Just signed papers for this, should get delivered late next week. Please reassure me that I'm not as stupid as I think I am.
Although the United States was the western terminus of the highly competitive transatlantic passenger trade, and Americans constituted the largest share of passengers heading back and forth, US-based shipping lines were traditionally minor players on the Atlantic. European-flagged ships were generally thought of by American passengers as offering higher quality standards of food and service, while Prohibition certainly didn't help matters during the 1920s and early '30s, as the ability to drink once outside US territorial waters was also a big attraction for traveling on a foreign line. Also not helping was that United States Lines, the flag carrier set up in the early 1920s to make use of the large amount of new transport vessels constructed for WWI and of the German ships taken in reparations, never had the right fleet to offer a regular weekly express service. The only large, fast ship under US registry was the ex-German Vaterland, which went for scrap in the 1930s.
Part of President Franklin Roosevelt's efforts to lift the country out of the Great Depression was a shipbuilding initiative under the US Maritime Commission, offering low interest loans, direct subsidies, and loan guarantees for companies ordering ships from US shipyards. Eager to replace the old Leviathan/Vaterland with an equally grand, but more modern and economical ship, United States Lines submitted their application for assistance, and received the first contract under the new program in 1936.
Design work for the new ship was entrusted to the New York-based firm of Gibbs & Cox, lead by America's foremost naval architect, William Francis Gibbs (who, interestingly enough, was actually self taught in the profession). Gibbs was passionately interested in safety, above all else, believing it was not the job of an architect to merely give their clients what they asked for, but that he also had a moral obligation to do whatever he could to make his ships as safe as possible for the passengers and crew who would sail in them. The loss of Titanic in 1912 affected him greatly, and caused Gibbs to focus on the importance of structural redundancy and compartmentalization, but it was the loss of Morro Castle in 1934 that had an even greater impact. That American-flagged liner caught fire en route to Cuba, and the burning hulk drifted ashore, running aground on the beach of Asbury Park, New Jersey, with 135 souls dead in the inferno. The wreckage became something of a morbid tourist attraction,and Gibbs traveled down from New York to view it himself, and became even more conscious than ever of the dangers of fire at sea, as a far greater threat than collisions. For the remainder of his career, he would be known for his focus, really zealousness, to fire safety above all else. The new United States Lines liner was the first major new contract he received after the Morro Castle fire, and would be his first major chance to put his fire safety concepts into practice.
However, United States Lines was insistent that their new flagship should be a proper rival to European liners, which meant suitably lavish and luxurious Art Deco interiors, which meant some limits on what Gibbs could do, the ship had to be a viable commercial enterprise, after all. Interior design was handled by an all-female team from Smyth, Urquhart, & Marckwald – lead by Dorothy Marckwald and Anne Urquhart, who worked closely with Gibbs to ensure that they maintained a single, unified vision for the ship.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co in Newport News, Virginia to christen the new ship America in 1939, and fitting out was completed in 1940. America measured 26,454 gross tons and 723 ft long – only about 1/3 the size of the big British and French liners, but still fairly large for the era, and enough to make her the largest passenger ship under US flag at the time. She featured a set of 37,500hp steam turbines driving twin screws for a speed of 22.5 knots. As built, there were accommodations for 1,202 passengers – 543 in Cabin Class, 418 in Tourist Class, and 241 in Third.
As WWII in Europe was well underway by the time America was ready for service in August, 1940, the planned transatlantic service from New York-Bremerhaven via Le Havre and Southampton was not going to happen. Instead, United States Lines used her to open a novel New York-Los Angeles route via the Panama Canal. It at least brought in some revenue, but was obviously far slower than train, and, especially, the nascent airline industry, and was not terribly popular. Between 1940-1941, America was also used on frequent leisure cruises in the Caribbean, in between liner voyages. During 1941, several crew members were discovered to be part of a German spy ring – reporting on Allied and US ship movements in the Caribbean and Pacific and studying Panama Canal defenses. Also, her aft funnel (the only functional one) was found to be too short, resulting in too much soot accumulation on the upper decks, so both funnels were raised during the Fall of 1940.
Finally, as part of the ongoing US military buildup in preparation for direct involvement in the war, America was requisitioned by the US Navy in July, 1941, and renamed West Point for conversion into a troop transport vessel. Refitted to carry 7,678 troops at a time, West Point spent 1941-1946 in Naval service, carrying both American and Commonwealth forces to and from Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Southeast Asia, steaming 550,000 miles and transporting over 500,000 troops.
