SHREWSBURY – Lady In Waiting, focusing on the iconic American trans-Atlantic liner SS United States, is the subject of a photo exhibit through Jan. 31 at the Monmouth County Library’s Eastern Branch, Broad Street.
Photographer Art Petrosemolo, a Shrewsbury resident who has been a regular exhibitor at the library, has hung a collection of new black and white and color prints of this symbol of American marine technology in January to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ship’s launch.
“This is a truly sad story,” Petrosemolo says, “as the ship is very close to being turned into scrap. It has been sitting at Pier 82 in Philadelphia for 20 years awaiting rescue. The ship was built both for the trans-Atlantic passenger route and also to serve as a speedy troop carrier for the United States in case of war. The ship reached well over 40 knots in its time trials and could go faster in reverse than today’s ships can go in forward.”
The ship sailed for 17 years and ultimately was dry docked in in 1969 when labor disputes and commercial jet service made trans-Atlantic passenger service by ship too costly and too time consuming. The ship sat at a pier in Newport News, Va., for years until it was opened up in the mid-1980s when all its furnishings were sold. A series of owners have had great plans to turn the ship, with a hull as sleek and modern as today’s luxury liners, into a cruise ship without success.
Today, Petrosemolo says, a conservancy (www.ssunitedstatesconservancy.org), with a grant from a Philadelphia philanthropist is protecting the ship at a $1,000/day for docking fees, while the conservancy’s redevelopment group looks for investors and partners to turn the SS United States into a destination with a hotel, restaurants, stores and entertainment activities at a pier in Philadelphia or New York City. The ship has been the subject of a number of recent books, articles and
documentaries. Petrosemolo recently connected the large Pittsburgh steel mills with the steel that went into ship’s construction and did a story for the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette. Steven Ulifusa’s book A Man and his Ship documents the story of naval architect William Francis Gibbs and his quest to build this liner after the Second World War. And recently CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the ship’s plight.
Petrosemolo’s images have been printed mainly in black and white to give the exhibit a period feel. The exhibit will be hung in the library’s circulation area display cases and will be open to the public without charge during regular library hours.