Saving the SS United States

In 1984, her fittings were auctioned off.

CBS producer Charles Howland happens to be a leading collector of SS United States memorabilia. While the auction was a great opportunity for him, it was also very sad.

"I thought to myself, 'If I and other collectors don't gather some of this material together and keep it, it'll just be scattered to the four winds. It'll be lost forever, and people will forget what was, what it represented.'"

Howland's Manhattan apartment is a living shrine to her furnishings -- from cocktail tables to stateroom linens.

"You eat, breathe, and sleep this ship?" Strassmann asked.

"Yes!" Howland laughed. His ship-shape rooms are a sight to behold, but he and the SS United States Conservancy have grander designs in mind. They are searching for a final home port where she can be converted into a museum, hotel and conference center.

The estimated price tag: $150 to $300 million.

But the clock is ticking: With future funding uncertain, the ship remains in constant danger of being sold for scrap.

"And if there's a ship that ought to be saved, it's probably the one called the SS United States?" asked Strassmann.

"Absolutely, absolutely," said Howland. "But it's going to take people of imagination. It's going to take political will, and it's going to take money. We, as a nation, should be able to save our best ship, and she is our best ship. We should be able to celebrate her."

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