NEW LONDON, Conn. — Supporters of a National Coast Guard Museum cheered Friday as political and military dignitaries reveled in a ceremonial deed signing and groundbreaking for the planned 54,000-square-foot tribute to the maritime service along the Thames River in Connecticut.
The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., signed a deed with the mayor of New London, transferring the site of the future museum from the city to the Coast Guard, The Day of New London reported. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also was on hand.
"This museum will not only be a home for all the veterans of our Coast Guard, it will not only be an economic driver for our city and our region, but it will truly be a national treasure for all Americans," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said.
Dozens of museum supporters gathered at City Pier for the festivities amid a backdrop of the Thames River, the 300-foot-long Coast Guard barque Eagle and the 44-foot Coast Guard lifeboat CG36500, which became famous in 1952 when its crew rescued 32 people from the wrecked tanker Pendleton off Cape Cod.
After officials signed the land transfer document, the crowd cheered and Papp said, "I have the deed. Can you believe it? I think I'm going to sleep with this tonight."
Much work remains to be done, however, before construction on the $80 million museum can begin. While the state has committed $20 million to the project, millions more dollars need to be raised before construction. Officials are hopeful the waterfront museum can open in 2017.
Malloy said the museum is a potential major driver of tourism for the region, bringing in an estimated half a million visitors each year.
Although the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, also in New London, already has a museum, backers of the new project say it will be the first national museum to honor the 224-year-old maritime service.