The Museum Situation
When the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) mandated the closure of NAS South Weymouth in 1995, some of the people involved in preparing the base for civilian redevelopment were mindful of what had happened to its Quincy predecessor, NAS Squantum. After NAS Squantum was closed in late 1953 and its activities transferred to NAS South Weymouth, the historic base was redeveloped into the Marina Bay condominium community and basically forgotten. Today, old NAS Squantum has been totally obliterated and there's very little at Marina Bay to remind anybody that there was once a very important military facility there.
To prevent NAS South Weymouth from sharing NAS Squantum's fate, language was inserted into the BRAC law obligating the master developer to provide a place for a military heritage museum on the old base, provided there are volunteers to tend it. The Boston area chapter of the Association of Naval Aviation, the ANA Patriot Squadron, stepped up to provide the volunteers to tend the museum. The future museum would be named named in honor of local WW2 Navy hero CDR John J. "Jack" Shea and would cover both NAS South Weymouth and NAS Squantum.
After the Navy vacated NAS South Weymouth in 1997, the current master developer allowed the ANA Patriot Squadron to use what had been the weight room in the former base gymnasium to store artifacts for the future Shea Naval Aviation Museum and as a place for the group's members to hold monthly meetings. This was expected to be a "temporary" situation that would only last until such time that the master developer could provide a proper place for the museum. In the years that followed, the ANA Patriot Squadron's collection of historic artifacts pertaining to NAS South Weymouth and NAS Squantum grew as people from around the country heard about the future plans for the museum.
As time went on, it became apparent to ANA Patriot Squadron members that it would take some time for the master developer to provide a "proper" place for the museum. So, members decided to organize the collection of artifacts as best as possible in the space available in the former base gymnasium and open the collection to the public on a limited basis, with the understanding being that this was only to be a temporary measure until such time that a proper place could be arranged by the master developer. So, on Saturday October 29, 2011 the Shea Naval Aviation Museum was opened for the very first time in the old base gymnasium building.
The temporary museum proved successful, even with limited hours and limited visibility. A guest speaker program was initiated in on Saturday January 28, 2012. This proved to be very popular. Thereafter, the Shea Naval Aviation Museum hosted guest speakers on a quarterly basis. Other special events, such as scale model and HAM radio meets, were hosted at the museum from time to time as well.
For the first year and a half the Shea Naval Aviation Museum was opened from 9 AM until noon on the last Saturday of the month. However, visitors asked for more open days so the ANA Patriot Squadron decided to try opening museum on the second Saturday of the month too. This started out as an experiment on Saturday June 8, 2013 but was so well received that the museum was permanently opened on the second and last Saturdays of the month.
During the years that followed, the NAS South Weymouth redevelopment project proceeded at a varying pace. The development changed names from Southfield to Union Point and the project went through a total of three master developers.
The last open day for the Shea Naval Aviation Museum in the old base gymnasium building was Saturday June 10, 2017. On Monday June 19th the then master developer, LStar Ventures, informed the ANA Patriot Squadron that due to planned construction activity around the building, and plans to renovate the building itself so it could be reopened as a gymnasium, the museum would have to be closed and the group would have to put its collection into storage. The museum's collection was packed up and put into storage over the next few months time. It remains in storage to this date.
LStar originally told us that we'd be able to reopen the museum in a new location within six months. This subsequently became twelve to eighteen months. LStar developed financial problems and departed the project, leaving the Shea Naval Aviation Museum in a state of limbo. During the months that followed we waited for the situation at Union Point to straighten out.
In late October 2019 the Southfield Redevelopment Authority issued a Request for Proposals for a new master developer for Union Point. The SRA inserted language into their RFP that covers the ANA Patriot Squadron and the Shea Naval Aviation Museum. In January 2020 Brookfield Properties obtained an exclusive option from the Southfield Redevelopment Authority to purchase land on the old base from the current landowners.
Although no land has been purchased and no master developer has been appointed for the Union Point project as-of this writing (April 2021) due to the COVID-19 situation and other factors, we are cautiously optimistic since Brookfield Properties has a solid record of success with conceptually similar property developments in the Boston area such as the Pine Hills and University Station. At this time we are waiting for Brookfield Properties to assume the role of master developer, or for another company to be appointed to serve as master developer at Union Point, so we can enter into discussions about getting the museum back in operation as soon as possible.