Commissioned by the US Navy
to restore a 1939 Copeland refrigerator
AntiqueAppliances.com has been commissioned by the US Navy to restore a 1939 Copeland refrigerator. In January of 2002, the curator of the USS Massachusetts, a WWII battleship, contacted us about restoring a refrigerator that had been located in the belly of the ship. Although the battleship was pulled from mothballs years ago to undergo a full restoration, the refrigerator was only located in storage this year. In researching the naval serial number tagged to the refrigerator, it was determined that this refrigerator was originally located in the Admiral’s Pantry of the ship. This discovery prompted the restoration team at Battleship Cove to contact AntiqueAppliances.Com for the full make over of their new found treasure. The real dilemma that we faced in taking on this project was time! The USS Massachusetts floating museum in Battleship Cove near Boston was established in the mid-1960’s. However the Admiral’s quarters has just been restored to its glory and was slated for opening to the public in mid-May, 2002. With restoration projects already booked on our calendar through March of 2003, we were hesitant, but eager to take on the project. Given the prestige of restoring this prized refrigerator for our countries naval forces was an opportunity we simply could not pass up. Projects already in the works were not to be set aside, as every client we have deserves our utmost attention and priority. The vote of our crew of restorers was simply to work the project in alongside others.
The folks at Battleship Cove crated and shipped the ‘39 Copeland to us in early February. The refrigerator was immediately photographed for documentation of the transformation that was to take place. Next, the unit was carefully dismantled with parts being tagged and cataloged for the rebuild stage of the process. The stripped down refrigerator was taken to the sandblasting room where some 7 layers of paint were removed. It was obvious that this fridge had been repainted about every ten years. Layers of color were removed like turning pages in a history book…. mint green, pale yellow, avocado green, coffee brown and beige. As the original color of the refrigerator was white, white will be the color applied when the cabinet is refinished.
The interior of the refrigerator compartment was shipped to Custom Ceramic Coatings in Lenzburg, Illinois to have the porcelain interior refinished. While the liner was in Illinois, we designed and built a new mechanical cooling system for the refrigerator, as it is expected to be functional once back on-board ship. With the sandblasting of the cabinet complete, needed body work was performed to areas damaged by years of military life. When the cabinet repairs were complete, the unit will received its shiny new white finish. In the meantime, door latches, hinges and other hardware were refinished. As soon as the interior liner returned from its trek to Lenzburg, the refrigeration system was reinstalled, the cabinet received new insulation and the newly refinished liner was refit into the box. The final reassembly included the installation of a replicated front grill, custom made by our expert team. The original grill was missing from the refrigerator, but research and perseverance unearthed what the original grill looked like. Much time and detail work went into the final assembly to produce a restored piece of history that our US Navy can be proud of. The completed project was shipped back to the museum at Boston in early May.
Many thanks to John Ballentyne of Custom Ceramic Coatings for understanding the urgency in getting the piece we sent him refinished. John, like us, is booked months in advance but saw the importance in working this item in to meet our deadline.