NEWPORT, R.I. – The U.S. Naval War College faculty, staff, and students celebrated recent renovations and equipment upgrades with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 30.
Made possible through the support of the Naval War College Foundation (NWCF), donations from the Lockheed Martin Corporation funded furniture restoration and cleaning in the college’s historic Mahan Reading Room. The donations also provided an audio and video upgrade and lobby furniture outside Spruance Hall auditorium that will allow for overflow seating at crowded events.
Lockheed Martin corporate officials, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Foundation representatives joined members of the college community at the event.
Eighty-one chairs and 17 large tables were restored in the Mahan Reading Room. The chairs needed replacement of leather and reconditioning, and the tables were refinished. The restoration was accomplished by a local craftsman based in Wakefield, R.I.
According to NWCF, the skylight in the Mahan Reading Room was cleaned; in the older days of the Navy, students were allowed to smoke in that room, and the smoke residue affected the glass and surrounding ceiling and woodwork.
Robert Stevens, chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, said his company had a “very fulfilling and rewarding” experience in assisting the renovation of the Mahan Reading Room. In addition to the splendor of the reading room, Stevens said the amount of military leaders that have studied there, adds to the ambiance of the room.
“I think it puts today’s students’ roles in the context of the flow of history,” Stevens said. “There’s a special ambiance in being in a place where so many distinguished leaders who came before us, studied and served.”
Stevens added that his company is proud to help NWC make the reading room into a more attractive venue.
Sen. Jack Reed, a West Point graduate and army veteran, thanked the War College for its contributions. He praised NWC as a center of cooperation.
“As we go forward facing incredible challenges, it’s this collaboration and cooperation between officers…that is critical to an organized unit,” Reed said to an audience in the Mahan Rotunda. “This school is one of the great recognized international sources of collaboration.”
After the ceremony, Reed cited NWC as one of the finest military institutions in the world. The Senate Armed Services Committee member praised NWC’s facility enhancement as an expansion of education.
NWCF Executive Director Rear Adm. Roger Nolan (ret.) said the refurbishments make the Mahan Reading Room a more appealing venue for NWC’s conferences and symposia, and the Foundation is proud to have been a part of its restoration.
“You can’t help but be moved by the ambiance of that room,” Nolan said, adding that the appeal of restored surroundings mixes with the history of the room—military heroes and civilian policymakers have studied in the Mahan Reading Room, which is about 100 years old.
“All of our naval heroes in World War II studied in that room,” Nolan said. “There’s something about the feeling that all of those who served in this place, in these rooms, are somehow around you.”
David Lockwood, a Wakefield, R.I., local craftsman, was approached by NWCF to refurbish the chairs and large tables. The work took about seven months.
“It’s the best kind of work,” Lockwood said. “It’s not only doing something I like, but there’s historical significance, it’s fabulous.”
He said the chairs in the reading room were made in New York City in the mid-1960s and made of walnut.
The arms on the chair were bent using steam, an uncommon technique with walnut, and the leather came from a company in North Carolina.
“That’s one thing about restoration that’s different from other crafts, there’s a historical research component to it,” Lockwood said.
As an example of the events that take place in the Mahan Reading Room, a conference will be held there the first week of August that will include faculty from a number of the nation’s finest universities, including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, NYU and Duke. They will gather to discuss how they formulate strategy and security studies curricula.
Nolan said the renovations will complement the conference.
By Tyler Will, NWC Public Affairs