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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Niagara replica, modern ship to drop anchor at Monroe port

BY BENJAMIN
ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
 Monroe residents thronged to the harbor in 1913 for a glimpse at the original U.S. Brig Niagara. Monroe residents thronged to the harbor in 1913 for a glimpse at the original U.S. Brig Niagara.
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MONROE - An 1813-era warship, the U.S. Brig Niagara, will dock in Monroe tomorrow, re-creating an image of what the original looked like when it first arrived nearly 200 years ago.

Like the fife and drum muster last weekend, the historic re-enactments are part of Monroe County's build up to the War of 1812 Bicentennial.

 The water tower of the former Jefferson Smurfit Paper Plant is taken down as land is cleared for the new park site. The water tower of the former Jefferson Smurfit Paper Plant is taken down as land is cleared for the new park site.
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The Battle of the River Raisin and subsequent Massacre of the River Raisin took place in January, 1813, and became a rallying cry - "Remember the River Raisin!" - for U.S. troops in the war.

The brig is a 1988 replica of the original warship. The last time the original warship visited Monroe was during the War of 1812 Centennial in 1913.

During the 1913 celebration, more than 10,000 people came to the port - then the Monroe Piers because there was no shipping channel - decked out in Titanic-era gowns and hats, Michael Huggins said.

Mr. Huggins, who is on the Monroe County Historical Society's board, had great-great-great relatives at the centennial and looks forward to bringing things full circle.

The presence of the modern U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay may do the same.

"It will help show the dramatic changes at the mouth of the River Raisin and the Port of Monroe over the last several hundred years," said Bill Braunlich, historical society president. "By comparing the two ships, people will be able to see up close and personal the phenomenal changes in our maritime technology, propulsion, and materials."

Both the Naval warship and the Coast Guard cutter are expected to arrive 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Port of Monroe, 2929 East Front St.

About 50 re-enactors will have an encampment within walking distance of the ships. The meadow, surrounded by woods, will provide a jaunt back in time, complete with muskets and 1812-era cooking demonstrations.

Tours of the U.S. Brig Niagara will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. They will cost $5 per person.

Cutter tours are free - they act as publicity for the Coast Guard - and will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The money raised will go toward the development of the River Raisin Battlefield site and toward further events to celebrate the upcoming bicentennial.

The city of Monroe and the historical society are working with the U.S. National Park Service to determine the battlefield's national significance and whether it should be included in the U.S. park system as a national park, as a national monument, or perhaps as something with National Park Service status but managed by local entities.

The city acquired title to the 35-acre site last June. Remnants of an old paper plant, which burned down in 2004, were torn down last week and further clean-up and remediation are under way.

The historical society and the city have pledged $35,000 matching funds to hire a firm to draft a master plan for the project.

Mr. Braunlich said they are researching which firms to hire.

"The objective is to provide a world-class experience to the visitor of the battlefield, so that they are educated, inspired, and excited about what happened here and how it shaped the war," Mr. Braunlich said.

He said they likely will bid out the contract before the end of the year.



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