West Point was handed back to United States Lines in 1946, after completing postwar repatriation voyages, and was renamed back to America and thoroughly restored to prewar configuration, finally entering transatlantic service to Bremerhaven in November, 1946. After 1952, she was partnered with the much larger, and significantly faster, United States on the route.
Airline competition from 1958 onward began siphoning off passengers, and United States Lines started deploying America on more and more frequent cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean from 1960 onward, with frequent periods of lay-up. Finally, United States Lines pulled her from service in November, 1964, and offered her for sale.
The buyer was Chandris Lines of Greece, who renamed her Australis, and gave her an extensive refit – adding air conditioning throughout, an outdoor pool, and increasing passenger capacity to 2,258. After completion of the refit in 1965, Australis was remeasured at over 30,000 gross tons, and entered service on the Britain-Australia route, primarily carrying immigrants heading south from Europe, on one of the increasingly few routes where ocean liners could still operate profitably against airline competition. Between 1965-1977, Australis made 62 round trip voyages from Europe-Australia and carried over 300,000 new residents to the latter country. Eventually, airlines caught up on that route as well, and Chandris pulled Australis from service and laid her up in New Zealand until 1978, when she was sold to Venture Cruise Lines of New York.
Under Venture ownership, Australis was renamed back to America, registered in Panama, and refitted for Caribbean cruises from New York. The refit was a hasty, low budget job, and was not fully completed when America sailed on her first cruise for Venture – with leaking pipes, backed up toilets, and furniture and construction debris piled up in the halls. Passengers mutinied, and forced the captain to turn back to port. On her second cruise, America was scored 6/100 in her US Public Health Service inspection, and was arrested on arrival in Nova Scotia, due to creditor claims of $2.5 million.
America was repurchased by Chandris for $1 million, renamed Italis, and plans were announced for a major rebuilding and modernization, however, the only major change made was removal of the corroded forward dummy funnel. Italis ran a few Mediterranean cruises for Chandris from 1978-1979, and, following a charter as a hotel ship for an Organization of African Unity conference, was laid up in Greece.
Italis was sold to the Intercommerce Corporation in 1980 and renamed Noga, for rebuilding as a private prison ship to be moored in Beirut, under contract to the Lebanese government, but funding never materialized.
Intercommerce ultimately sold her to Saudi Arabian-based Silver Moon Ferries in 1984, who renamed her Alferdoss, with plans on reactivating her to carry religious pilgrims for the Haj, but, again, nothing was done, the ship continued to sit rusting and decaying in Piraeus. In 1988, Alferdoss was sold to a scrap metal company for $2 million, who proceeded to demolish the lifeboats and davits, before defaulting on half their payments. Finally, in 1992, Alferdoss was purchased by an investment consortium from Thailand, with plans to convert her into a luxury hotel moored in Phuket. The ship was drydocked, and discovered to be in excellent structural condition, despite over a decade with basically zero maintenance. The hull was cleaned and painted, the funnel spruced up, and the now renamed American Star left under tow for Thailand in December, 1993.
For reasons that are still unclear, the decision was made to sail via Gibraltar instead of Suez. On January 17th, 1994, American Star broke her tow rope in a gale off the coast of the Canary Islands and washed up on Playa de Garcey, on Fuerteventura. The ship sat beached for nearly 6 months while her owners, insurance company, and towing company bickered over a salvage plan, until on July 6, 1994, when the pounding wave action finally caused her to crack in two just aft of the funnel, causing American Star to be declared a total loss.
The 344ft stern section took the brunt of the weather, and collapsed into the sea in 1996, but the bow remained intact and upright, until deterioration began accelerating during 2005, leading to a complete collapse in 2007. During her time as a beached wreck, American Star was heavily looted by islanders, almost all salvageable furniture, artwork, and fittings were gradually removed from the bow, and there is apparently a bar near the beach decorated almost entirely with items salvaged from the ship.
@dr-zoidberg Step One: knock out all interior partition walls and paint everything remaining grey, Step Two: cover up all real hardwood floors with vinyl plank, Step Three: put ship lap on something, Step Four: profit.
The US merchant shipping and shipbuilding industries have long been dependent on the largess of the federal government for survival, and it was no different in the 1920s. In 1928, President Herbert Hoover's administration pushed through a $250 million ($3.9 billion today) package to provide low interest, long-term financing to American shipping companies ordering vessels from US yards, with full government guarantees backstopping the debt. The idea at the time was to encourage the renewal of the US merchant fleet, which, at the time, had one of the oldest average ages in the world, and was still powered mostly by inefficient, smoke belching coal boilers, as the rest of the world was transitioning to mostly cleaner, thriftier oil.
