It doesn't look like much, lying on the ground at Alexandria's Waterfront Park, still in its packing. Save for the arrow and "GR" engraved on the top, it could be a short, stumpy lamp pole. Assistant City Manager Michelle Evans calls it a "going-away gift" to the city from City Manager Douglas Harman.
The gift is a cannon recently donated to Alexandria by the city of Thamesmead, England, and formally accepted by the city last week.
The cannon has taken about a year to make its trek from Britain to the United States. The idea took hold after Jonathan J. Maiden, the general manager of Thamesmead, visited Alexandria last spring and toured the city with Harman and Engin Artemel, then head of the city's Planning Department.
The officials of the two towns discussed waterfront areas and how to make them more interesting.
In May, Maiden wrote to Harman suggesting that the English city could be "informally linked" to Alexandria by the donation of a gift signifying their mutual interests. As London's "new town," Thamesmead was being constructed on land once occupied by the Woolwich Royal Arsenal. Maiden suggested the gift of a gun barrel. Approval for the donation came in July.
After the gun was cleaned and readied for shipment, however, transportation posed a problem. In August, Alexandria Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr. wrote to Charles H. Price II, U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James, asking for his assistance in arranging shipment of the cannon. Eventually, it was flown to West Virginia by a unit of that state's Air National Guard. Alexandria then transferred the cannon to the city by truck.
Harman has asked the Park and Recreation Department to design a carriage for the gun. Harman has recommended that the gun be formally unveiled after it is mounted. Representatives of Thamesmead and the British Embassy should be invited to the unveiling, he says.
In turn, Harman has asked the city's historical staff to identify a suitable artifact that can be donated to Thamesmead.
Alexandria's new cannon is an "18-pounder," which fired solid round shots about five inches in diameter and weighing 18 pounds. It was manufactured between 1780 and 1820 and weighs in at 5,200 pounds. It was designed for use by the Royal Navy, to be used on either the upper deck of a 74-gun ship or the main deck of frigate. Guns such as this one were served by eight-man crews.
Although such guns might have been manufactured by private firms, they had to be tested by the government at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal.
This is the second cannon Harman has been instrumental in acquiring for the city. His first, a gun from a vessel scuttled in the War of 1812 that was found in Hunting Creek, is in front of The Lyceum on Washington Street.
Harman also found a torpedo for display at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center and anchors for Founders Park. Evans cites Harman's interest in military history as a factor behind acquisition of such artifacts.
Evans called the newest cannon "Harman's last hurrah": Harman leaves Alexandria at the end of this month to become city manager of Fort Worth, Tex.
Harman says he will proceed with the rearmament of that city upon his arrival. If he does, he will have to negotiate with the Mexican government rather than the British for his next cannon.