Great News

From the S.S. United States Conservancy website. This makes me very, very happy. Let’s hope they can get this beautiful ship back in shape enough for people to at least take tours.

Conservancy purchases SS United States through grant from Lenfest Foundation

In a long-anticipated milestone in the effort to save and redevelop the legendary ocean liner SS United States, the SS United States Conservancy will announce that the national nonprofit organization has acquired title to the nation’s historic “ship of state.”

“We are one big step closer to ensuring that this great symbol of American innovation is permanently preserved,” said Susan Gibbs, the Conservancy’s board president, whose grandfather, William Francis Gibbs, designed the legendary liner.  “Now that we have secured title, we will accelerate our efforts to redevelop the nation’s flagship as a multi-purpose waterfront destination with dynamic hotel, retail, educational and museum offerings.  To succeed, we will tap into the same “can-do” spirit and ingenuity that the ship has embodied since her first splash in 1952.”

In July 2010, the Conservancy announced a pledge of $5.8 million by Philadelphia philanthropist H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest to purchase and maintain the vessel for 20 months.  Owners Norwegian Cruise Line/Genting Hong Kong entered an exclusive purchase option with the Conservancy last year, graciously declining a bid twice as high from a vessel scrapper, in order to support the Conservancy’s efforts.  The Conservancy is deeply grateful to both Gerry Lenfest and Norwegian/Genting for their support.

Lenfest underscored the importance of the ship by stating, “She is worth keeping.  This ship is an iconic part of American maritime history and if there’s any chance at all that she can be saved, we should take that chance.”  Lenfest is a retired Navy Reserve captain and major maritime enthusiast whose father, a naval architect, designed components of the SS United States.  He has been a visionary in his support for the ship.

“This is the first time in the history of the SS United States that a group concerned primarily with the vessel’s historical significance and preservation has owned her,” said Dan McSweeney, the Conservancy’s executive director.  “We can’t truly say she’s saved yet – that will happen when we establish a successful partnership to redevelop the ship – but we can say that we’re generating the right momentum to be able to achieve that goal.  Thus far, New York, Philadelphia, and Miami have expressed an interest in the vessel.  The total cost could be a couple of hundred million dollars but that’s comparable to land-based development on a similar scale.  We’re completely committed to accomplishing this and there’s no question that we’ll succeed.”

The vessel was launched in 1952 and is widely considered the greatest ocean liner ever built.  Four U.S. presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton) and countless foreign heads of state, business, military, and diplomatic leaders, Hollywood celebrities, and everyday Americans traveled aboard her during 400 mishap-free voyages.  Thousands of immigrants to America sailed aboard the vessel, which served in the Navy Reserve Fleet as a convertible troop ship and Cold War weapon able to carry an army division 10,000 miles without refueling.

The Conservancy also thanks Francis X. Nolan, III, a New York based partner in the Global Transportation Finance Practice at the law firm of Vedder Price P.C., and Christopher L. Bell, a Washington, D.C. based partner in the Global Environmental Practice of the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, without whom this transaction would not have happened.  They contributed to corporate This work was all done pro bono, and we thank Frank and Chris, and their firms, for their hard work and significant contributions to this effort.

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