SS UNITED STATES

A once-proud ves­sel awaits its next mo­ment in his­tory.

Los Angeles Times - - PARADE - —Greg Daugh­erty

O n the eve of July 4 in 1952, a sleek, 990-foot ship with tow­er­ing red, white and blue fun­nels steamed out of New York on its maiden voy­age. When it re­turned, it had bro­ken the east­bound and west­bound cross­ing records. The SS United States had claimed a prize that hadn’t been won by an Amer­i­can ves­sel in more than a cen­tury, says his­to­rian John Max­tone-Gra­ham, whose lat­est book, SS United States: Red, White

& Blue Riband, For­ever (W.W. Nor­ton& Co.), is about the ship. It was, he says, “an as­tound­ing feat.”

With its pic­ture on mag­a­zine cov­ers and the front pages of news­pa­pers, the “Big U” be­came a na­tional celebrity, just like many of its pas­sen­gers. Pres­i­dents Harry Tru­man, Dwight Eisen­hower, John F. Kennedy and a 22-year-old Bill Clin­ton would all sail on the ship, as well as Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Mar­lon Brando, Sal­vador Dali, John Wayne, Judy Gar­land and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

By 1969, the ship was laid up at a pier in Vir­ginia ready for the scrap yard. But the United States was a sur­vivor. To­day it’s docked in Philadel­phia, prop­erty of the SS United States Con­ser­vancy, a non­profit that bought the ship in 2011 and aims to turn it into a “mu­seum and devel­op­ment com­plex in an ur­ban wa­ter­front set­ting,” ac­cord­ing to Su­san Gibbs, the group’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor and a grand­daugh­ter of the ship’s ar­chi­tect. “While the red, white and blue paint on her gi­ant fun­nels has faded to pink and gray,” Gibbs says, “she re­mains struc­turally sound and ready for her next chap­ter.” The group is in talks to make that hap­pen.

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