Kinston Free Press
July 16, 2013
The spanking-new facility to house the CSS Neuse opens its doors to the public Thursday, as preparation continues to the official opening next year.
The day begins with the unveiling of a new marker at the Lenoir County Courthouse dedicated to the Neuse. It replaces the one that stood on West Vernon Avenue while the ship’s wooden hull was exhibited there.
“It’s a standard silver and black state highway marker — that program’s done cooperatively with the Department of Transportation,” said Michael Hill, the state Highway Marker Program director. “We’ve done that since 1935. The signs are made by a foundry in Ohio and we place around 15 or so new ones each year.”
From there, attendees will walk down Queen Street to the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center for a tour of the building and exhibits.
“It’s sort of our VIP tour,” said Sarah Risty-Davis, director of the center. “Dignitaries from Raleigh and Kinston will be on that tour, and it’ll start us being open — and, our interpreters will be in costume Thursday.”
State Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz, Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry, CSS Neuse Gunboat Association President John Marston and Bill Rowland — who witnessed the Neuse raised from the eponymous river — are expected to attend.
“The public will be invited to come up on the mezzanine at any time during our operation hours — they can see the temporary exhibits,” Risty-Davis said.
While the center is open, workers will continue constructing temporary and permanent exhibits. One permanent exhibit under construction is next to the ship, using the same kinds of wood workers made the Neuse from in the 1860s.
“They are building our interactive casemate exhibit, which, if you look at the ghosting of the ship there, they will be creating that space so people can walk in and see how the gun works in the port,” Risty-Davis said.
Following the tour, there will be a meeting of the Department of Cultural Resources committee dedicated to Civil War anniversary projects.
“After we have our tour of the facility a number of us, including myself, will be having a meeting over lunch of our Civil War 150 committee,” Hill said. “Since 2006, we’ve had an in-house committee to set programs, objectives and plans commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war.”
The Neuse Center is one of the seven sites throughout the state with a site-specific program related to the anniversary of the war.
The Neuse Center’s regular hours are slated for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Tours will be each day at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.