Baltimore Museum of Industry wants you to pick the new paint color for its historic crane

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Photo via Baltimore Museum of Industry

At 76 years old, the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s 100-foot-tall crane has received some much needed TLC, namely the clearing out of more than 350 pounds of pigeon droppings from its cab up top.

But the World War II-era apparatus’ makeover isn’t complete. The BMI is looking to paint the crane one of four colors, and the museum wants you to help pick which one.

The options are red, orange, green or blue, according to a release. Voting closes Aug. 31, and can be done either online or by texting your pick of those four options to 484848. The museum will announce the winning color on Sept. 6.

The 110-ton “whirley crane”—a Bethlehem Steel Clyde Model 17 DE 90, specifically—was once a driving force beyond the former Bethlehem Steel Fairfield shipyard’s record-setting output of warships during World War II. According to the nonprofit Preservation Maryland, the yard was able to build nearly 500 Liberty and Victory ships and close to four dozen amphibious landing ships throughout World War II.

After the war, the crane was relocated to Bethlehem Steel’s Key Highway shipyard, where it operated until the yard closed in 1982. The BMI ultimately convinced the shipyard’s next owners to donate the crane, and it was disassembled and put back together there in the museum’s parking lot off Key Highway in 1992, per Preservation Maryland.

The museum launched the crowdfunded “Save the Crane” campaign two years ago, raising nearly $13,000. The Sun reported at the time that the first phase of the project, including bird-poo excavation, re-sealing the windows, a 3-D scan, engineer drawings and platform removal, cost a little less than $25,000.

The museum has received help along the way, with contributions of more than $50,000 from the France-Merrick Foundation and Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, and tens of thousands more from dozens of private donors. Lawmakers also sought state assistance in the form of a $225,000 bond bill this spring, which the state ultimately granted in the capital budget.

BMI spokeswoman Claire Mullins said in an email that the museum expects to receive final estimates for the cost of the paint “any day” now.

Beyond a new hue, she said, the next phase of work on the crane also includes replacing its suspension cables, adding a system to raise and lower a flag from its boom, landscaping at the base, giving it new signage and, perhaps most noticeably, installing a “low energy LED lighting system so the crane can be lit any color.”

“We are so thankful for the many individuals, corporations, foundations, and public funders who have helped to make the crane’s ongoing transformation possible,” BMI executive director Anita Kassof said in a statement. “Having the community be a part of this final phase is very important to us and we look forward to the fully-restored and freshly painted whirley crane becoming a celebrated and cherished icon in Baltimore for decades to come.”

The nearby Domino Sugar Factory similarly sourced public opinion to rename its freshly repainted train engine two years ago.

This story has been updated, and clarified to reflect that the museum ultimately did receive bond funding for the project in the 2018 legislative session.

Ethan McLeod
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