Not Just Buildings

by Don Friedman on December 3, 2015

Those of us in the building design and construction fields tend to think of historic preservation as related to individual buildings. Single buildings are, after all, how we make our living, even if those single buildings are sometimes clumped together in larger developments. But there are other options.

For example, the John J. Harvey, a New York fireboat, is on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s no reason that the criteria we use to determine whether a building is historic can’t be applied to a ship, although ships tend to have shorter lives than buildings. That thought brings me to my topic: the SS United States. The United States was in many ways the peak of steam-powered ocean liner technology but had a short life because of the change from ship to jet travel in transatlantic travel in the 1960s. The ship sits today decaying at a pier, and a conservancy is looking to restore it in a manner similar to the RMS Queen Mary. It may succeed, it may not. Regardless, and regardless of whether the United States is remembered today, the ship is a part of American and New York history.

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