolitan Museum of Art

After its last voyage, the liner sailed to Newport News for her scheduled annual overhaul. While there, United States Lines announced its decision to withdraw her from service. The decision was due to the skyrocketing expenses of operating the ship and the U.S. government's discontinuation of its operating subsidies. The announcement halted all work on the ship, leaving tasks such as repainting of the funnels incomplete. The partially finished paint coating on the funnels can still be faintly seen. The ship was sealed up, with all furniture, fittings, and crew uniforms left in place.[27]

In June 1970, the ship was relocated across the James River, to the Norfolk International Terminal, in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1973, the United States Lines transferred ownership of the vessel to the United States Maritime Administration. In 1976, Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line (NCL) was reported to be interested in purchasing the ship and converting her into a Caribbean cruise ship, but the U.S. Maritime Administration refused the sale due to the classified naval design elements of the ship[27] and NCL purchased the former SS France instead. The Navy finally declassified the ship's design features in 1977.[27] That same year, a group headed by Harry Katz sought to purchase the ship and dock her in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she would be used as a hotel and casino. However, nothing came of the plan.[40] United States was briefly considered by the US Navy to be converted into a troopship or a hospital ship, to be called USS United States. This plan never materialized, being dropped in favor of converting two San Clemente-class supertankers.[41] The liner was seen as obsolete for Naval use by 1978, and was put up for sale by the U.S. Maritime Administration.

In 1980, the vessel was sold for $5 million to a group headed by Seattle developer Richard H. Hadley, who hoped to revitalize the liner in a timeshare cruise ship format.[citation needed]

In 1984, to pay creditors, the ship's fittings and furniture, which had been left in place since 1969, were sold at auction in Norfolk, Virginia.[42] After a week-long auction from October 8–14, 1984, about 3,000 bidders paid $1.65 million for objects from the ship. Some of the artwork and furniture went to museums like the Mariners' Museum of Newport News, while the largest collection was installed at the later closed Windmill Point Restaurant in Nags Head, North Carolina.[citation needed]

SS United States laid up in Newport News, 1989

On March 4, 1989, the vessel was relocated, towed across Hampton Roads to the CSX coal pier in Newport News.[43][page needed]

Richard Hadley's plan of a time-share style cruise ship eventually failed financially, and the ship, which had been seized by US marshals, was put up for auction by the U.S. Maritime Administration on April 27, 1992. At auction, Marmara Marine Inc.—which was headed by Edward Cantor and Fred Mayer with Julide Sadıkoğlu, of the Turkish shipping family, as majority owner—purchased the ship for $2.6 million.[44][45]

The ship was towed to Turkey, departing the US on June 4, 1992, and reaching the Sea of Marmara on July 9. She was then towed to Ukraine, where, in Sevastopol Shipyard, she underwent asbestos removal which lasted from 1993 to 1994.[46] The interior of the ship was almost completely stripped down to the bulkheads during this time. The open lifeboats which would not meet updated SOLAS requirements if the ship were to sail again were also removed and scrapped along with their davits.

In the U.S., no plans could be finalized for re-purposing the vessel, and in June 1996, she was towed back across the Atlantic to South Philadelphia.[47]

Layup in Philadelphia (since 1996)[edit]

In November 1997, Edward Cantor purchased the ship for $6 million.[48] Two years later, the SS United States Foundation and the SS United States Conservancy (then known as the SS United States Preservation Society, Inc.) succeeded in having the ship placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9]

Norwegian Cruise Line (2003–2009)[edit]

In 2003, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) purchased the ship at auction from Cantor's estate after his death. NCL's intent was to restore the ship to service in their newly announced American-flagged Hawaiian passenger service called NCL America. United States was one of the few ships eligible to enter such service because of the Passenger Service Act, which requires that any vessel engaged in domestic commerce be built and flagged in the U.S. and operated by a predominantly American crew.[49] NCL began an extensive technical review in late 2003 which determined that the ship was in sound condition. The cruise line cataloged over 100 boxes of the ship's blueprints.[50] In August 2004, NCL commenced feasibility studies regarding a new build-out of the vessel, and in May 2006, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of Malaysia-based Star Cruises (the owner of NCL), stated that United States would be coming back as the fourth ship for NCL after refurbishment.[51] Meanwhile, the Windmill Point restaurant, which had contained some of the original furniture from the ship, closed in 2007. The furniture was donated to the Mariners' Museum and Christopher Newport University, both in Newport News, Virginia.[52]

When NCL America began operation in Hawaii, it operated the ships Pride of America, Pride of Aloha, and Pride of Hawaii, rather than United States. NCL America later withdrew Pride of Aloha and Pride of Hawaii from its Hawaiian service. In February 2009, it was reported that United States would "soon be listed for sale".[53][54]

