After moving in, I made a lot of trips up to the local Ikea to refurnish my room. On our first trip, when I parked my Subaru in front of Ikea, Jan gasped, pointed towards the water, and said, “What is that?!” I glanced over and noticed an old ship at Pier 82. It wasn’t my first time noticing it as it had been a permanent fixture across the street from Ikea for my whole life. It was so used to the behemoth old ship that I never even tried to get to it, take a tour, or even take pictures of it. Jan’s excitement over the old cruise liner got me excited as well. As a citizen of Philadelphia, I thought to myself, I should make myself familiar with all of my surroundings, including this rusty old ship.
We walked in the general direction of the dock only to find that it was entirely fenced in. We stood for a few moments staring at the ship to see if there was any activity on the deck or around the boat. Nothing. Nothing but the flutter of birds rest on it’s old radar.
Naturally, the situation interested me and I immediately started researching the ships origins. Come to find out, it’s not just a pretty ship outside of the Ikea in South Philly.
History of the SS United States
After reading the first article, I was stunned to discover that such a prominent ship, with all of her historical importance and cultural meaning, would be left to rot and rust in South Philly of all places! The SS United States is the largest cruise liner constructed in the United States and the fastest to cross the Atlantic in both directions. Even now, she still holds the record.
She was built after World War II and was designed specifically to serve during wartime. It was built to be not only a passenger liner, but versatile enough to be a troopship with the capacity for 15,000 troops, or a hospital ship.
But during the late 1960’s, when transatlantic travel began to slump, many passenger liners were docked. Some greats were preserved like the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, however some ships, including the SS United States, were left abandoned. It is an absurd situation for America’s flagship to become a rusty heap of metal sitting abandoned at Pier 82, while tourists point and locals don’t even know, realize, or care.
As Walter Cronkite puts it “This is a crime against shipbuilding – a crime against history… [to] let such a ship die such a miserable death.”
SS United States Conservancy
All is not lost for America’s flagship. After a generous donation of $5.8 million from H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the SS United States Conservancy was able to purchase the ship back in July of 2010. With the help of volunteers and philanthropists, the organization hopes to restore the SS United States back to her original integrity. Until then, the organization is taking small steps toward redevelopment, hosting events in order to raise money.
What you can do!
If you’re interested in conserving this piece of history, check out the SS United States Conservancy’s website at www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org. There you can find information on volunteering, employment opportunities as well as awesome events.
Besides, when you’re done check out the ship … you can go to IKEA!