Groton's Submarine Capital Sign Is Finally In The Spotlight Again
By Patricia Daddona
July 7, 2010
Groton - The "Submarine Capital of the World" sign on Interstate 95 got a new, illuminated lease on life around Memorial Day and now glows at night after decades in the dark.
On Tuesday, Herb Cummings, deputy director of water and wastewater at Groton Utilities, met with members of the Navy and the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, and lawmakers and community leaders, to celebrate the restoration of lighting. A new electrical circuit off the I-95 exit ramp was authorized by the state Department of Transportation.
"Vandals were constantly breaking the lights in the past," Cummings said. The light fixtures were also put on poles, out of the reach of vandals, he said.
The Naval Submarine Base is the oldest submarine base in the country, and has been operating as a sub base since 1915. Electric Boat, which manufactures the submarines, continues to operate out of Groton and plans to occupy buildings owned by Pfizer in New London.
The first sign, a Lafayette class submarine with a different silhouette, was erected in 1964, and replaced with its current Nautilus design in 2004, Cummings said. In 2006, an artist defaced the sign with a "Make Love" message, but later apologized and tried to help volunteers clean it up.
Since then, the utility company, chamber leaders and others have worked to improve the lighting fixtures.
"This project went off well, and the reason it went off well is because it was so important to everybody," said Cummings. "I wish it had happened earlier, but we are lit now."
The National League of Cities and Wikopedia list Groton as the "submarine capital of the world," he added.
Navy Command Master Chief Ray Powell first saw the sign when he came to the region from his hometown of Salisbury, Md., in 1987.
"That's the first thing I saw driving over the bridge," he said. "Different organizations from the sub base to the community have come together to make it better, and this is just the final piece."
Also in attendance at the meeting at Groton Inn & Suites were state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington; state Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton; Groton City Mayor Dennis Popp; Town Councilor Harry Watson, and Groton Town Manager Mark Oefinger.
Early on, inn owner Nancie Keenan repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of the Groton Business Association, Cummings said.
Tuesday also happened to be the fifth anniversary of the day local officials presented their arguments to a federal commission on base closures, arguments that helped preserve the subbase's presence here, said John Markowicz, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region.