Rusty old ship to be spruced up and given an new purpose

    The enormous rusting ship docked in South Philadelphia near the box stores on Columbus Boulevard has been saved from the scrap yard

    The enormous rusting ship docked in South Philadelphia near the box stores on Columbus Boulevard has been saved from the scrap yard. A local philanthropist has stepped in at the eleventh hour to donate millions of dollars to buy the SS United States.

    In 1953, 19-year-old Joe Rota from Teaneck, New Jersey got a job as a bellboy on the SS United States, the fastest passenger ship in the world, where he met all the famous people of the day, including President Harry Truman.

    Rota:
    The President said to me – what’s your name, young man? I said, Joseph. Where you from, Joseph? I said, New Jersey. He said, that’s too bad. (laugh)>

    Now, Rota is with the SS United States Conservancy, which for years has been trying to raise enough money to buy the ship from Norwegian Cruise Lines. The highest bidder had been a scrapping company until Philadelphia-based philanthropist Gerry Lenfest plunked down $5.6-million. Conservancy president Susan Gibbs says $3-million will be used to buy the ship and the remaining will be used to bring the rusting hulk back to its original glory.

    Gibbs:

    Post-war she was a fabulous symbol of American pride. Like later Space Shuttles, she symbolized America’s entrance on the world stage. We hope to restore her, give some economic vitality to her, and of course we will paint her funnels red, white and blue.

    It’s unclear what will happen to the ship. It might become a hotel and retail center, perhaps a museum. Once restored, the ship may find a new home in New York.

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