By Molly Daly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The effort to save a mothballed historic cruise ship docked on Philadelphia’s waterfront is sending out an SOS that’ll light up the city’s skyline for the next three nights.

The LED displays of the Peco Building and Cira Centre will feature the SS United States, the gutted luxury liner whose faded red, white, and blue funnels can be seen from I-95 in South Philadelphia.

Susan Gibbs, executive director of the SS United States Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s Philadelphia-born designer, William Francis Gibbs, says the vessel is one of a kind.

“The SS United States is the most famous ship that didn’t sink,” Gibbs says.  “She smashed the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage, in 1952, and she is a true American treasure.”

But that entirely made-in-America treasure could be headed for the scrap heap in a matter of weeks if the money to keep her afloat isn’t raised.

So the group has launched a crowdfunding site,, and will hold a rally tomorrow at Love Park, followed by a documentary screening at the Independence Seaport Museum.  Gibbs says they have so far raised about one-fifth of the half-million dollars they need to meet the ship’s immediate preservation needs.

She says the long-term goal is to convert the vessel into a mixed-use museum and development complex.  But those plans will be scuttled if the money is not raised.

“She’s ready for repurposing. She’s a lady in waiting, and we still have this chance to save her,” Gibbs said today.