Chesterton Tribune

Jeannene Baur donates father's masterpiece ship model to US Navy

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A masterpiece of the model shipbuilder’s art—crafted years ago by a Chesterton resident’s father—is now on display at the U.S. Navy’s Training Support Center Hampton Roads (TSCHR) in Virginia Beach, Va.

Jeannene Baur has donated the piece—a 1/70 scale model in mahogany of the 18th century Danish warship Norske Loeve (Norwegian Lion)—built by her father, Erwin Graf of Michigan City.

“Erwin would be excited to know that his labor of ‘Loeve’ now resides on a U.S. naval base,” Baur said. “(My husband) Walter and I are so proud that this fine warship has found a new home and will be a great conversation piece for all who pass through the command suite at the Training Support Center.”

The original Norske Loeve was a state-of-the-art frigate built in Copenhagen in 1765 and boasted an armament of 26 24-pound cannon on the lower deck, 26 18-pounders on the middle deck, and 18 eight-pounders on the upper deck. It was crewed by a 667-man complement and used as a guard ship in Danish waters.

“It’s difficult to imagine how so many men and so much armament could be stuffed into the hull of a ship that is less than half the size of a modern-day frigate that sports one gun and a crew of less than 200,” noted TSCHR Executive Director James McMillan. “I don’t believe the Danish Chief of Naval Operations was too concerned about crew comfort back in the day.”

For 30 years, the Norske Loeve was used as a guard ship in Danish waters. Then, in the summer of 1795, it was stripped down to a block ship and used to shelter families displaced by a major fire in Copenhagen. In 1798, the ship was struck from the Danish naval register.

The sheer detail of Graf’s model shows him to have been a seasoned model shipbuilder and indeed he crafted nearly two dozen models which are now displayed in private homes and museums in several states from the Midwest to the Atlantic Coast.

Graf began building models in the 1920s and—except for a four-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II—continued his hobby into the Nineties. Graf also served in the Navy aboard the USS Hawk from 1934-38.

Graf’s masterpieces include the USS Constitution, HMS Bounty, HMS Victory, the Mayflower, and Cutty Sark.

Graf’s model of the Norske Loeve may be seen in Taylor Hall, Building 127 Naval Air Station Dam Neck Annex. Nearly 90,000 students visit the Training Support Center Hampton Road every year.


Posted 6/19/2012