Potential scrapping (2009–2010)[edit]

The SS United States Conservancy was created in 2009 to try to save United States by raising funds to purchase her.[55] On July 30, 2009, H. F. Lenfest, a Philadelphia media entrepreneur and philanthropist, pledged a matching grant of $300,000 to help the United States Conservancy purchase the vessel from Star Cruises.[56] Former US president Bill Clinton also endorsed rescue efforts to save the ship, having sailed on her himself in 1968.[12][57]

In March 2010, it was reported that bids for the ship to be sold for scrap were being accepted. Norwegian Cruise Lines, in a press release, noted the large costs associated with keeping United States afloat in her current state—around $800,000 a year—and that because the SS United States Conservancy was unable to tender an offer for the ship, the company was actively seeking a "suitable buyer".[58] By May 7, 2010, over $50,000 was raised by the SS United States Conservancy.[59]

In November 2010, the Conservancy announced a plan to develop a "multi-purpose waterfront complex" with hotels, restaurants, and a casino along the Delaware River in South Philadelphia at the proposed location of the stalled Foxwoods Casino project. A detailed study of the site was revealed in late November 2010, in advance of Pennsylvania's December 10, 2010, deadline for a deal aimed at Harrah's Entertainment taking over the casino project. However, the Conservancy's deal collapsed when on December 16, 2010, the state Gaming Control Board voted to revoke the casino's license.[60]

Conservation (2010–2015)[edit]

The Conservancy eventually bought United States from NCL in February 2011 for a reported $3 million with the help of money donated by philanthropist H.F. Lenfest.[61] The group had funds to last 20 months (from July 1, 2010) that were to go to supporting a development plan to clean the ship of toxins and make the ship financially self-supporting, possibly as a hotel or other development project.[62][63] SS United States Conservancy executive director Dan McSweeney stated that possible locations for the ship included Philadelphia, New York City, and Miami.[62][64]

United States in 2012

The SS United States Conservancy assumed ownership of United States on February 1, 2011.[65][66] Talks about possibly locating the ship in Philadelphia, New York City, or Miami continued into March. In New York City, negotiations with a developer were underway for the ship to become part of Vision 2020, a waterfront redevelopment plan costing $3.3 billion. In Miami, Ocean Group, in Coral Gables, was interested in putting the ship in a slip on the north side of American Airlines Arena.[67] With an additional $5.8 million donation from H. F. Lenfest, the conservancy had about 18 months from March 2011 to make the ship a public attraction.[67] On August 5, 2011, the SS United States Conservancy announced that after conducting two studies focused on placing the ship in Philadelphia, she was "not likely to work there for a variety of reasons". However, discussions to locate the ship at her original home port of New York, as a stationary attraction, were reported to be ongoing.[68] The Conservancy's grant specifies that the refit and restoration must be done in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for the benefit of the Philadelphia economy, regardless of her eventual mooring site.

On February 7, 2012, preliminary work began on the restoration project to prepare the ship for her eventual rebuild, although a contract had not yet been signed.[69] In April 2012, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was released as the start of an aggressive search for a developer for the ship. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in May.[70] In July 2012, the SS United States Conservancy launched a new online campaign called "Save the United States", a blend of social networking and micro-fundraising that allowed donors to sponsor square inches of a virtual ship for redevelopment, while allowing them to upload photos and stories about their experience with the ship. The Conservancy announced that donors to the virtual ship would be featured in an interactive "Wall of Honor" aboard the future SS United States museum.[71][72]

By the end of 2012, a developer was to be chosen, who would put the ship in a selected city by summer 2013.[73] In November 2013, it was reported that the ship was undergoing a "below-the-deck" makeover, which lasted into 2014, in order to make the ship more appealing to developers as a dockside attraction. The SS United States Conservancy was warned that if its plans were not realized quickly, there might be no choice but to sell the ship for scrap.[74] In January 2014, obsolete pieces of the ship were sold to keep up with the $80,000-a-month maintenance costs. Enough money was raised to keep the ship going for another six months, with the hope of finding someone committed to the project, New York City still being the likeliest location.[75]

In August 2014, the ship was still moored in Philadelphia and costs for the ship's rent amounted to $60,000 a month. It was estimated that it would take $1 billion to return United States to service on the high seas, although a 2016 estimate for restoration as a luxury cruise ship was said to be, "as much as $700 million".[76][77] On September 4, 2014, a final push was made to have the ship bound for New York City. A developer interested in re-purposing the ship as a major waterfront destination made an announcement regarding the move. The Conservancy had only weeks to decide if the ship needed to be sold for scrap.[78] On December 15, 2014, preliminary agreements in support of the redevelopment of United States were announced. The agreements included providing three months of carrying costs, with a timeline and more details to be released sometime in 2015.[79][80] In February 2015, another $250,000 was received by the Conservancy from an anonymous donor towards planning an onboard museum.[81]

