The giant ocean liner that has been moored in South Philadelphia for almost two decades is being given a party in Love Park Tuesday afternoon. At sundown, two of the city’s skyscrapers will light up with messages to rescue the SS United States.
It part of an ongoing campaign to save the ship from the scrap heap.
The rusted hulk of the once-luxurious SS United States has been parked near the big-box stores on Columbus Boulevard for 17 years. That adds up to the same amount of time the ship was actively crisscrossing the Atlantic. It still holds the world record for the fastest crossing.
The SS United States Conservancy has a long-term goal of developing the ship as a museum and hotel, but in the meantime the most pressing need is to keep it afloat — costing a half-million dollars for basic upkeep and mooring fees.
“The ship’s previous owner stripped out most of the interiors, which was a blessing in some respects because the ship was laden with asbestos,” said Susan Gibbs, Conservancy executive director. “It’s quite an extraordinary experience to go aboard the ship. Even though it’s dark and there is a flashlight in hand, the ship still evokes the seagoing glamour of the ’50s and ’60s.”
The Conservancy has so far raised about $100,000 toward the half-million goal. Gibbs says the threat of scrapping is imminent.