June 19, 2008

Civil War cannons are back on Monument Square

Gently lowered into place, hopefully for the last time

The Civil War cannons are back on Monument Square, where they were originally placed back in 1889.

Despite all the Sturm und Drang accompanying the debate over their removal three years ago when Monument Square was refurbished, they returned to their place alongside Racine's 61-ft. tall Civil War monument this afternoon, with nary a skirmish.

Alderman Jeff Coe was present, seemingly making amends for his advocacy of the proposal the cannons be sent to Kenosha to take up residence in that city's new Civil War Museum.

"The only thing we did stupidly was put them into storage," he said today. "We should have given them to Kenosha. I just thought, what better way to honor them than to give them to a museum, where they could take care of them?"

But as they returned to their place today, he said, "I'm OK with their return. I'm just glad the city got it resolved."

Coe recalled playing on the cannons as a child, and admitted to bringing his daughter to the square when she was young to also play on them. Today, he brought Heather, now 17, to Monument Square to help remove the paving bricks to make room for the heavy granite bases on which the cannons will sit. "Maybe in 100 years they'll debate this again," Coe said philosophically.

Both cannons were placed aiming north. Nobody could recall why, except that's the direction they faced originally. Coe showed a picture to prove it.

Today's reinstallation operation was led by Monte Osterman of Osterman Granite and Tile, assisted by David Carbajal. The crane from Meyers Racine Monument Works was operated by Jim Anspaugh. First they gently lowered the 3,300-lb. Mesabi granite bases into place, and then the two cannons themselves, one weighing 3,650 lbs and the other 3,530 pounds -- according to the engravings on their barrels. One is RPP No. 228; the other RPP No. 53; RPP stands for Robert Parker Parrott, the designer, who apparently also oversaw their construction personally. See HERE for more on their historical background.

Under each of the bases, Osterman put his traditional good luck pieces. He had wanted to place a 2008 Wisconsin quarter under each -- to tell some future generation when the cannons were reinstalled -- but had to settle for 2004 Wisconsin and 2008 New Mexico quarters; Johnson Bank across the street simply didn't have the right coinage on hand. No doubt, this will confuse the heck out of whoever moves the bases in 2108!

Jeff Coe shows picture with cannons aiming north

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