The pilot house of a steam-powered tug boat— once considered the finest in all of Hampton Roads— is being restored to its former glory at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM).
The tug Huntington is just back to CBMM after extensive metal refurbishing and repairs by E. H. Harvey Metal Working Co. of Easton. Work included sandblasting the exterior, removing lead paint, and preparing the exterior for final painting. Next, the wood trim and interior will need to be restored when the weather gets warmer. Until then, the pilot house is being stored in one of the CBMM’s off-campus locations.
In 2010, Huntington’s pilot house and captain’s quarters came to live at CBMM, after the tug was scrapped in Florida. After restoration, the pilot house will become part of the maritime history showcased at the museum.
“Tugs are and have always been a vital part of maritime transportation, especially maritime trade along the coast and within America’s inland waterways, like the Chesapeake Bay,” said CBMM Chief Curator Pete Lesher. “The handsome Huntington pilot house will help share the stories of the Chesapeake Bay as a highway, when it later becomes part of a Chesapeake Bay transportation exhibition at CBMM.”
Apprentices at Newport News Shipyard (NNS) built Huntington for the shipyard’s own use, and she was built with a beam one foot larger than the 28-foot dimension used for previous NNS tugs. Huntington’s crew referred to her as the “Queen of the Harbor.” She was christened in 1933. The tug could reach top speeds of 10 knots, accommodated a crew of five, and originally sported a “hand-carved gilded eagle with a five-foot wing span”. The gilded eagle and brass steam whistle were removed during an engine overhaul in 1950, and donated to the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.
The tug worked at NNS all the way through 1990, then towed barges up to Baltimore for four years. She was converted to a floating museum and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, but restoration plans never came to fruition, leading Huntington to be scrapped. CBMM says the pilot house was saved largely thanks to NNS former apprentice Hudson Haile.
-Meg Walburn Viviano