In October 2015, the SS United States Conservancy began exploring potential bids for scrapping the ship. The group was running out of money to cover the $60,000-per-month cost to dock and maintain the ship. Attempts to re-purpose the ship continued. Ideas included using the ship for hotels, restaurants, or office space. One idea was to install computer servers in the lower decks and link them to software development businesses in office space on the upper decks. However, no firm plans were announced. The conservancy said that if no progress was made by October 31, 2015, they would have no choice but to sell the ship to a "responsible recycler".[82] As the deadline passed it was announced that $100,000 had been raised in October 2015, sparing the ship from immediate danger. By November 23, 2015, it was reported that over $600,000 in donations had been received for care and upkeep, buying time well into the coming year for the SS United States Conservancy to press ahead with a plan to redevelop the vessel.[83]

Crystal Cruises (2016–2018)[edit]

On February 4, 2016, Crystal Cruises announced that it had signed a purchase option for United States. Crystal would cover docking costs, in Philadelphia, for nine months while conducting a feasibility study on returning the ship to service as a cruise ship based in New York City.[84][85] On April 9, 2016, it was announced that 600 artifacts from United States would be returned to the ship from the Mariners' Museum and other donors.[86]

On August 5, 2016, the plan was formally dropped, with Crystal Cruises citing too many technical and commercial challenges. The cruise line then made a donation of $350,000 to help with preservation through the end of the year.[87][88][89] The SS United States Conservancy continued to receive donations, which included one for $150,000 by cruise industry executive Jim Pollin.[7] In January 2018, the conservancy made an appeal to US president Donald Trump to take action regarding "America's Flagship".[90] If the group runs out of money, alternative plans for the ship include sinking her as an artificial reef rather than scrapping her.[7]

SS United States docked at Pier 82 in Columbus Boulevard, Philadelphia, on July 16, 2017

On September 20, 2018, the conservancy consulted with Damen Ship Repair & Conversion about redevelopment of United States. Damen had previously converted the former ocean liner and cruise ship SS Rotterdam into a hotel and mixed-use development.[91]

RXR Realty (since 2018)[edit]

On December 10, 2018, the conservancy announced an agreement with the commercial real estate firm RXR Realty to explore options for restoring and redeveloping the ocean liner.[92] In 2015, RXR had expressed interest in developing an out-of-commission ocean liner as a hotel and event venue at Pier 57 in New York.[93] The conservancy requires that any redevelopment plan preserve the ship's profile and exterior design, and include approximately 25,000 sq ft (2,323 m2) for an onboard museum.[91] RXR's press release about United States stated that multiple locations would be considered, depending on the viability of restoration plans.[92][93]

In March 2020, RXR Realty announced its plans to repurpose the ocean liner as a permanently-moored 600,000 sq ft (55,740 m2) hospitality and cultural space, requesting expressions of interest from a number of major US waterfront cities including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.[94]

In 2023, a more detailed plan for her redevelopment was released by RXR Realty and MCR Hotels. According to this plan, the ship would serve as a 1,000 room hotel, museum, event venue, public park, and a dining location. New York City was highlighted as the best location for the ship, ideally along the Hudson River and moorned to a specially built pier. New York City was selected as the best location due to existing infrastructure and the nearby Javits Convention Center.[95]

The 2023 plan also included several rendered images of the redesigned United States. These images depict the ship docked along Manhattan's West Side at a public pier located in the Hudson River Park. In addition, aspects of the hotel were depicted. A key element of the hotel would be one of the ship's funnels, with the top removed and exposed to the sky. This would act as a skylight, illuminating the hotel and event spaces. In addition, the plan also consist of hotel rooms held in the lifeboat davits, a pool between the funnels, and an aft mix interior-exterior ballroom to provide spaces for both hotel and venue operations.[95]

Pier 82 rent increase (since 2021)[edit]

A dispute over the 2021 increase of Pier 82's daily rent from US$850 to US$1700, as well as US$160,000 in unpaid back rent, could cause the ship to lose her berth.[96] A trial on the matter in federal court in Philadelphia ran from January 17 to January 18, 2024, with a decision expected in March or April.[97][98]



The Mariners' Museum of Newport News, Virginia, holds many objects from United States, including the ''Expressions of Freedom'' by Gwen Lux, the aluminum sculpture from the main dining room, purchased during the 1984 auction.[42]