One of the companies taking advantage of the loan program was the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Company (doing business as the Ward Line), which, since 1841, had been the largest carrier of passengers, cargo, and mail between the United States and Cuba (which itself was a protectorate of the United States from the Spanish-American War until achieving full sovereignty in 1934).
Ward Line received loans for two new sister ships, and placed orders with the famous Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Virginia in late 1928, with construction beginning in January 1929. The two ships were delivered a few months apart in 1930 – Morro Castle (named for the fortress in Havana harbor) in March, and Oriente (named after the Oriente Province in Cuba) in May. Both were largely identical in design. In the case of Morro Castle, she measured 11,520 gross tons and 508 ft. long, and featured a 14,000hp General Electric steam turboelectric powerplant driving twin screws for a speed of 20 knots.
Although tiny by the standards of the hotly competitive transatlantic trade, for the less densely trafficked US-Cuba route, the ships were considered impressively large, and the luxury of their passenger accommodations easily rivaled the best on the Atlantic, bringing a new standard of comfort and service to the Cuban route. Morro Castle carried just 489 passengers – 394 in First Class, plus 95 in budget-oriented Tourist Class, plus a crew of 240. She featured richly paneled public rooms, with finely carved woods, with gold leaf detailing, expensive rugs and tapestries, and elegant furniture.
The spacious First Class Main Lounge and Dining Room were both two decks in height, encircled by elegant balconies, and the Smoking Room featured dark walnut paneling with a vaulted ceiling covered in frescoes depicting the Age of Sail. The ship also featured what was thought to be the latest in modern safety features – with electronic heat sensors, an automatic fire alarm system, and electrically operated fire doors.
From 1930-1934, Morro Castle worked the New York-Havana run, taking about 2 days, 10 hours to complete the 1100 mile trip. Despite the ongoing Great Depression, she and her sister were highly popular and profitable, sailing at or near capacity on nearly every voyage throughout the year.
But, that all came to an end at 2:50am on September 8th, 1934. While sailing off the coast of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, inbound from Havana, fire was discovered in a storage locker connected to the First Class Writing Room. Despite the ship's apparent safety measures, it spread rapidly, feeding off the heavily varnished wood furnishings and paneling, and spreading through the gaps in-between decks and bulkheads. To make matters worse, the captain had died of a heart attack at dinner several hours earlier, leaving the First Officer in charge, and, as events would prove, he wasn't totally ready for the job.
The automatic fire alarms sounded as they were supposed to, but were too quiet – most of the sleeping passengers didn't hear them, and many of those who did assumed the noise was for something else, since a proper alarm would be louder. By 3:10am, the fire had burned through the ship's main electrical cables and hydraulic lines, rendering Morro Castle completely powerless and un-navigable, with no communications capability. Due to the way in which the fire spread, crew members, whose quarters were mainly toward the bow, clustered forward, cut off from the rest of the ship by the flames, while passengers, whose quarters were in the midships and stern sections, gathered aft. The separation of the ship and the speed of the flames made an orderly evacuation difficult, only 6 of 12 lifeboats were launched successfully, and with only 85 total people aboard, despite seats for 408 (and most of those were crew members).
As the ship's structure absorbed the heat from the flames, the decks even in unburned areas became too hot to stand on, and passengers began leaping over the side, with or without life jackets – the latter case, inadequate instructions during the voyage lead to a considerable number of deaths, when people's necks snapped on hitting the water.
Fortunately, the fire did occur in heavily traveled sea lanes on the approach to New York, so, after some delay, four other merchant vessels did eventually respond for help, followed later by two Coast Guard cutters, with the Governor of New Jersey taking to the air in his private plane to follow the burning ship's course and alert rescue vessels to the locations of bodies and survivors in the water. By the time it was all over, 135 passengers and crew, out of the 549 on board, had died.
Later that morning, the now totally abandoned hulk of Morro Castle washed up on the beach of Asbury Park, New Jersey, coming close enough to the Convention Hall for those standing on the boardwalk to reach out and touch the blistered hull. The ruins of the ship smoldered for two more days, before the fire completely died out on September 10th. For the next 6 months, the wreck of Morro Castle sat as a macabre tourist attraction on the beach of Asbury Park, with crowds coming to town to view the beached liner, and boardwalk vendors selling Morro Castle-themed souvenirs.
