Honoring history, refurbishing planned for Hope Furnace Cannon

Honoring history, refurbishing planned for Hope Furnace Cannon

Volunteers are trying to raise $12,500 for the Hope Furnace Cannon refurbishing project. The cannon, pictured here, is an original from the 1700s. (Breeze photos by Jackie Roman)

SCITUATE – Somewhere in Hope Village rests a relic that bears significance not just for the town or the state, but for the country.

It’s a piece of history that dates back to the Revolutionary War and it serves as symbol of the Industrial Revolution and the fight for our nation’s independence.

Though the Hope Furnace Cannon memorial is a 15,000-pound structure in front of the Hope Public Library, it goes largely unnoticed by pedestrians traveling by on North Road.

The memorial is coated in moss and faded from years of exposure to elements. The massive black cannon has long lost its sheen, the granite has dulled, and a lack of lighting leaves the memorial cloaked in darkness by sundown.

When Segundo Tony Torres, a retired member of the U.S. Navy, saw the condition of the memorial, he immediately went home and started making calls to members of the local American Legion and Hope Historical Society.

“I’m the one who started all this mess,” Torres joked at a meeting of Hope Furnace Cannon refurbishing project committee members.

“We want to preserve it for future generations,” Torres said.

A dozen volunteers gathered at the Hope Public Library Monday evening to discuss the importance of the project and devise strategies for raising the $12,500 cost of refurbishment.

“This is an actual Revolutionary War item,” program director for the Hope Historical Society, Fred Faria, said. “This is not just Hope, or the town, or the state. This cannon is for the whole country.”

According to records kept by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, Hope Furnace was founded in 1765 by the wealthy Brown family after the discovery of iron ore in Cranston.

One of the company’s partial owners was Stephen Hopkins, Rhode Island governor and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Hope Furnace is documented as having produced 1,000 cannons during the American Revolution and clients included the colony of Rhode Island, the Continental Army, the Navy Board, and privateers.

In 1779 the Hope Furnace company owned more than 1,200 acres of woodland in Scituate and Coventry.

Faria said that when people learn the history of Hope Furnace and the significance of this local company, “the general reaction is one of awe.”

Committee member and Scituate resident Eileen Godbout said she learned about the cannon from her daughter, who attends Hope Elementary School across the street from Hope Public Library.

“It brings it to the forefront for young people,” Godbout said of the refurbishing project. “It puts the town in context of our country’s history.”

Bob O’Brien and Kevin O’Brien of The O’Brien Company in Scituate will be in charge of refurbishing the memorial.

“You want it to draw people in,” Bob O’Brien said.

The memorial will be lightly sandblasted, the cannon will be powder-coated, the benches and patio will be redone, and a flag pole will be installed. The O’Briens are enlisting the help of Westerly granite sculptor Richard Comolli.

“It’s extremely significant,” O’Brien said of the memorial. “This is where it all happened.”

The target date for completion of the project is fall of this year, with a re-dedication ceremony planned for Veterans Day.

Contributions to the Hope Library – Cannon Refurbishing Fund can be mailed to Hope Library at 374 North Road, Hope, RI.