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Wilmington – A crowd of more than 350 people celebrated Sunday’s grand opening of the new Copeland Maritime Center at the Kalmar Nyckel shipyard.
The massive building, site improvements and new dock for the Kalmar Nyckel – an educational re-creation of the ship that brought Delaware’s first permanent European settlers to a nearby spot called “The Rocks” – represent a $5 million investment in the site, said Cathy Parsells, executive director.
Philanthropists Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, the project’s top donors, said they were thrilled with the outcome.
“It’s fantastic…. It gives me goosebumps,” Tatiana Copeland said, adding the site is “a point of pride for Delaware.”
“Wow,” her husband said, recalling the site looked like “a big pile of dirt” not long ago. “Now, to see the finished product, it is something Delaware can be proud of.”
Their namesake center — in the shipyard at 1124 E 7th St. — has space for educational programming, the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation offices and a permanent display of 72 ship models collected around the world by retired DuPont Co. executive Robert C. Forney and his wife, Marilyn.
“It looks so much better here than at my house,” she quipped.
The decision to donate their collection to the Kalmar Nyckel foundation “was very natural,” Robert Forney said, because “the Kalmar Nyckel people have done such a wonderful job here.”
“The most important thing,” his wife said, “is that Delaware has been so good to us, we really wanted to keep the collection here.”
The collection’s donation, documentation and display was more than two years in the works, said Sam Heed, Kalmar Nyckel Foundation’s education director who worked on that effort.
Like the new building, the collection drew raves.
“The building is fabulous and this collection is ‘top-dollar’,” said Alesa Hogate of the New Sweden Centre, a nonprofit that educates about the original colony.
“I’ve gone all over to maritime museums, even Sweden and Finland, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Sen. Tom Carper, his wife, Martha, and their sons, Chris and Ben, toured the building before the ceremony.
They recalled the Kalmar Nyckel’s early days, when Martha Carper did the christening honors and Tom Carper got to sing with a rock band at one of the group’s crab feast fundraisers.
“This is great,” the senator said. “Thanks to the Copelands,” his wife added.
Robert V.A. Harra Jr., president of the foundation’s board of trustees, and board chairman John B. Morton thanked donors, elected officials, the Riverfront Development Corp., past foundation leaders, contractors and “the Salty Dogs,” who founded the group and were “the original dreamers of the Kalmar Nyckel.”
They also noted the importance of volunteers, who topped 47,000 donated hours last year, and state support of about $1 million for site remediation and the new dock with a water-taxi stop.
For the first time, he said, “everything on our site is up and running and open to the public.”
The Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay lent its honor guard for the occasion, which included music by the all-volunteer Kalmar Nyckel Society Chowder & Marching Band.
Written by Robin Brown; Published by The News Journal; Photo Credit: Robin Brown – The News Journal< Return to Noteworthy