Normandie was considered by many to be the world’s ultimate ocean liner, she was the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat when she entered service in 1935, and a pinnacle of French design.
Construction started in January 1931 at St Nazaire, western France, where all previous French ocean liners had also been constructed. The liner was completed in May 1935.
The shipyard Chantiers et Ateliers de St Nazaire (Penhoët) built the liner for the shipping company Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT), which was known as the French Line.
Normandie’s design was created by Russian émigré Vladimir Yourkevitch, and incorporated beautiful lines, a rounded stem and bulbous bow beneath the waterline. The liner’s dimensions were revolutionary, with a length of 1,029 feet and width of 184 feet. The hull design also enabled the ship to achieve a maximum recorded speed of 32.2 knots.
Despite having three funnels, the last one was actually a dummy, used to house kennels.
The interior spaces were lavishly decorated by a number of designers in a modern art deco style.
During sea trials it was revealed that Normandie had vibration issues, this was later corrected at the end of her first season.
Normandie was also fitted with a radar detection device for detecting objects, the first passenger liner to have such a device.
On 29th May, 1935, on her first voyage, the Normandie broke the speed record for crossing the Atlantic and became the Blue Riband holder, and Hales Trophy winner.
For a number of years the SS Normandie provided passengers with luxury ocean travel.
However with the outbreak of war, the Normandie ultimately was seized in New York by the United States, who intended to convert it into a naval transport vessel, and rename it USS Lafayette.
In February 1942 during the conversion from passenger liner to navy ship a fire broke out. The fire department pumped water onto the ship in an effort to put out the fire, however the water ultimately caused the ship to capsize.
Although the liner was refloated, it was impractical to restore her to her original condition, and she was scrapped in October 1946.
Bronze medallions from doors on the Normandie are part of the front doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY, where the Captain’s table is also in use.