Monday, August 23, 2010

Rededication of Kempenaar Park, Home to Constellation Anchor


RADM J.P. Wisecup addresses crowd at the dedication
On Thursday August 19, Naval War College President Rear Admiral James. P. Wisecup rededicated the newly renovated Kempenaar Park in front of an audience of staff, faculty, students and members of the Kempenaar Family. The park was first dedicated to Esau Kempenaar in 1976 in recognition for the family's friendship to the Naval War College. Since 1956, the Kempenaars have welcomed each incoming Naval Command College Class to Newport with a traditional New England style clambake. The park is also home to the anchor of USS Constellation, the stationary training vessel berthed at Newport from 1894 until 1946. It is worth taking a step back to revisit the anchor's long history with the the naval station and the college.
USS Constellation, launched on August 26, 1854, was the second of three U.S. Navy ships named for the constellation of stars in the national flag. The 22-gun sloop of war, the last all-sail vessel designed and built by the navy, served  two missions in the Mediterranean to show the flag and protect American interests. From 1859-1861, she served as flagship of the African Squadron, a force mandated to protect legal American shipping and suppress the transatlantic slave trade off the coast of West Africa.  Prior to her arrival in Newport, the sloop was assigned to the United States Naval Academy from 1871 to 1893 as a practice ship for midshipmen.

In Newport, the ship was used to train naval recruits at the Naval Training Station. The apprentices learned rope splicing, sail handling, seamanship, and naval discipline during their time on board the permanently-moored vessel. After several years of duty as a receiving ship, Constellation was designated relief flagship of the Atlantic Fleet under Admiral Ernest J. King. On January 19, 1942, after King left for Washington as the new Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll transferred his flag to Constellation for the next six months while the navy readied the gunboat Vixen (PG-53) for flag service. In 1946, the old sloop of war was towed to Boston for preservation as a naval relic.  The navy decommissioned Constellation in 1955 and transferred her to a nonprofit organization in Baltimore where she remains today. Though she was then believed to be the Baltimore-built frigate Constellation (1797) she is now restored to her proper Civil War-era configuration.

When first commissioned in 1855, Constellation carried six anchors ranging from 5500 to 7500 lbs. Museum records indicate that this anchor was removed and placed at South Dock in 1906. In 1924, the 13-foot-long/6,000-lb anchor was pulled by a team of horses to Quarters A, the former residence of the Training Station's commander. It rested there until 1978 when the Naval Education and Training Center transferred the anchor to the museum and NWC facilities workers moved it to its current location in Kempenaar Park. This precious artifact is a constant reminder of the rich history of both the Newport Naval Station and the Naval War College.
Constellation anchor at the newly designed Kempenaar Park

Kempenaar Park, c. 1979

The anchor resting behind the Naval Station Administration Building
(original Site of the Naval War College, now the location of the museum).
The anchor at rest on the lawn in front of Quarters A, c. 1947
A vintage postcard showing Constellation and  two of her anchors, c. 1939
The Training Ship USS Constellation
at her berth during a drill on Dewey Field, c. 1918


All images appear courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

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