Designation Request - Coast Guard City
The City of Portsmouth, Virginia
811 Crawford Street
Portsmouth, VA 23701
Written rationale indicating a robust, on-going relationship between the community and local Coast Guard units:
History of Portsmouth and the Coast Guard
The City of Portsmouth Virginia has a long and proud history of cooperation with the United States Coast Guard, dating back to the time when the Coast Guard’s predecessor, the Sixth Life Saving District, based its headquarters in Portsmouth in 1874.
Current Portsmouth Coast Guard Commands
Portsmouth is home to the Fifth Coast Guard District, the Coast Guard Base, The Integrated Support Command, Command and Control Engineering Center (C2CEN), and six 270-foot cutters: USCGC Bear (WMEC-901); USCGC Forward (WMEC-911); USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903); USCGC Legare (WMEC-912); USCGC Northland (WMEC-904); and USCGC Tampa (WMEC-902).
The Lightship Museum
The Lightship PORTSMOUTH was built in 1915 and served for 48 years (under another name) for 48 years off the coasts of Virginia, Delaware and Massachusetts. In 1964, in celebration of Portsmouth’s long history with the Coast Guard, she was retired to Portsmouth and renamed according to the custom of naming lightships after the site where they are stationed. In 1989, the Lightship PORTSMOUTH was designated a National Historic Landmark. Now a museum, the ship’s quarters are staged realistically and filled with fascinating artifacts, uniforms, photographs, models, and more.
Hog Island Fresnel Lens Exhibit, Pavilion Portsmouth, VA
In an exhibit pavilion in downtown Portsmouth, Virginia, adjacent to the Elizabeth River seawall at the end of High Street, stands the first-order Fresnel lens from the historic Hog Island Lighthouse. This stunning display celebrates the long history of the City with the Coast Guard. The City of Portsmouth and the Portsmouth Museums Foundation worked closely with the United States Coast Guard to establish this permanent display.
The lens, the second largest lighthouse lens in the U.S., stands 10 feet tall and weighs 2,500 pounds. 368 prisms make up the reflective body of the lens. The appearance of the display evokes the image of the lantern room of a lighthouse. The lens is mounted on a turntable that rotates slowly, much as it once turned at the top of the Hog Island Lighthouse. Spotlights mounted at the ceiling of the pavilion reflect off the lens’ prisms creating a magnificent scene at night as the lens sparkles and shines.
Fort Nelson Park – Effingham at Crawford Streets, Portsmouth, VA
Fort Nelson Park is a new addition to Portsmouth’s inventory of community parks. Included in the displays at this military and Coast Guard-themed park is the propeller of the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The Taney was very notable, in that it was the last American ship serving which had valiantly fought at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Cooperation Between U.S. Coast Guard and the Portsmouth Fire Department
There has been a long-term working relationship between the Coast Guard and the Portsmouth Fire Department. The Coast Guard has allowed PFD Fire Boat 1 to be docked at the Coast Guard base for many years.
Coast Guard Boulevard
The City of Portsmouth has proudly named one of its streets, “Coast Guard Boulevard.”
Mayor’s Proclamation Recognizing the Coast Guard Birthday
In August 2008, Portsmouth celebrated the Coast Guard's birthday with re-enactors, special museum displays and activities, and tours of the Coast Guard Cutter Seaborne, which was docked at the High Street Landing.
Long-Term Support by City Council
A review of City Council minutes shows a long history of cooperation with Coast Guard on relocations and improvements to facilities, attendance at CG functions by council members and City staff, events hosted for CG and other military.
Support for the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Games in Portsmouth, VA
Portsmouth residents provided housing and other assistance to participants for the ISAR games which occurred in Portsmouth in 2005 and 2007. St. John’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth celebrated a special religious service for participants during both year’s games.
Mayor’s Military Affairs Committee
The Mayor’s Military Affairs Committee (MMAC) was created to as a liaison between area military and Coast Guard commands and the City of Portsmouth. The goal of the MMAC is to seek ways to enhance the quality of life of military and Coast Guard service members residing in the city, as well as to attract new service members to live within Portsmouth.
Some issues, such as difficulties in the transferring of students from other states into Portsmouth schools are handled on a macro level by advocating for a group. Other issues are more individual, such as resolving parking and other issues which are brought to the Committee for resolution.
Mayor’s Military Affairs Committee…continued
Area military and Coast Guard Command Master Chiefs are included as Committee Members. There is an active sub-Committee of the group, the Area Command Master Chief’s Committee which meets separately. Members also include spouses of military and Coast Guard commands, representing family members. Command Public Affairs Officers are regular members of the Committee. Other Committee members come from the City of Portsmouth, including City Council Members and City staff. Retired military and Coast Guard officers and senior non-commissioned officers serve with the Committee.
In addition to the advocacy role, MMAC members participate in area Sailor of the Year presentations, as well as military functions, such as local Change of Command ceremonies. One of the most visible activities of MMAC is the annual Portsmouth Memorial Day Parade. This parade is the oldest continuous parade of this type in the United States and will celebrate its 125th birthday on Memorial Day, 2009. Area military and Coast Guard Commanding Officers serve as Grand Marshall on a rotating basis. The Coast Guard and its static displays are a prominent part of each year’s parade.