Coast Guard highlights national museum project’s oldest artifact
At the Commonwealth Conservation Center In Carlisle, Pa., work has begun to restore an 18th-century fog signal cannon that is expected to be one of the oldest artifacts on display at the future National Coast Guard Museum in New London.
For years the cannon was fired at regular intervals during times of poor visibility to steer ships clear of the shoals and rocks around Boston Light on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor.
The National Coast Guard Museum Association, the group responsible for curating the items that will fill the interior of the 80,000-square-foot museum, hosted a behind-the-scenes look at the cannon and the start of the restoration process in a Facebook live event on Thursday.
The restoration work is being performed by B.R. Howard & Associates Conservation, whose workers on Thursday hoisted the cannon, which looks like a piece of heavy artillery and probably once was a naval cannon, from its wooden cradle and onto a custom metal platform for better maneuverability.
Boston Light was built in 1716 and a cannon installed there in 1719. National Coast Guard Museum curator Gabe Christy said while the cannon being restored is not the original cannon, it likely dates back to the mid-18th century and is an important part of maritime history. Boston Light was mostly destroyed in the Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1776.
The fog cannon hasn’t been used since the mid-1800s and was sent to the Coast Guard Academy in New London the 1960s before it was returned to Little Brewster Island in 1993, Christy said. He said one of the things he hopes to uncover during the cannon’s restoration, which includes stripping away of the paint, are the maker’s mark or other ways to identify the age.
The cannon will at some point be a feature of a museum that is still in the early phase of construction on New London’s waterfront. With bulkhead and fill work completed to expand the footprint for the structure behind Union Station on Water Street, work to install more than 200 micropiles for the foundation of the building is expected to start in the coming weeks. A drill used for the test piles is already on site.
The Coast Guard Museum Association, the group responsible for funding and building the structure, said the plan is to put the entire construction project out to bid in 2024. The project is expected to cost an estimated $150 million and be funded through mix of state and federal funds, along with private donations. The museum association said Thursday it plans to secure additional funds to cover any additional expenses incurred because of cost escalations since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The museum association has already received $50 million in federal funding and raised $44 million of a $50 million goal. The state has pledged $20 million toward construction of a pedestrian bridge that will link the waterfront and the museum with the Water Street parking garage.
“The Association is 100 percent laser focused on project completion,” Wes Pulver, president of the National Coast Guard Museum Association and retired U.S. Coast Guard captain.
“We are actively working with our partners on the federal, state, and local level, and remain incredibly grateful for their unwavering support as well as the support from all our donors and stakeholders. We are so excited for all that this museum will deliver for the nation, the United States Coast Guard and for southeastern Connecticut,” Pulver said.
Once it gets to the museum, Christy said the cannon will be mounted on a scenic display made to replicate the shores of Little Brewster Island. Among other planned displays in the five-story museum is an atrium that features an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter suspended in an action scene from the ceiling. The home berth for the historic tall ship barque Eagle will be alongside the museum.
For more information visit: https://www.coastguardmuseum.org/
Editor’s note: The estimated size of the National Coast Guard Museum is 80,000 square feet. Information in an earlier version was incorrect.
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