Red crane added as symbol of city history

November 07, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore's low-profile Museum of Industry was getting a bright red, 60-foot-high shipyard crane today to mark its location on Key Highway.

The 1942 Clyde Iron Works Whirley Crane, which once helped repair war-damaged ships at Bethlehem Steel's Key Highway Shipyard, was to be re-erected in three sections today over the museum's parking lot.

The crane will become a permanent, non-working museum exhibit, representing the last trace of 200 years of shipbuilding at the foot of Federal Hill. It also will serve as a local landmark.

"In the past we had a bit of a visibility problem, like many of Baltimore's small history museums," said Virginia Remsberg, publications officer for the museum. "This will certainly raise our visibility."

Museum officials expect the crane to be visible from Interstate 95.

The new attraction is being added just in time for the museum's 10th anniversary, which will be celebrated Nov. 15-17.

Remsberg said the museum will have a day of free admission on Sunday, Nov. 17, from noon to 5 p.m., featuring a "special post office stamp cancellation, demonstrations and workshops and children's activities."

The crane weighs 110 tons, Remsberg said. Its tower is 60 feet high, and its boom extends 80 feet. It was capable of lifting 15 tons.

One of three identical cranes that towered over the Key Highway shipyard from 1942 until 1988, it went out of service when the yard was dismantled to make way for a marina and condominium project being built by the Harborview Limited Partnerships.

The crane was first installed by Bethlehem Steel during expansion of the shipyard in response to the damage inflicted by World War II on international shipping.

The yard provided repair services and converted merchant vessels and passenger liners to military duty. At its wartime peak in 1944, the Key Highway yard employed 11,000 workers.

Harborview's Richard Swirnow donated the crane after being approached with the idea by the museum.

"We felt when Harborview was going into that spot, it was very important to save one of those cranes," Remsberg said.

Last December it was taken apart and moved up the shoreline from the shipyard to the museum aboard the Cape Fear, a floating crane provided by the McLean Contracting Co.

Since then, more than two dozen firms, unions and individuals have donated materials, labor and cash to the restoration of the crane and the construction of the footings.

Originally green, the crane was stripped last spring and repainted red, partly because the donated paint happened to be red.

Remsberg said that while "this crane probably was never red, others built by the same company were red."

The costs of stripping and repainting the crane were covered by a $30,000 donation by the late Howard Head, founder of Head Skis.

The Museum of Industry is at 1415 Key Highway. For more information, call 727-4808.

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