Courthouse cannons moved to new sites

April 1, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

The cannons in front of the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center and Museum have been successfully moved to new locations.

The move went “very smoothly,” said Debbie Hall, executive director of the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society.

The cannons were relocated Thursday as part of the Garden Club of Virginia’s landscape restoration project at the building, which is the former Henry County courthouse.

Frith Construction Co. is general contractor for the project, and Hall’s Mechanical Services moved the cannons.

Hall’s moved the cannons “very timely and safely ... they did a great job,” Debbie Hall said.

It took Allen “Corky” Hall Jr. and his crew of six men about three hours to move the cannons, said Hall.

The crew put straps under the cannons and then lifted them slowly to their temporary location in grassy areas at the corners of the property, Debbie Hall said.

Once the landscaping project is completed at the front of the courthouse, one cannon will be placed in front of the Confederate monument and the other in front of the war memorial monument. That structure lists area residents who have lost their lives in military service from the Revolutionary War to the present.

Until Thursday, the cannons were mounted on brick walls, but when the project is finished, they will be placed on metal mounts similar to those at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md., Debbie Hall said.

The cannons weigh between 20,000 and 22,000 pounds and are believed to have been made in 1885 at West Point Foundry in New York, she said.

The naval cannons originally were at Fort McHenry and were mounted on carriages to defend the fort, she said.

The bombardment of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key — then aboard a British ship in the harbor — to write “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Hall said she was not sure if the cannons ever were in battle or were fired.

The history of the cannons in Martinsville began in 1901, when U.S. Rep. Claude Swanson acquired them from the War Department and had them placed in conjunction with the placement of the Confederate monument by the local Mildred Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Hall said.

Both cannons originally were placed in front of the Confederate monument.

In the 1970s, a landscape project forced the cannons to be moved to the sides of the courthouse lawn, where they stayed until Thursday.


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