Crane Preservation is Complete, Thanks to YOU

Restoration of the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s 1942 shipyard crane started on April 3, as heavy equipment arrived on the BMI campus to remove the boom.  During the spring and summer, the crane was carefully restored and painted.  The public overwhelmingly voted for green in a survey conducted last summer, and we opted for this contemporary shade that still honors the historic green color it was painted in 1942.

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crane by eric stocklin sept 2019 i-dsnfR4V-XL

In September the boom was re-attached and the restoration project complete.  We are so grateful to the many community members whose generosity enabled us to reach our $700,000 Save the Crane campaign goal.

History of the Crane  

To the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the 104-foot-tall crane that graces our campus is a historically rich beacon of progress. Yet to many who pass by, it has been a large, weathered structure without a story. That’s why we launched the “Save the Crane” campaign. To learn more about the crane please watch the incredible video below, created by Elevated Element.  

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 were in serious jeopardy. 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, and was selected as part of Preservation Maryland’s Six-to-Fix program to protect the best of our state history.

Many thanks to all the Crane Campaign Contributors.  

Learn more about the campaign to transform the historic crane into a Baltimore city landmark here via the Baltimore Sun. 


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