EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard  Douglas Wilson Jr., Stephenson, welds Barbara B. Taylor’s initials onto a plaque that will be displayed on the future USS St. Louis during the keel laying ceremony Wednesday at Marinette Marine.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Douglas Wilson Jr., Stephenson, welds Barbara B. Taylor’s initials onto a plaque that will be displayed on the future USS St. Louis during the keel laying ceremony Wednesday at Marinette Marine.
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MARINETTE — In a flash of sparks, Marinette Marine Corp. and Lockheed Martin laid the keel for the companies’ tenth Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS), the LCS-19 and future U.S.S. St. Louis, in a ceremony on Wednesday.

The ship, to be named after the city of St. Louis, Mo., was sponsored by Barbara B. Taylor, a prominent resident of the city renowned for her commitment to the community. Taylor has served on the board of the St. Louis Art Museum as the Friends Board President, a trustee, vice president and president of the art museum’s Board of Commissioners, and also served as an honorary chairman of the Capital Campaign that raised $160 million to finance the expansion of the museum in 2013. She also serves on the Board and Executive Committee of Forest Park Forever, a private nonprofit organization that helps the city restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park, the largest urban park in Missouri. 

Taylor, who has family ties to both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, called her ship sponsorship “a tremendous honor.” 

“I am so proud to become part of the family of this wonderful ship,” she said. “May she always have fair winds and following seas. And who knows, since she is capable of operating close to shore, maybe one day she will sail up the mighty Mississippi River to visit the Gateway Arch and her namesake city, and I will be waiting for her.” 

After brief statements from President and CEO of Marinette Marine Jan Allman, Production Program Manager of the LCS program with Lockheed Martin Rob Hutcheson and Commander Andy Gold of the U.S. Navy, the LCS Program Manager’s Representative in Marinette, the keel-laying party gathered around to watch Taylor sign her initials on a commemorative plate, which were welded into the metal by veteran welder Douglas Wilson Jr. 

The initials will be attached to the ship and displayed throughout its lifetime.

According to Lockheed Martin, laying the keel marks the beginning of the ship building process, a significant undertaking that signifies the ship’s birth. Modern warships are now largely built in a series of pre-fabricated pieces and hull sections rather than a single keel, so the actual start of the process is now considered to be when the first sheet of steel is cut and is often marked with a ceremony. 

LCS-19 will be the seventh ship to bear the name U.S.S. St. Louis. The first St. Louis, a sloop of war, was launched in 1828. Other ships to bear the name included an ironclad gunboat commissioned in 1862, a troop transport commissioned in 1898, a protected cruiser in commission from 1906 to 1922, a light cruiser commissioned in 1939 and a Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship in service from 1969 to 1991. 

When LCS-19 is completed, the ship will measure 389 feet in length and will be operated by 50 core crew sailors. The ship is one of seven ships in various stages of construction at Marinette Marine, with two more in long-lead production.