Essential Architecture- New England

Mystic Seaport




Connecticut > Stonington > Mystic
Mystic Seaport is a maritime museum situated along the banks of the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, USA. It is notable both for its collection of sailing ships and boats, and for the re-creation of an entire 19th century seaport, consisting of over 60 original buildings, most of them rare commercial structures, moved to the 37 acre (150,000 m²) site and meticulously restored.


The museum was established in 1929 as the "Marine Historical Association". Its first fame came with the acquisition of the Charles W. Morgan in 1941, the only surviving wooden sailing whaler. The seaport now sees about 400,000 visitors each year. In addition, it supports research via an extensive library, runs a summer, graduate-level academic program that was established in 1955 by maritime historian Professor Robert G. Albion of Harvard University, the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, and, in conjunction with Williams College, hosts Williams-Mystic, an undergraduate program in maritime studies.

Mystic Seaport is a popular destination for boaters, who pay to dock overnight just a short walk away from ships such as the Morgan and the Dunton.

The buildings of the museum include nearly all the types of general and specialized trades associated with building and operating a sailing fleet. They include a chandlery, sail loft, ropewalk, cooperage, and others. Each building is used both to show the activity for which it was used, and multiple display examples of the objects sold or constructed; for instance the nautical instruments shop displays sextants and the like.

Additional buildings house more exhibits. One intriguing exhibit is a 1/128th scale model of the entire Mystic River area ca. 1870, complete down to the outhouse behind every residence; a modelling tour de force over 50 ft (15 m) long.

Mystic Seaport's music program is unusual in that it prominently features sea shanties in their original contexts, as work songs. Regular sessions find shantey singers keeping museum visitors in line as they haul sails or turn a capstan. The Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival, held annually in June since 1979, is among the oldest and largest such in the United States.