NEW LONDON, Conn. — The National Coast Guard Museum took two more steps to becoming a reality in downtown New London on May 1. First, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio transferred the city’s property adjacent to the train station and ferry terminals to the U.S. Coast Guard for the museum project.
Then, in a separate event, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, along with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp, Finizio and James J. Coleman Jr., chairman of the National Coast Guard Museum Association Inc., ceremonially broke ground on the site, officially paving the way for the design and engineering to start the next phase on the project, according to a May 2 press release.
“Today is significant not only because we are finally getting this landmark project under way — one that will celebrate the men and women of the Coast Guard over the history of our country,” Malloy said. “Today is also significant because we are coming together to invest in the future of this region, to help it get back on its feet and start building again.”
The event also featured a champagne reception on City Pier, flanked by the U.S. Coast Guard training barque Eagle and Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat CG-36500, the 36-foot lifeboat made famous by the 1952 rescue of 32 survivors from the ill-fated tanker Pendleton off the shores of Chatham, Mass. That heroic Coast Guard rescue is the subject of a book, “The Finest Hours” by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman, which is now being developed into a Disney movie set to star Chris Pine of “Star Trek” fame.
In addition, the ceremony included a special appearance by one of the association’s honorary chairmen, actor John Amos, best known for his popular character role of James Evans in the hit CBS sitcom “Good Times” and Emmy-nominated performance in the epic 1977 miniseries “Roots.” Amos, who was first employed as an advertising copywriter, a social worker, and semi-professional football player, is a veteran of the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey National Guard and Honorary Master Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy.
“Today marks yet another important milestone in our continuing progress towards establishing a National Coast Guard Museum,” Papp said. “I am very thankful for the efforts of everyone involved to honor our Long Blue Line of Coast Guard men and women who sacrificed during war and peace since the founding of our Republic to protect and defend the United States of America.”
Earlier this year, the State of Connecticut, the Coast Guard, the City of New London and the National Coast Guard Museum Association signed a Memorandum of Agreement that provided the framework of actions necessary to make the museum a reality. In addition, it mentioned that the association would convey the museum to the Coast Guard by gift upon completion of the construction. The city also agreed to convey the land for the museum to the Coast Guard by gift and become the primary interlocutor with local officials, property owners and businesses to coordinate support for the museum and help resolve potential issues that may affect construction and design.
“This is a historic day for New London, for the United States Coast Guard and for the United States of America,” Finizio said. “We are honored to transfer this land to the National Coast Guard Museum Association, knowing this national treasure will be located in the heart of our City.”
The historic Memorandum of Agreement also paved the way for the state to provide $20 million for the design and construction of a proposed pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to access not only the museum, but also an adjacent new Cross Sound Ferry terminal and the north bound Amtrak platform. In addition, the state would help coordinate, support, and advise on ancillary work associated with the project, including property purchases, feasibility studies, traffic redesigns, rail transportation concerns, parking needs assessments, and other components of the project.
“This ceremonial groundbreaking is a testament to Adm. Papp’s commitment and dedication to building the nation’s first and only National Coast Guard Museum in New London, Connecticut,” Coleman said. “We continue to strengthen the momentum that we have developed since the April 2013 announcement of the site selected. It is the natural progression in any campaign, and demonstrates the viability and progress that our campaign has made in 13 months.”
The new National Coast Guard Museum will be a fitting tribute to the men and women of the service — those currently serving, those wanting to serve and all those who have served over the past 224 years. Permanent and revolving multi-media exhibits will tell compelling stories of its past, present and future as they evoke the Coast Guard’s critical role and mission in maritime security, safety, protection of natural resources, and national defense. As a dynamic institution charged with these roles, the museum will use interactive and modern technology in exhibits to engage the public, veterans and present Coast Guard men and women as they serve our nation now and into the future.
Plans include a four-story, 54,000-square-foot building with four floors of interactive exhibits, event space and lecture rooms as well as a reception area with a gift shop and café. In addition, plans anticipate berthing Eagle at an adjacent pier, serving as an additional attraction.
The National Coast Guard Museum Association is currently engaged in a nationwide fundraising campaign. The public is invited to participate by donating to the “Barque Eagle Society.” Through minimum donations of $1,000, $5,000, or a three-year commitment of $15,000, donors will become members of the museum’s exclusive “Barque Eagle Society” (BES) and will receive a unique, limited-edition portrait of Eagle, created on canvas by famed Coast Guard artist Tony Falcone of Prospect, Conn. Full details of the BES can be found on the Museum’s website.
For more information or to make a donation, contact the National Coast Guard Museum Association at 860-443-4200 or visit www.coastguardmuseum.org, and follow @USCGMuseum on Facebook and Twitter.
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