New London celebrates funding for National Coast Guard Museum

The Day

By: Greg Smith

March 25, 2022

New London — In April 2006, former Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell gathered with state and local officials on the waterfront of Fort Trumbull to announce a state contribution toward construction of a National Coast Guard Museum.

The location has since changed but the idea of situating a National Coast Guard Museum in New London has been around for more than two decades. It now appears that the series of starts and stops that have delayed the construction are nearing an end.

On Friday, the city hosted a celebration of the $50 million in federal funding now dedicated to the project as part of a federal funding bill signed by President Joe Biden last week. Members of the Coast Guard Museum Association, which leads the fundraising efforts for the museum, call it a game changer and the impetus for more private funds to flow to the project.

Sen. Chris Murphy, chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, is credited with leading the push for federal funds and was among dignitaries to express excitement over the prospect of construction finally starting.

Construction on City Pier could start as early as this summer if permits are secured for the project.

“This has been a 20-year dream to have a museum on this waterfront befitting of the sacrifices that thousands of men and women who have been part of the Coast Guard’s long story have made,” Murphy said. “This is the only service that does not have an institution to be able to tell the story of that service, of that bravery, of that legacy of heroism."

Friday’s event was held on City Pier, near the location of where the six-story, 80,000-square-foot museum will be constructed. “America’s Tall Ship,” the barque Eagle, which will have a dedicated spot near the future museum, was the backdrop for Friday’s event that featured comments from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, Mayor Michael Passero, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Dean and others.

Officials say the museum is likely to attract several hundred thousand visitors to the city each year and comes at a time when Mayor Passero said the city is in the midst of “an economic renaissance ... the likes of which we have not seen since the whaling era when New London’s wealth was unrivaled in the state.”

“This museum will also introduce these new visitors to New London’s vibrant cultural and historic assets,” Passero said.

New London was secured as the future home for the museum thanks to federal legislation passed in 2014, an effort led by former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, with support from U.S. senators. The downtown location for the museum was codified with the donation of land from the city under former New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio later that same year. The downtown location, which continues to generate controversy locally, was seen as a better fit for the museum to attract visitors because of its proximity to the city’s transportation hub.

The state, as part of funding commitments to the project, has pledged $20 million toward construction of a 400-foot pedestrian bridge over Water Street and the railroad tracks, which will bring visitors directly to the museum and waterfront.

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