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
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
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.