One of those who made the trip down from New York was William Francis Gibbs, America's foremost naval architect and co-founder of the firm of Gibbs & Cox. Gibbs had always been obsessed with safety, but, until then, had focused mainly on structural redundancy against flooding or collision damage, but the sight of Morro Castle caused him to reevaluate priorities in favor of a recognition of the much greater danger of fire on board ship. For the rest of his career, fire safety became his preoccupation, culminating in his masterpiece, the almost ridiculously strong, heavily overbuilt and fastidiously fireproofed SS United States of 1952.
The hulk of Morro Castle, obviously damaged beyond repair, was eventually refloated and towed away for scrap in March of 1935.
The official inquiry, released in 1937, faulted the acting captain, First Officer Warms, for not leaving the bridge to personally investigate the severity of the fire, maintaining full speed ahead for some time after the fire was known, for taking too long to call for assistance, and not making any effort to activate the emergency lighting systems, or move himself and his officers to the emergency steering station, even as systems failed throughout the ship. The crew in general were faulted for not organizing any significant firefighting efforts, not manually closing fire-doors as the automatic servo mechanisms failed, and not making any coordinated effort to evacuate passengers.
The design of the ship was also noted for worsening the crisis, only 6 out of 42 firefighting stations could be used at a time, due to inadequate water pressure to run all of them, some had been taken out of use due to some nuisance vandalism by passengers on an earlier voyage, and a 6-inch gap above the finished overheads and behind wood paneling allowed fire to bypass the fire doors and spread throughout the ship. In addition, the modern, electronic heat sensors were only installed in passenger cabins and crew spaces, not in the public rooms, such as the Writing Room where this fire broke out. The cause of the fire remains unknown, as the damage at the origin point was too extensive to make a determination. Theories range from an electrical fault, to spontaneous combustion of used shop rags, to arson by a disgruntled crew member.
The loss of Morro Castle was the worst tragedy to befall Ward Line, which had had a mostly sterling safety reputation over the previous 93 years in business, and was only the start of a series of difficulties for them – it was followed over the next few months by another of their liners grounding in Havana harbor, and then by the ship chartered to replace Morro Castle sinking on its maiden voyage. The negative publicity caused the company to rebrand as Cuba Mail Line in 1935, and ultimately ceased operations in 1942, when its entire fleet was requisitioned by the US Navy and not returned after the war. Postwar, the famous Ward Line trademark was revived twice by two separate sets of investors, with the last incarnation, Cuban-based Ward-Garcia Line, shutting down in 1959.
Morro Castle's identical sister ship, Oriente, remained in service until requisitioned to become the troop transport vessel Thomas H. Barry in 1941, and was used throughout US involvement in World War II and for several years after, until being decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet in 1949, ultimately being sold for scrap as surplus property in 1957.
During the 1960s, there was a gradual softening of relations between Japan and North Korea, enough that a regular ferry service between the two countries became a possibility. This was realized in 1971, with the introduction of the first Man Gyong Bong – a 3,400 ton combination passenger-cargo vessel built in the Chongjin Shipyard in Chongjin, North Korea. She carried about 300 passengers, and, at a speed of about 10 knots, could make the trip from Wonsan, North Korea to Niigata, Japan in little over 2 days.
The Man Gyong Bong provided a valuable service for ethnic Koreans in Japan, allowing them to visit their relatives in the North. During the 1950s and '60s, the North Korean government, and North Korean-sponsored organizations in Japan, had heavily encouraged immigration to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, painting a rosy picture of life in the Communist paradise, and it worked quite well, with about 100,000 Japanese citizens moving to North Korea during that time (most were ethnic Koreans, though several thousand ethic Japanese migrated as well). Once there, travel abroad to visit their old homeland was strictly forbidden, but, with the introduction of the Man Gyong Bong, their family members still residing in Japan could at least come and pay them a visit at their new home in North Korea.
Man Gyong Bong was small, not terribly practical for cargo transport, and, especially, very slow. By the mid 1980s, the DPRK government was already considering a replacement. As a present to President Kim Il-Sung, on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1992, the pro-DPRK General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) conducted a fundraising campaign among their members, raising the $32 million necessary to build a larger and faster ferry.
The result was the Man Gyong Bong 92 – delivered in September, 1992 – 5 months after Eternal President Kim's 80th. Man Gyong Bong 92 measured 9,672 tons (nearly 3 times the size of the original Man Gyong Bong, enough to make her by far the largest passenger ship under the North Korean flag), and 414 ft. long. Construction was again handled by the Chongjin Shipyard, with the ship being operated by the DPRK state-owned Daizin Shipping Company.
Despite the increase in size, passenger capacity was reduced to about 200, albeit in more spacious and comfortable facilities than before. Cargo space was expanded significantly, with the ship being equipped with roll on/roll off (ro-ro) ramps for trucks, and large cranes for self-unloading and loading. Most importantly, the new ship was capable of 23 knots, enough to make the Wonsan-Niigata trip in a much-improved 28 hours.
