Morning’s commuters and evening’s drunks at the Damen Blue Line stop can’t quite see it, but there’s a very large naval cannon trained right at them. The 100-year-old, six-inch artillery piece belongs to Naval Station Great Lakes, but it’s sat at 1558 N. Hoyne since 1934, when the building was an American Legion post, according to its current owner, Nick Sommers. He takes care of the muzzled gun—whose carriage makes it look like an overgrown board game playing piece—painting it and replacing rotting parts.
The cannon led a relatively stately life. Sommers said an admiral told him the gun guarded Navy Pier during World War I. In 1951 it stood watch as President Truman visited the Legion post, which moved in 1973. You could still raise and lower the gun when the Sommerses bought the house in 1977.
Soon after moving in, Sommers’s wife was working in the yard when she saw a couple of guys in front of a flatbed truck talking about knocking down the chain-link fence and hauling the cannon to their Legion post in DeKalb County. Alarmed, the Sommerses wrote to Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, asking him to intervene. “He wrote a letter to us saying it was a neighborhood monument and he’d played on it as a kid.” Turns out his dad, Alderman “Big Joe Rosty” Rostenkowski, once led the post.