What a momentous year for our efforts to save the SS United States! Not only does America’s Flagship remain safely afloat on the Delaware River, her prospects continue to brighten.
Almost a year ago, the Conservancy entered into an agreement with RXR Realty, a prominent commercial real estate development firm, to explore the potential for the SS United States’ renewal as a dynamic, mixed-use waterfront destination and shipboard museum. Throughout 2019, we’ve been working closely with RXR as they assess the technical and financial requirements of the ship’s revitalization. Drawing upon the firm’s strong track record of successfully updating and repurposing some of the nation’s most historic structures, RXR is continuing to explore how to maximize the potential of America’s Flagship, while retaining the ship’s historic lines and features.
Conceptual rendering of SS United States funnel interior, courtesy of RXR Realty.
Together, we are harnessing the same passion, innovation, and inspiration that fueled the ship’s star-spangled debut in 1952. RXR has engaged a world-class team of professionals and a range of stakeholders to explore the numerous aspects of the SS United States’ redevelopment. We will convey more about this important work as soon as we are able, in accordance with our agreement with the firm.
As RXR continues to evaluate options for the SS United States’ adaptive reuse, the Conservancy is forging “full speed ahead” in planning a shipboard museum that will celebrate and explore maritime history and stewardship, as well as mid-century American art and design. We are also evaluating which of the vessel’s original features and spaces can be restored or recreated as part of an immersive visitor experience.
In 2020, we will be asking for your input about what you would like to see included in these exciting museum spaces. Stay tuned for a member survey that will reach your inbox soon!
The Conservancy continues to build its world-class curatorial collections. We were thrilled to acquire the original Steinway baby grand piano from the ship’s Grand Ballroom. This iconic instrument was manufactured in mahogany only after the ship’s designer failed to convince Theodore Steinway to customize some of his firm’s signature pianos in aluminum as a fire prevention measure. This special piano is now on display as part of the Steinway Factory Tour in New York alongside other historic pianos. We look forward to the day when it will once again fill the air on board the ship with beautiful music.
The Conservancy is also proud to partner with the Norman Rockwell Museum on an exciting exhibition featuring illustrations from David Macaulay’s new book about the SS United States, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships and a Journey to the New World. As part of the exhibition, one of the gems of the Conservancy’s collection is on public display for the first time ever: an extraordinary, 11-foot-long, vintage model of the SS United States donated to the Conservancy by the children of Douglas F. Bushnell. We encourage our supporters to visit the exhibition at the Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It runs through May 2020.
We were thrilled to be on hand for the unveiling of a massive, 15-foot-tall portrait of the Big U at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Following the event, the Conservancy was honored to welcome a group of cadets from the Academy on board the ship for an exciting and educational tour they’ll never forget.
We also worked diligently to keep the SS United States in the public eye. NBC 10 in Philadelphia aired a great story about the Conservancy’s efforts, “Historic Ocean Liner Could Make a Big Splash,” and RMWorldTravel, “America’s #1 Travel Radio Show,” ran a feature on the ship for its one million weekly listeners. The ship was also featured in a new European documentary on the history of the world’s ocean liners, which aired on ARTE TV in France and Germany.
2019 marks the Conservancy’s 10th anniversary. For a decade now, we’ve beaten the odds to keep the Big U afloat and give her a chance for a bright future. We are profoundly grateful for your support. Because of you, we rallied to save this great ship when she was days away from being scrapped. Because of you, at a time when unifying American symbols are so sorely needed, we are closer than ever to restoring the nation’s sole remaining ocean liner. In the words of the late Walter Cronkite — the Conservancy’s first Advisory Council chair — the vessel’s destruction would be “a crime against history,” and because of you, we are forging full speed ahead in our efforts to save her.
As we advance our efforts to save America’s Flagship, please give generously by visiting www.ssusc.org/donate and clicking the red Donate Now button.
Your support will help us sustain the ship’s basic upkeep, restore original artifacts for public display, refresh our website and update our documentary film, and take our shipboard museum plans to the next level. None of our ambitious and exciting plans for the SS United States would be possible without your support.
Thank you so much for your continued belief in our mission.
SS United States Conservancy
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Steinway Baby Grand Piano from America's Flagship Now on Public Display