Coast Guard kicks off Woods Hole construction project

In a May, 2013 file photo, Coast Guard Station Woods Hole, Mass., personnel prepare to get underway for a night patrol aboard the station's 45-foot Response Boat-Medium, near Falmouth, Mass.


By CHRISTINE LEGERE | Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. | Published: November 17, 2017

WOODS HOLE, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Coast Guard officials on Thursday formally kicked off a $23 million construction project that will provide new digs for the 150 servicemembers assigned to the agency's Woods Hole station.

Plans to upgrade the station, located off Little Harbor and Hinckley roads, have been in the works since 2009, when the Coast Guard went to Congress to secure the funding.

"By the time it's finished it will have taken nine years," said Steven Simpson, Chief Warrant Officer 4 at Station Woods Hole. "The completion date for construction is November 2018, weather permitting."

During Thursday's ceremony attended by local, state and Coast Guard officials, challenge coins were dropped into the wet cement of the foundation for a new aids to navigation and patrol boat building being built on the property. Challenge coins have historically been used by military organizations like the Coast Guard to prove membership, boost morale or to trade.

The main buildings previously used by the Coast Guard had originally been designed as warehouses and maintenance depots. Over time they were converted to office space, but didn't meet building codes and were becoming unsafe.

Three buildings were demolished and a trailer removed during the summer. Foundation work on the two new buildings has already begun.

"You should see walls going up by the second week in December," Simpson said.

While the construction bid was awarded to The Haskell Co., of Jacksonville, Florida, most of the subcontractors will be from the area.

The U.S. Coast Guard, as a federal agency, wasn't required to get local approvals for most of the work, but project planners listened to concerns from town officials and neighbors when producing the building designs.

The scale of the buildings was downsized, architectural tweaks were added to break up their facades, and locations shifted to preserve water views for area residents.

The buildings will be clad with cement fiber board made to look like natural material, in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood. They will be topped with red tin roofs.

The lower floors of the two new buildings were engineered to allow for the water to pass through, since the station is in a low-lying area. The design meets 500-year-flood standards.

There was some initial concern expressed by history buffs over the demolition of one of the main buildings, a brick structure built in 1917 and used as a maintenance depot for service of a light ship. The building was more utilitarian than distinctive in architectural detail, featuring a flat roof and undistinguished cast stone window sills, but the Coast Guard made an effort to preserve a bit of it, according to agency officials.

"We took out the larger corner block with the date of construction and the cornice piece from the top, along with some of the red bricks," Simpson said. "The cornerstone, with a plaque will be placed as close to the location of the original block as possible."

Photos of the building were also taken to preserve its history.

Now that the buildings are demolished, Coast Guard members are operating out of a boat barn.

"We took out the gym equipment, put in desks and added restrooms," Simpson said. "We're packed in there like cordwood."

The Coast Guard has a 150-year presence in Woods Hole.

"The first time the U.S. government used the site was in 1857 as the U.S. Lighthouse service," said Susan Witzell, archivist for the Woods Hole Museum. "In the early 1870s, Spencer Baird was using the site for fisheries service before he moved down the street."

Baird became the first U.S. Fisheries Commissioner, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871.

In addition to the new facilities, plans include upgrades to water and electrical utilities, new security fencing, a new guardhouse and some parking improvements.

©2017 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
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