Philly should prepare to say goodbye to the SS United States

Philadelphia was once considered as a permanent home for the ship; Miami, Boston and Baltimore had also been floated as possibilities. But if it survives, it’ll be in New York City.


Earlier this month, the S.S. United States Conservancy sent out a message that the massive, historic ship resting in the Delaware River could be scrapped if developers didn’t agree to a deal or massive amounts of funds were raised.

One thing is nearly certain: Regardless of what happens, Philadelphia will no longer be the home of the S.S. United States. Possibly soon.

Tom Basile, a spokesperson for the Conservancy, told Billy Penn the two options for redevelopment involve the ship moving to New York City. The scrapyard option would obviously involve a scrapyard. Neither of those scenarios end with Philadelphia as the ship’s home.

Asked whether the ship would soon be leaving Philly — where it’s been located since 1996 — Basile said, it “depends” but that the New York market provided the truly viable options if the ship is redeveloped.

Philadelphia was once considered as a permanent home for the ship. The Conservancy’s website still has a FAQ page in which Philadelphia is cited as an option for turning the ship into a mixed-use development and museum. Miami, Boston and Baltimore had also been floated as possibilities. 

But whether it gets redeveloped at all is still in doubt, Basile said.

“We’re still looking for a significant amount of resources,” he said, “that would at least in the short term relieve the conservancy of the carrying costs of the ship.”

Jared Whalen/Billy Penn

The ship requires about $60,000 monthly for maintenance. Basile said the Conservancy’s Board has a meeting scheduled for early next week and would make a decision about the ship’s future then. That will be after the October 31 deadline, which was set for a broker to fully explore a sale of the ship to the scrapyard and for the Conservancy to see if it could reach a deal with developers. Basile said talks with developers regarding the New York locations had “picked up a little more momentum.” The ship has been saved at the last minute before, notably in 2011 when Gerry Lenfest donated millions.

Ironically, the last major fundraising event for the S.S. United States before the October 31 deadline will be held in the city it will leave behind. The Conservancy is hosting a party Thursday at the Union League meant to replicate a night aboard the ship back when it was still in use in the 50s and 60s.

If you want to know more about the S.S. United States and its place in Philly, check out our “Secret Philly” article about the ship from last month.




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