Submarine Sculpture Trail Celebrates 100 Years of Subs in CT

Artist Gretchen Yost Lally paints a submarine sculpture that will be on display as part of the CT Sub Trail.

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Along the bank of the Thames River in Groton sits one of the Navy’s most famous submarines: The U.S.S. Nautilus.

“She was the first nuclear powered submarine in the U.S. Navy,” explained LCDR Reginald N. Preston USN, the director of the Submarine Force Museum, where the ship now resides.

Step aboard the Nautilus and you’re taken back in time to 1954 when the submarine first made its debut. Since then, the submarine has been an important part of our country’s history, completing many key missions, including the first voyage under the North Pole.

At the Submarine Force Museum, you explore the depths of the Nautilus and also learn about the important role subs have played here in Connecticut. And there’s good reason to plan a visit now, because this year marks a century of Navy submarines in our state. Governor Malloy has designated October 2015 through October 2016 as Connecticut’s Submarine Century – a year-long celebration.

“As the nation’s longest running submarine base, we feel that we want to make sure we honor the memory, the service and the sacrifice of all those sailors who have gone before us in the submarine service by marking the number of years that have gone by – that full 100 years,” Lieutenant Commander Preston said.

As part of that celebration, local artists have come together to create a public art project that will soon be on display across southeastern Connecticut. It’s called the CT Sub Trail.

“It’s a sculpture trail and it consists of 20 submarines that are made of fiberglass,” Joy Supples, an art teacher at Grasso Tech High School in Groton, explained.

The project is the brainchild of Supples, whose father was in the Navy and husband works at Electric Boat.

“I really am proud — submarine proud we say,” Supples said.

After submitting design proposals to a committee, 20 artists, including three of joy’s students, were chosen to work on the submarine sculptures.

“It’s crazy to see your design come alive through painting or the collage part,” said Grasso Tech student Maria Fiestas.

Many of the designs are patriotic…

“You can see the stripes and the star up top, which represents the stars and the stripes on the American flag,” Grasso Tech student Adrian Vega described his sub sculpture.

…while other subs are a bit unconventional.

“I was probably hungry at the time and I was like, ‘Why don’t I do a sub, like a sandwich,” said Grasso Tech student Michael Whittle of his design.

For local artist Gretchen Yost Lally, being part of the project is helping her pay tribute to the area she’s called home her entire life.

“I really wanted to be part of the CT Sub Trail so I could give back to my community in a way and highlight its rich history of maritime in New London and Groton, specifically on the Thames River,” Lally said.

Her design not only incorporates the Navy but also the nearby Coast Guard. When it goes on display, Lally hopes her submarine will help make people appreciate southeastern Connecticut’s rich past.

“I really hope that this sub inspires people to think about our history of our area along with just the scenic views of it,” Lally explained.

And as for Lieutenant Commander Preston, the CT Sub Trail is an example of the community’s strong support of the Navy.

“We have a great civic relationship between the military community and the community that surrounds us and that is just a high water mark of understanding how deep the tides run,” he said.

From July through October, the sub sculptures will be on display in places like Mohegan Sun, New London’s Union Station, and the Groton Public Library. Proceeds from the sub sponsors will help fund a monument in Groton honoring another historic submarine: The U.S.S. Groton. For more information about the CT Sub Trail, visit

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