By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,173)
“I’ve watched the progress much of today” said Morning Street resident John Romano this afternoon. He’d arrived at Ft. Allen Park this morning and watched the two trucks arrive around 9:00 and unload the 10,000 lb. cannon from the USS Maine, a battleship built in the late 1880s. Romano, who watched the activity from the bandstand, a short distance from the installation, said the cannon arrived in three pieces; the base, the pedestal and the cannon itself. He watched as the crew used a crane to unload the pieces and spend most of the day re-installing the cannon. Last year, the it was removed from the site for restoration work that was done over the winter by Jonathan Taggert, of Georgetown. A new base and pedestal were built as well by MGA Co., of Oxford. Although the base is new, it follows the lines of the historical base.
The significance to America’s history of the USS Maine is enormous. On January 24, 1898, President McKinley sent the USS Maine from Key West to Havana Harbor. On February 15th, an explosion aboard the battleship killed most of the crew. It was later determined that powder charges for the ship’s guns ignited, destroying the forward section of the USS Maine. This event is considered to be the catalyst for the declaration of war on Spain by the US., because many believed the explosion had been caused by Spain. In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover published a book – “How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed.” The conclusion outlined in the book is that the cause of the explosion was probably because of the combustion of coal in the area. The cannon was salvaged in 1912 and installed at Ft. Allen around 1915.
Romano, recently retired from Maine Medical Center, is a third generation Hill resident.
“The Eastern Promenade was my front yard,” he said. His family owned a grocery store at 56 Merrill Street. It carried Italian sandwiches, canned groceries, it pumped oil and had a small deli. “People shopped almost every day because there were no supermarkets and not many people drove. A bus stop was near the store,” he added.
His grandparents all came over from Italy and met here. They were stonecutters up north, but returned to Munjoy Hill eventually.
“I hate to see gentrification happening on the Hill.” Romano added. “I get offers on my two-family house often, but I’m not selling,” as he strode off toward home on Morning Street.