When Walter L. Condit returned from work on Monday to find police cars, fire trucks, and a bomb squad blockading Garden Street in front of his apartment, he had no idea they had been summoned to retrieve the cannonball sitting peacefully in his living room.
His wife, who asked that her name not be used, had called the City of Cambridge Police Department’s non-emergency hotline earlier that day. The couple said they had kept the cannonball on display under their television set since they found it in their closet a few years ago.
But when Condit’s wife became concerned about the possibility of an accidental explosion, she sought advice about potential safety risks from a local Civil War enthusiast, who advised her to have it inspected.
According to Alexa Manocchio, a Cambridge police public information officer, the Cambridge Police received a call around 5 p.m. that residents were in possession of an old cannonball. According to a Cambridge Fire Department report, fire department units were dispatched at 6:02 p.m.
Lisa M. Rama, public affairs officer at Naval Station Newport in Newport, R.I., said the police department had determined that the cannonball warranted a dispatch from the naval station’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
Rama said Naval Station Newport is the closest facility to Cambridge that routinely responds to police department calls for assistance in removing explosive military material.
“Public safety is the primary goal,” said James F. Burns, public information officer for the Cambridge Fire Department. He said the department had responded to calls about old hand grenades and pistols but that this was the first cannonball removal he had encountered.
After a long period of photographs, questions, and examinations by the nearly twenty personnel at the scene, the cannonball was x-rayed and removed in an insulated container.
The cannonball is currently in a storage facility at Naval Station Newport. It will be properly detonated and disposed of soon.
Early news reports offered various explanations for the cannonball’s presence, such as that the couple used it as a door stop or tried to donate it to a museum. Condit said these reports about the shiny, brown cannonball were not true.
In fact, he and his wife disagreed as to how it made its way to their apartment. Condit’s wife said her husband found the cannonball on the street. Condit said it had been in their closet since they moved into the apartment over 20 years ago.
After all the commotion the cannonball caused, Condit said he was just “glad it’s gone.”
Rama said a lesson could be drawn from the incident. “This is a good opportunity for us to remind individuals that these things that people take as souvenirs are potentially dangerous,” she said.