BLOOMINGTON — Crumbling concrete bases forced the temporary removal Thursday of four Civil War-era cannons that have stood as memorials for veterans for 102 years in Miller Park.
The cannons were mounted in March 1916 on concrete bases near the McLean County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in the northeast corner of Miller Park. They had been removed five months earlier from Franklin Park, where the military monument previously stood.
The cannons were dedicated in 1939 to members of the Grand Army of the Republic.
City parks and recreation workers already at Miller Park to work on the new firefighters' memorial nearby helped remove the cannons for members of American Legion posts 635 in Normal and 56 in Bloomington.
The city workers hauled the cannons to a city facility where they will be stored until the bases can be replaced.
"Little things that we can do like this to help memorialize our veterans, we take pride in, and it is an honor for our whole department," said Jay Tetzloff, director of the Bloomington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department and Miller Park Zoo.
"The stands were getting deteriorated and we thought they were going to fall apart, and the cannons would fall on the ground," said Clayton James, a city parks and recreation employee and color guard field commander for Post 635.
So he talked to Bloomington Parks Superintendent Bobby Moews about doing something with the cannons.
James is among members of the two Legion posts looking into what to do with the cannons after their removal from the mounts. They are exploring whether to purchase ready-made mounts or use the local trades workers to build the mounts in Bloomington, said James.
Private funding and a time frame for the work still are being worked out.
The cannons will be brought back to the park after the mounts are ready. The cannons also will be powder coated "so they will look more like a cannon than a scratch pad because they've been there for more than 90 years," said James.
The cannons are an important, if somewhat mysterious, local link to the Civil War, said James.
"These cannons represent an era back in the Civil War. They were left here for a reason, and we do not know that reason. As to how they got here? We do not know why or where they came from," he said. "Our mission is make them look presentable as to the era they represent — the Civil War."
The year "1860," "N.P. Ames," "Founder," and "Springfield, Massachusetts" are among markings on the cannons. They are possible references to the Ames Manufacturing Co., which was a major provider of light artillery and heavy ordnance for the Union.
Brothers Nathan P. Ames Jr. and James T. Ames moved the business to near Springfield, Mass., in 1829.
The cannons are a popular part of the war memorials that stretch the length of the north side of the park.
"When family comes to town we always go through all of the memorials that are over here," said Tetzloff. "It's a cool thing, and it's a way for us to think about the people who gave up their lives for us."