Artwork designed by Charles Gilbert that included glass panels etched with sea creatures and plants from the first-class ballroom, were purchased by Celebrity Cruises and had initially been incorporated on board the Infinity in her SS United States-themed specialty restaurant.[99]

At the National Museum of American History, “The Currents” mural by Raymond John Wendell is on display.[100] Two works by Hildreth Meière—the murals Mississippi and Father of Waters—were also brought to the museum; however, they are not on display.[24]

Propellers and fittings[edit]

One of the ship's propellers by the Throgs Neck Bridge in New York

The ship used four 60,000 lb (27,000 kg) manganese bronze propellers, two four-bladed outboard, and two inboard five-bladed. One of the four-bladed propellers is mounted at Pier 76 in New York City, while the other is mounted outside the American Merchant Marine Museum on the grounds of the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The starboard-side five-bladed propeller is mounted near the waterfront at SUNY Maritime College in Fort Schuyler, New York, while the port side is at the entrance of the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia, mounted on an original 63 ft (19 m) long drive shaft.[101]

The ship's bell is kept in the clock tower on the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. It is used to celebrate special events, including being rung by incoming freshman and by outgoing graduates.[102]

One of the ship's horns stood on display for decades above the Rent-A-Tool building in Revere, Massachusetts, and has since been sold to a private collector in Texas for $8,000 in 2017.[103]

A large collection of dining room furniture and other memorabilia that had been purchased during the 1984 auction, and incorporated at the Windmill Point Restaurant in Nags Head, North Carolina, was donated to the Mariners' Museum and Christopher Newport University in Newport News after the restaurant shut down in 2007.[104] The chairs from the tourist class dining room are used in the Mariners' Museum cafe.[citation needed]

Speed records[edit]

With both the eastbound and westbound speed records, SS United States obtained the Blue Riband which marked the first time a US-flagged ship had held the record since SS Baltic claimed the prize 100 years earlier. United States maintained a 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph) crossing speed on the North Atlantic in a service career that lasted 17 years. The ship remained unchallenged for the Blue Riband throughout her career. During this period the fast trans-Atlantic passenger trade moved to air travel, and many regard the story of the Blue Riband as having ended with United States.[105]

Her east-bound record has since been broken several times (first, in 1986, by Virgin Atlantic Challenger II), and her west-bound record was broken in 1990 by Destriero, but these vessels were not passenger-carrying ocean liners. The Hales Trophy itself was lost in 1990 to Hoverspeed Great Britain, setting a new eastbound speed record for a commercial vessel.[106]

In film[edit]



See also[edit]

Related American passenger ships[edit]

Restored ocean liners[edit]


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  • A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States, Steven Ujifusa, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 4, 2013), ISBN 1451645090
  • Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World, David Macaulay, Roaring Brook Press (May 7, 2019),ISBN 1596434775
  • Picture History of the SS United States, William H. Miller, Dover Publications (July 12, 2012), ASIN B00A73FIMK
  • SS United States: An Operational Guide to America's Flagship, James Rindfleisch, Schiffer; (June 2023), ISBN 978-0764366550
  • SS United States: America's Superliner, Les Streater, Maritime Publishing Co. (2011), ISBN 0953103560
  • S.S. United States: The Story of America's Greatest Ocean Liner, William H. Miller, W.W. Norton & Company (1991), ISBN 0393030628
  • S.S. United States: Fastest Ship in the World, Frank Braynard & Robert Hudson Westover, Turner Publishing Company (2002), ISBN 1563118246
  • SS United States, Andrew Britton, The History Press (July 15, 2012), ISBN 0752479539
  • SS United States: Red, White, and Blue Riband, Forever, John Maxtone-Graham, W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 27, 2014), ISBN 039324170X
  • SS United States: Speed Queen of the Seas, William H. Miller, Amberley Publishing (March 24, 2015), ASIN B00V76G2O4
  • SS United States: Ship of Power, Might, and Indecision, William H. Miller, Fonthill Media, (March 22, 2022), ISBN 1625451156
  • Superliner S.S. United States, Henry Billings, The Viking Press (1953)
  • The Big Ship: The Story of the S.S. United States, Frank O. Braynard, Turner (1981), ISBN 1596527641[1]
  • The Last Great Race, The S.S. United States and the Blue Riband, Lawrence M. Driscoll, The Glencannon Press; First edition, first printing. (June 17, 2013)

External links[edit]





Preceded by Holder of the Blue Riband (eastbound record)
Succeeded by
Blue Riband (westbound record)
Preceded by Holder of the Hales Trophy
Succeeded by
  1. ^ Braynard, Frank O. (2011). The big ship : the story of the S.S. United States ([New ed.] ed.). New York: Turner. ISBN 978-1-59652-764-5. OCLC 745439004.