Restored 'cannon' returns to its post

About a year and a half and some 510 man hours later, there's a cannon again on West 18th Street.

Well, it's not technically a cannon, but folks in Costa Mesa have been known to call it that. It's actually a M1902 U.S. Army field gun, built in 1911. Now disarmed, at one time it could fire 3-inch shells.

In May 2012, Brenden Fettis of Boy Scout Troop 615 took it upon himself to begin restoring the old weapon for his Eagle Scout project. He got the idea from his dad, Larry Fettis, a recently retired Costa Mesa police officer.

On Thursday, the 17-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita resident was there to help with the final step of putting the gun back in its place in front of the Costa Mesa Police Department substation on West 18th.

Fettis and his team, which included his family and Boy Scout troop, did a comprehensive restoration. It was complete with a new paint job and some metalwork on the gun.

Getting the artillery piece back in order was no easy effort. As damaged spokes were replaced on one wheel, a custom-made replacement wheel came from Ohio for the other.

Norco-based Quick Crete Products Corp. created and donated a 4,500-pound concrete base for the gun to rest on. The base will keep it off the ground and protect the wheels from damage again. The company also donated one of its trucks and a crane to carefully lift the gun and new base from a truck bed to the substation's front yard.

"The base is built for the gun to last another 50, 60 years," said Brenden's brother, Bryan, 15.

"A lot of work went into it," Brenden said. "I'm happy and I'm excited that it's over now."

As best they can tell, Brenden said, the gun never saw actual combat. It was used for training purposes during World War I and during America's disputes with Pancho Villa.

The gun was brought to Costa Mesa some 40 years ago and placed in front of the veterans hall that was next to the police substation, according to the Costa Mesa Historical Society.

After the veterans hall was torn down in the early 1990s, the gun went in front of the substation, which was originally built in 1950 as a courthouse for Newport Beach. The building was later used by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3536 and, eventually, Costa Mesa police.

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