Fund drive aims to save the SS United States

The SS United States has been docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River since 1996.
The SS United States has been docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River since 1996. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 19, 2013

A rally to raise funds for the SS United States will be held Tuesday at LOVE Park as backers of the historic ship ramp up their efforts to save it.

The SS United States Conservancy is $100,000 toward its goal of $500,000 just to maintain the 62-year-old, 1,000-foot ship, which still holds the trans-Atlantic speed record, said Thomas Basile, spokesman for the conservancy, formed two years ago to save the historic ocean liner.

Monday night, the lights of the Peco building in Center City lit up with the "S.O.S. Campaign," and they will continue to beam the message through Wednesday night. Tuesday's 4-to-6 p.m. event will feature entertainment, music, and a raffle for a rare tour for two of the 2,000-passenger ship - bigger than the Titanic - that has been moored on the Delaware River in South Philadelphia since 1996.

The $500,000 is needed for maintenance and other costs while the organization finds developers to redesign the ship into a retail, hotel, and museum complex. Discussions with developers from Philadelphia and New York have been encouraging, Basile said, but no deals have been reached. A full redevelopment of the ship has been estimated to cost as much as $300 million.

While funds raised during the S.O.S. campaign will buy precious time, without additional infusions a decision will be made within the coming weeks whether to sell the vessel for scrap metal, Basile said. The conservancy has established a fund-raising website, www.savetheunitedstates.org.

The conservancy is calling out the troops. Tennis hall of famer Billie Jean King, the author David Macaulay, and Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona have joined the fight to save the ship.

Susan Gibbs, the SS United States Conservancy's executive director and granddaughter of the vessel's designer, William Francis Gibbs, said King's commitment to the ship comes at a critical time.

"We are grateful for her willingness to be a champion for the United States once again," said Gibbs.


Contact Melissa Chea-Annan at 215-854-2771 or mcheaannan@phillynews.com.

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