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By C. David Gordon,

First Vice President, FDM

DEVENS — Fort Devens Museum President Bert Tompkins announced on June 24 that the museum could be located in a new permanent home of its own within months.

At present the museum opens its doors in a large, third-floor room in the office building at 94 Jackson Road. The new place is Building P-4, Lane Hall, located on Antietam Street next to the Native American Cultural Center building and quite near the main entrance to Devens. Prior to base closure, the one-story structure housed the base’s television studio and after closure a State Police laboratory.

Tompkins was able to make this news public for the first time since a lease agreement with MassDevelopment, the state’s lead agency in the redevelopment of the former base, nears signing. The agreement provides for the museum to pay a nominal annual leasing fee with the right to purchase the building at a future time.

Tompkins made the announcement at the museum’s annual meeting, held in the Devens municipal office building at 33 Andrews Parkway.

Lane Hall is far better suited for the museum, Tompkins said, than the previous site proposed, the former American Red Cross Building at Barnum and Jackson roads. Lane Hall has a brick rather than wood exterior, and its location will make the museum more visible. Open space abounds on three sides with parking spaces and access to the building quite close on the fourth side, he said.

Renovations can be made for a fraction of the cost needed to make the other building satisfactory for a museum, and MassDevelopment has agreed to help with the renovation work, said Tompkins. To finance its share of renovation costs and cover operating expenses for the year ahead, the museum board of directors will soon begin a fundraising campaign to raise $100,000.

Featured speaker at the annual meeting, Dr. Marcia G. Synnott, emeritus professor of history at the University of South Carolina, detailed the work of the late Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers as the “Mother” of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women’s Army Corps and the “Godmother” of Fort Devens.

In Congress she fought for a more substantial role and better status for women in the military. She was “committed to make women citizen-soldiers,” according to Synnott.

In 1932 Rogers was instrumental in getting Congress to approve making Camp Devens become Fort Devens, a permanent fort in Massachusetts. The designation brought in a period of construction of several buildings of a more permanent nature at the cantonment that had been downgraded in the 1920s and could have been closed. Well into the 1950s Rogers made regular visits to Fort Devens.

Also at the meeting, museum Executive Director Kara Fossey reported on “progress on all fronts” for the museum, adding several items to the collection and names to the list of members, conducting tours, and providing educational programs.

Fossey recognized the work of three volunteers, John Hobbs of Shirley for his careful research on Army hospitals at Devens; Joseph Hutchinson of Harvard for help in digitizing the collection; and Marie Sobalvarro of Harvard for her effort on data entry.

Museum members elected John H. Ott and Dale Martin, both of Groton, to the board of directors. Those present also elected Tompkins of Groton to continue as president, C. David Gordon of Groton to remain first vice president, Bruce Campbell of Pepperell as second vice president, James Malmfeldt of Devens as clerk, and Ruth Rhonemus of Ayer as treasurer.