From 1992-2006, Man Gyong Bong 92 plied the North Korea-Japan route, making about 2 round trips per month, with ticket prices topping out at around $1,500 in First Class. Most passengers were Japanese Koreans visiting relatives in North Korea, or students from Chongryon schools traveling to North Korea for study abroad programs. The cargo space was mostly filled with food and medical supplies, as well as Japanese electronics and modern consumer products not otherwise available in the DPRK.
However, starting in 2002, the whole arrangement began to unravel. That year, North Korea publicly admitted to kidnapping a number of Japanese civilians during the 1970s and '80s. Although General Kim Jong-il stopped short of explaining the exact method used to smuggle captured Japanese into his country, the fact that the original Man Gyong Bong was the only direct connection between the two nations at the time made it perhaps the obvious mode. This lead to increased media and political scrutiny on the operations of Daizin Shipping and Man Gyong Bong 92, with official investigations launched in Japan and the United States from 2003-onward.
These investigations lead to the conclusion that Man Gyong Bong 92 happened to be the primary method used by North Korea to import the foreign electronic components necessary for their missile program, with about 90% of required parts transported by the ship during the 1990s and early 2000s. Furthermore, evidence was also found that the Chongryon was operating a network of North Korean spies within Japan, receiving orders from, and passing information to, handlers sailing on the ship as crew, and, as if that wasn't enough, Man Gyong Bong 92 was also being used to smuggle North Korean-manufactured methamphetamine into Japan for distribution by the yakuza, earning the North Korean government (and the Kim family) about $7 billion over 10 years in the process.
As a result of deteriorating public relations, Daizin Shipping cut back sailing schedules to only one round trip every few months from 2003 onward. Finally, after North Korea's test firing of their new Taepodong-2 ballistic missile in July of 2006, Japan issued a temporary ban on all North Korean ships in their waters, which became permanent a few months later, due to North Korea's nuclear weapons testing.
After that, Man Gyong Bong 92 sat idle for 5 years, until 2011, when she was re-activated as a cruise ship – the impetus being that tourism was basically the only industry in North Korea not subject to international sanctions, and provided some opportunity, however limited, to earn some revenue from foreign tourists. From 2011-2013, the ship was used for 5-day cruises from Wonsan to the Mt. Kumgang resort area near the South Korean border. Accommodations were somewhat less than luxurious. For an all-inclusive fare of about $500, passengers were treated to foam cot mattresses on hard wooden bunk beds in open dormitories, if they were lucky, or just a mattress on the floor if they were less so. Food quality was said to be abysmal, but still much better than that experienced by most North Koreans outside Pyongyang, given that the food existed.
In 2013, North Korea purchased the old 1980-built ex-Soviet Black Sea ferry Dmitriy Shostakovich, which had been running gambling cruises out of Singapore as the Royale Star, and used it to replace Man Gyong Bong 92 in the Mt. Kumgang cruise service.
After that, the ship was laid up again, while North Korea began attempting to negotiate with Japan to reopen the old ferry service. From 2017-2020, Man Gyong Bong 92 was used very occasionally on irregular runs from Rason, North Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (the route more typically served by the original 1971-built Man Gyong Bong, which is still in use), and, in 2018, also used her to carry the North Korean delegation to the Olympic Games in South Korea, with Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Kim Yong-nam on board. However, since 2013, she has spent most of her time idle in port, and has not moved at all since early 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with all of North Korea's merchant ships, due to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's decision to completely isolate the country, no exports, no imports, no commercial fishing, out of a belief that the virus lives in seawater.
This is not intended to be political, I had a lot of good times in Atlantic City pre-pandemic, and have always been kind of interested in the history of the town, and its ups, downs, further downs, and even lower downs, over the years. Few buildings are quite as emblematic of the city's fortunes as this one.
For anyone in the Southern New Jersey area with nothing to do tomorrow, a not-very-old, but very derelict building with a troubled history is getting imploded at 9am – the former Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, abandoned since 2014.
The property's long and troubled history started in 1966 – that year, two buildings opened at opposite ends of the same block - the 20-story Holiday Inn Boardwalk Hotel, at 2209 Boardwalk and the 11-floor Four Seasons Motel at 2300 Pacific Avenue.
