After fifty years of operating a roadside business on the site, Ship builder Herbert Paulson died in 1973. Five years later, his family sold the Ship Hotel for $70,000 to Jack and Mary Loya, locals who lived about half a mile down the hill. The Loyas tried to revitalize the property by renaming it "Noah's Ark," covering its metal surface with brown wood, and adding a petting zoo, but the venture fizzled. The Ship closed to the public in 1987 and soon began to deteriorate. Here's how it looked when I first saw it, three years later:
Soon after my visit, preservationists rediscovered the Lincoln Highway, and the Ship Hotel in particular. In June 1993, a new Lincoln Highway Association held its charter conference in nearby Bedford. Five years later, officials of Pennsylvania's Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor proposed to buy the Ship Hotel for its appraised value of about $40,000, and raise up to $2 million in federal, state and local preservation grants to restore the Ship to its former glory. Jack Loya responded by demanding $900,000 for the decaying shell of his long-closed business, which looked like this in 1998:
The impasse continued...as did the Ship's deterioration, hastened by a series of squatters who periodically occupied the building. To deter further intrusion, Loya kept a light burning and a television on inside the abandoned Ship. I could hear the TV when I stopped again on Sunday, October 21, 2001.
The long-abandoned gas station across the road was faring no better...
...but at least the Grand View remained.
Five days later, at 2:30 a.m. Friday, October 26, firemen responded to a report that the Ship was in flames. They were too late. The old structure burned so quickly that one fireman described the scene as "like the sun was coming up." Instead of $40,000, the greedy Loya got nothing -- the property wasn't insured. When I returned to the site in early June 2002, only rubble and twisted metal remained:
Preservationists will soon mark the site with plaques and a miniature model of the Ship. But a tribute can't end on this depressing note -- continue on to the final page for a peek at the inside of the Ship during its glory years.