SAVE THE CRANE
To the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the 100-foot-tall crane that graces our entrance is a historically rich beacon of progress. Yet to many who pass by, it’s a large, weathered structure without a story. That’s why we are thrilled to launch the first ever “Save the Crane” campaign. With your help, this storied crane will live up to its legacy as a proud shining symbol of Baltimore, a warm welcome to the Inner Harbor, and an awe-inspiring gateway to the BMI experience.
Step One: Connecting to the Legacy.
WHAT IT STANDS FOR Built in 1942 and dubbed a “whirley crane” for its ability to turn 360 degrees, this Bethlehem Steel Clyde Model 17 DE 90 crane was instrumental in Bethlehem Steel’s prolific World War II shipbuilding effort.
The crane’s unique full rotation feature allowed it to help the Bethlehem Steel Fairfield shipyard hit record-breaking production numbers of Liberty and Victory ships during the war. With more than 44,000 workers and dozens of whirley cranes, the yard was building one vessel per month by mid-1943, and launching an average of one ship every thirty-five hours.
Unlike many of its counterparts, this particular crane’s service continued long after peace was restored. Following World War II, it was transferred to Bethlehem Steel’s Key Highway shipyard. In an unprecedented experimental project in 1951, the crane helped “jumboize” a former Victory war ship for commercial use. This process involved adding a large midsection to the ship, and its historic success paved the way for many similar projects.
The crane remained in active service until 1982, when the yard closed. That’s when the Baltimore Museum of Industry, eager to help Baltimore hold onto its incredible shipbuilding heritage, sought it out as a donation. The shipyard’s new owners obliged, and the property’s last standing crane was disassembled, sent down the Inner Harbor on barges, painted, and reassembled where it still stands today.
Unfortunately, after decades of weather exposure, the crane’s appearance and structural integrity are in serious jeopardy.
Step Two: Believing in the Potential.
WHAT IT COULD BE “A landmark in this neighborhood.” Anita Kassof, Executive Director of the BMI
As the largest and most visible artifact in our collection, the whirley crane is poised to be a celebrated and cherished icon for decades to come.
Upon restoration, the crane will serve as a glowing source of community pride and a landmark on par with the Bromo Seltzer Tower, the World Trade Center, and the Washington Monument.
Its new LED display and historically accurate green color will not only capture the imagination of our museum’s tens of thousands of annual visitors, but will serve as a welcome addition to Baltimore’s skyline. This next chapter will be an exciting one to write, but we need your help.
Step Three: Lending a Hand.
IT JUST NEEDS YOU Our whirley crane has carried so much on its epic journey. Now it needs us to help with the lifting.
PHASE 1 Clean, repair, and reglaze the cab, powerhouse, and walkways.
PHASE 2 Repair structural elements within the boom, repaint to reflect original green color, reseal exterior façade.
PHASE 3 Install interpretive signage and distinctive LED lighting.
PHASE 4 Enrich the spaces around the crane to capitalize on our beautiful waterfront location, and to create a destination for the entire community.
Please explore these recognition opportunities and decide how you’d like to help reconnect Baltimore to this industrial icon.
Learn more about the campaign to transform the historic crane into a Baltimore city landmark here via the Baltimore Sun.
Hear from Executive Director, Anita Kassof, on the crane’s significance within the BMI campus and local community here via Maryland Public Television.