In 1978, both hotels were acquired by Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione and closed down, with Guccione announcing plans to renovate both structures and link them together to create a new mega-resort called the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel & Casino, which would open by 1980. The project required the acquisition and demolition of every other property in between the two hotels, creating a giant, L-shaped plot covering about half a city block. The City of Atlantic City used their powers of eminent domain (aka compulsory purchase, for those of you in the Commonwealth) to assist Guccione in assembling his new lot. The one holdout was a woman named Vera Coking, who operated a low budget boarding house in a 3-story 1920s building in the middle of the block. Coking refused to sell at any price, and launched a legal challenge over the use of eminent domain for a private, commercial development project. Guccione decided he couldn't wait for the matter to be settled in court, and began construction in 1979, building his new structure around Coking's property, hemming in her house on 3 sides with towering steel framework.
However, Guccione and Penthouse Entertainment soon ran into financial difficulties, and construction was suspended in 1980, leaving only the gutted Four Seasons and Holiday Inn buildings and the empty steel frame of the new structure between them.
Enter Donald Trump and his New York-based development company, the Trump Organization. In 1981, Trump signed a joint venture deal with Harrah's Entertainment to build a casino along the Boardwalk on the same block as the stalled Penthouse venture, leasing a lot bordering the Penthouse on two sides. Construction began in 1982, and the Harrah's Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino opened its doors in early 1984. Designed by well-known hotel architect Martin Stern, the 39-story building opened with 614 hotel rooms and suites and a 60,000 sq ft casino. The Trump Organization manged the hotel, food service, and banqueting operations, while Harrah's was in charge of the casino. Almost immediately, problems developed within the partnership. The summer season of 1984 failed to hit revenue projections – Harrah's blamed Donald Trump's insistence on building the hotel without adequate on-site parking and too-high of a ratio of luxury suites to normal rooms; Trump insisted that the building was intended to attract wealthy high rollers, who would arrive in chauffeured limousines from the airport, and that the Harrah's brand name, and its association with middle class customers at its Nevada properties was bringing the operation down.
In the Fall of 1984, Harrah's agreed to take their name off the casino, with it now becoming the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. Later that year, Trump bought the stalled Hilton Marina Hotel & Casino in the Marina district of Atlantic City, directly next door to the Harrah's Marina Hotel & Casino, violating the noncompete provision in the partnership. At that point, the relationship broke down completely, and Harrah's sold their stake in Trump Plaza to Trump in early 1985.
Overextended, and with several unwise investments, including the money losing corpse of Eastern Airlines, Trump's business empire teetered on collapse in the early 1990s recession, he managed to narrowly avert bankruptcy by trading equity in various assets for debt forgiveness, loosing 50% of Trump Plaza in the process, but remaining in managerial control.
In 1992, Trump managed to buy the rusting, derelict Penthouse property next door, and announced plans for a major expansion of Trump Plaza. At that point, the eminent domain case against Vera Coking was renewed, this time with Trump in place of Guccione. The old Four Seasons Motel and all of the Penthouse's new framework built between 1979-1980 were demolished in 1993, while the old Holiday Inn was retained. Martin Stern was brought back in to renovate the 1960s structure and build an addition to link it to the Trump Plaza, turning it into the “new” East Tower of that property. A new entrance and porte cochere and surface parking lot was built on the remainder of the Penthouse site, with project being completed in phases between 1994-1995.
Trump Plaza was, along with Trump's other casino businesses, folded into a new, publicly-traded company called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. in 1995.
Eventually, the case against Vera Coking was settled in her favor in 1998. The final expansion saw a new parking garage built on the edge of the Penthouse lot in 2000, finally solving a problem Trump Plaza had had from day one.
Overexpansion in Atlantic City, competition from legalized gambling in other states, a heavy debt load, and the post-9/11 travel downturn pushed Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts into bankruptcy in 2004, the company restructured and emerged with a new name, Trump Entertainment Resorts, with Donald Trump's shareholding significantly reduced in exchange for debt forgiveness.
But, just a few years later, the 2008 Great Recession started, and Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt again in 2009. Immediately prior, the Trump Organization was defeated in an attempt to take the company private again, with Trump resigning as chairman and board member in the aftermath of that failure.
The company emerged from bankruptcy again in 2010, only to be hit by a lawsuit from Donald Trump in 2014, alleging that the Trump Plaza and sister property Trump Taj Mahal had been allowed to deteriorate so severely as to violate the terms of their licensing deal for his brand, demanding that they either be renovated or have his name taken off. Later that year, Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt again, wiping out the remainder of Donald Trump's token shareholding. Trump Plaza closed for the final time in September of 2014.
That same year, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who had become Trump Entertainment Resorts' largest creditor through debt purchases, acquired and demolished Vera Coking's old boarding house in the middle of the block.
