Preservation of Mystic Seaport

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1929

Mystic Seaport, in Mystic, Connecticut, had been an active seaport since the 1600s—filled with ships either being built or sailing in and out on merchant business. Between the late-eighteenth and early-twentieth centuries, its yards built more than 600 sailing vessels.

By the 1920s, the port was fading fast. In 1929, three Mystic residents took it upon themselves to preserve their town’s vibrant past. Lawyer Carl Cutter, industrialist Edward Bradley, and doctor Charles Stillman formed the Marine Historical Association (known today as Mystic Seaport), and rapidly filled a one-building museum with donated photos, books, and maritime artifacts. Then in 1941 the men managed to purchase the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining U.S. wooden whaleship. Buildings followed, and the recreated Mystic Seaport began.

In the 1970s, the du Pont family got involved as donors, and the entire shipyard was recreated. By the 1990s, Mystic had become the nation’s leading maritime museum. In 1998, it built an eighteenth-century schooner from scratch, with an educational program surrounding the building process. Mystic is still growing, thanks to a $35-million expansion and renovation effort. Scholars have access to its impressive archives and 300,000 visitors come each year to see the 40 acres of 500 boats, one million photographs, and two million artifacts.