The remains of Trump Entertainment Resorts exited bankruptcy in 2016, now under the ownership of Carl Icahn and his company, Icahn Enterprises. Over the next several years, Icahn was unable to interest anyone in the old casino, with the ground lease arrangement being cited as a major obstacle. In 2018, Icahn finally bought out the land under the building, uniting the whole property under the control of a single owner for the first time. That year, he first announced plans to demolish Trump Plaza, explaining that the cost of rehabilitating the building exceeded the cost of building something new, and that the lot would be far more attractive to to investors without the structure on it.
After two years of delays, work began on gutting the building and demolishing lower-level portions in late 2020, and the main tower is scheduled for implosion tomorrow. Icahn has not announced any firm future plans for the site – early proposals called for retaining the East Tower (ex Holiday Inn) and the parking garage, before switching to total demolition, but more recent reports seem to be conflicting on that.
Even while the hotel was still operating, several floors of hotel rooms were closed off due to water leaks from the failing roof, and the building has become riddled with mold over the years. In addition, pieces of concrete cladding have been breaking loose and crashing to the ground in high winds, causing the city to label the building a threat to health and safety. I remember going to Atlantic City on the last day of operation – at the time, the sign out front proclaimed it the “U LAZA”, as the budget had not allowed for light bulb replacements in some time.
As for what will replace it, my money is on a vacant lot. This will be the 3rd casino demolished in Atlantic City's history, following the Trump World's Fair in 2000 and the Sands Atlantic City in 2007. The former remained a vacant lot until a strip mall was built on part of the site in 2015, while the remainder is empty; while the Sands site is still entirely undeveloped.
EDIT: And there it went
Parking garage and East Tower are still standing, I guess TBD if they go later through conventional demolition, or get saved and turned into something else
Got pizza and beer, decided to take a 60 mile detour through Amish country on the way home. Some sketchy people at the commuter park and ride lot (actually looked very much like a drug deal in process), so pulled over at the high school for a couple pictures instead.
When the White Star Line began planning their Olympic-Class trio of transatlantic superliners, they recognized that the port of Cherbourg, France would be incapable of accommodating such large ships. To compensate, two tender vessels were built to service the Olympic-class liners in port, the ships would dock out in the harbor, and the smaller tenders would transfer passengers, mail, and cargo from shore to ship and vice versa. Two vessels were built – Traffic, designed to carry Third Class passengers, mail, and cargo, and Nomadic – carrying primarily First Class and Second Class passengers, but with a small Third Class area, in the event that Traffic reached capacity.
Nomadic was laid down by Harland & Wolff in Belfast on December 22, 1910, with construction taking place in the shadow of the first two ships she would serve – Olympic and Titanic. Nomadic was launched on April 25, 1911, and was handed over to White Star on May 27th. As built, she measured 1,273 gross tons and 220 ft. long – quite sizable, for something that was only intended to move passengers around in the harbor, not for open-ocean or overnight service. Nomadic was powered by a pair of double-expansion steam engines driving twin screws for a service speed of 12 knots, and could carry a total of 1,000 passengers at full capacity, plus 14 crew.
As they were to operate exclusively in Cherbourg, Nomadic and Traffic were both registered in France, owned by a White Star subsidiary company. The ship's interiors were designed to mimic the spaces on board Olympic, Titanic, and the future Britannic, with similar carved wood paneling, ornate plaster work, leaded glass, and brass fixtures.
Nomadic was first used on June 14, 1911, ferrying passengers to Olympic on her maiden voyage, and, of course, less than a year later, carried 274 passengers to Titanic on April 10, 1912 on her unexpectedly curtailed inaugural voyage.
Following the loss of Titanic, Nomadic continued tendering service for Olympic, and, occasionally, for liners operated by other companies that contracted with White Star for port services, until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, at which point she was requisitioned by the French Navy and converted to a minesweeper for use in the English Channel.
Nomadic was returned to White Star in 1919 and was refurbished back to her civilian role, resuming tender operations for Olympic, and, later, Majestic (Britannic's replacement) and Homeric (Titanic's replacement). This lasted until 1927, when the financially ailing White Star Line opted to divest itself of non-core assets, selling their port services division to French investors, who reorganized it as Compagnie Cherbourgeoise de Transbordement SA (CCT). CCT continued to use Nomadic as a tender in the port of Cherbourg, serving White Star ships, and also any other company's liners too large to dock.
White Star dropped their tendering contract with CCT in 1934, upon White Star's absorption into the new Cunard White Star organization, and, that year, a major dredging and pier extension project was completed, which eliminated the need for tenders at Cherbourg. With Nomadic now displaced, she was sold to Société Cherbourgeoise de Sauvetage et de Remorquage SA (SCSR), renamed Ingenieur Minard, and converted into a towing and recovery vessel.
The French Navy requisitioned her again in 1939, using her as a coastal transport and supply ship. Ingenieur Minard was used in the evacuation of Cherbourg in 1940, and fell under the control of the British Royal Navy following the fall of France, with the ship being used until 1945 as an accommodation vessel moored in Portsmouth. As the new, longer piers at Cherbourg had been completely destroyed in the war, SCSR opted to convert Ingenieur Minard back into a passenger tender, returning to that role in the Summer of 1947, serving the Cunard White Star liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth during their calls at the city.
Ingenieur Minard remained in service until 1968, when, after 57 years, she was withdrawn from service and laid up. By then, Le Havre had long since displaced Cherbourg as the main port for Atlantic liners in France, and airliners had siphoned off the majority of the remaining business, leaving SCSR with fewer and fewer ships to service.
Perhaps because of the lingering notoriety from her brief association with Titanic, Ingenieur Minard was not sold for scrap, but remained tied up until 1973, when she was purchased by French businessman Yvon Vincent for conversion into a restaurant. Her funnel and upper superstructure were removed, along with her engines and boilers, and, renamed back to Nomadic, she was towed down the River Seine to Paris, where she opened as a restaurant, bar, and events venue in 1974.
The venture encountered financial difficulties during the 1990s, ultimately closing in bankruptcy during 1999. After that, Nomadic remained tied up along the Seine in increasingly deteriorating condition, until the Parisian harbor authorities seized control of the ship in 2002, concerned that she might sink and pose a navigational and environmental hazard.
Following the seizure, her 1970s-era dummy funnel and Plexiglas upper superstructure were removed, allowing her to be towed out of Paris and up to Le Havre, where she was laid up. Yvon Vincent continued to contest ownership of Nomadic until his death in 2005, at which point, his heirs gave up the legal battle.
With the Vincent estate no longer interested in her, the French authorities announced in March of 2005 that Nomadic was being placed up for public sale, and that, if no other viable alternatives came forward, bids from scrap metal firms would be entertained. This set off an outcry among preservationists and historical organizations, which led to the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development purchasing the ship at auction in January of 2006, for just one Euro above the reserve price.
As Nomadic's hull was too deteriorated to survive a tow to Belfast, she was placed aboard a submersible barge for the trip, arriving back in the city where she was built in July of 2006. Nomadic spent several years tied up in the harbor while plans and funding for restoration were finalized, until August of 2009, when she was moved into the same drydock where she was originally fitted out, and which would become her permanent home.
Nomadic's original builders, Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries, were contracted to conduct all structural steel repairs and reconstruction. Original paneling and fittings removed during various renovations in France were recovered and restored for re-installation, and missing pieces were recreated.
After years of work, restoration on Nomadic was finally completed in 2013, with the ship opening to the public as a museum and special events venue, within the larger Titanic Quarter attraction, developed over a large part of Belfast's former shipbuilding areas. In 2015, the Northern Irish government transferred ownership to a private charity, the Titanic Foundation, which manages most of the other Titanic-related attractions in the area.
Since the scrapping of the 1930s-vintage Britannic in 1961, Nomadic has been the only surviving ex-White Star Line ship in the world, unless you count the Queen Mary in California, which was designed and ordered by the Cunard Line, and eventually delivered to the merged Cunard White Star venture. Since coming under the control of the Titanic Foundation, Nomadic has seen in excess of 125,000 visitors per year, on average.
Although the exterior and most of the interiors have been restored and rebuilt to their 1911 appearance, the same has not been done with the gutted engineering spaces. During 2008, preservationist groups advocated for the purchase of the nearly identical steam engines and boilers from the 1907 vintage, Scottish-built Lake Victoria freighter Nyanza, after her owners announced plans for a diesel-powered rebuild, however that proposal never panned out and may never have been seriously considered.
Smoking lounge is coming along, I've had this 60s vintage fireplace in storage for awhile (think it's from Montgomery Ward originally), really ties the room together.
Now just need that cocktail bar to come in from China, and also get some sort of charcoal filter unit
@dr-zoidberg I guess it is on the smaller side for a midsize, but, c'mon man, 190 inches is not a compact
@bicyclebuck We are supposedly at 72% of adults vaccinated here, but it's some highly populous areas screwing the averages for the whole state - large swathes are still well under 50-60% when you get away from the affluent areas up north and near the beaches