Date Of Visit: September 2, 2017
Location: 75 Greenmanville Ave. Mystic, CT
Hours: Open daily, 9:00 – 5:00 (hours may vary depending on the season)
Adult – $28.95
Senior (ages 65+) – $26.95
Youth (ages 4-14) – $18.95
Children (3 and younger) – Free
Parking: there is a free parking lot across the street from the Seaport Museum. There is also additional parking across the street from the parking lot for overflow
Handicapped Accessible: Yes, but not all of the buildings are accessible to the handicapped. Approximately one-third of our buildings have wheelchair-accessible entrances; interior access varies. The village’s unpaved roads are generally firm and stable suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. All roads are basically level with a few slight inclines located near the Children’s Museum, Treworgy Planetarium and Membership Building. (see link below for more info)
Mystic Seaport Accessibility Guide
Dog Friendly: Yes, but they are not allowed in the buildings
Website: Mystic Seaport
Highlights: living museum with character actors, boats, replicas of historic homes, figureheads, lighthouse replica, play area for children
- For an after museum viewing treat, Mystik Village, an open area shopping mall is a mere.9 miles away on Coogan Blvd
- the museum’s main parking lot can fill up quickly if you don’t get there early. Additional parking can be found in the lots off Rossie St on the other side of the main parking lot
Once a major seaport, Mystic Seaport no longer functions as the busy hub of commerce and fishing or transportation. But, they have preserved some of the historical atmosphere while still incorporating modern technology.
Since Mystic Seaport is such a big attraction, I am posting my blog posts in three or possibly four installments. My first installment deals with the Viking ship display which was being featured at the museum as well as the figureheads, decorations and other sculptures at the museum.
During my visit, there was a Viking ship docked at the museum. Tours were being provided for a small charge.
By far, my favorite part of the museum is the figurehead museum. The dimly lit room, which made photography challenging, in the Wendel Building added to the mystique of these treasured works of art.
This scroll billethead figurehead is the oldest one in the museum. Many ships used these billetheads in lieu of figureheads because they were easier to carve and less expensive than the full sized figureheads.
There are several other figureheads in the museum which stood out to me.
This scary cat timber was used while lifting the anchor and keep it away from the ship so it would not damage the vessel.
Most of the figureheads are of people, though.
This figure titles Woman With A Comb. Although it’s hard to tell when some of these figureheads were made, it appears this figurehead was made during the 1820’s. This figurehead shows a hairstyle and clothing style that was popular during the 1820’s. Unlike some of the figureheads you may have seen previously where the figurehead leans forward and under the bowspirit, this figurehead stands upright, which was common until the 1840’s when they changed to the design that leans forward.
Woman With Roses has an interesting historical background. This figureheads, which resembles a portrait more than an actual figurehead, was originally called Belva Lockwood when it first came to the seaport museum. Belva Ann Bennet Lockwood, who this figurehead resembles, was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement during the late 1800’s. She was nominated for President of the United States in 1884 and 1888. Despite her historical significance and the likelihood that a ship would have been named after her, there are no records that show her name on any vessel.
Donald McKay is a figurehead made for the 1855 clipper ship Donald McKay. Named and designed after the famous ship builder and designer Donald McKay, this figurehead was broken off its vessel and stood unprotected, outdoors in the Cape Verdes islands off the coast of Africa. It was restored and repainted but it still shows the effects of being exposed to the conditions. The first figurehead for the vessel was lost at sea and this figurehead which replaced the original one was believed to have been carved by the ship’s carpenter while the ship was out at sea.
Seminole decorated the ship vessel of the same name for over 40 years. The figurehead, which was built by Maxon Fish & Co in 1865 in Mystic, CT, is believed to have been carved by James N. Colby and James Campbell. Colby and Campbell were prominent ship and sign carvers and decorators in the Mystic area from the 1850’s until 1877. Seminole, an offshoot of the Creek Confederation, means “separatist” or “runaway.”
Seminole carried cargo from New York to San Francisco and vice versa for over 20 years. It was captained by another Mystic, CT, native Joseph Warren Holmes. Holmes would go on to make 84 passes by Cape Horn, a record among captains at that time. Eventually, the Seminole ended up in the west coast lumber trade and was finally broken up at Port Adelaide, Australia, in 1904. The figurehead was salvaged and, 50 years later, Mystic Seaport acquired it.
Magdalena is the largest figure of the collection. Magdalena once adorned the bow of the 421 feet long British Royal Mail steam packet Magdalena which launched in 1889 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Iolanda is considered the second figurehead for the steam yacht of the same name. The industrialist Morton F. Plant of New York and Groton, Connecticut, had this figurehead adorned to his yacht when he made his 33,000 mile voyage to India, China, Japan and the Mediterranean.
After Plant, the figurehead had many more owners including a Russian Princess and the British Navy where she saw service in both World Wars.
The figured pictured above called Aleppo could not be identified since there are no records or photographs to match it to any vessel. I find this makes the figureheads even more mysterious and interesting.
This figurehead once adorned the Rhine shipping vessel which was built in Scotland in 1886. The harp and caduceus necklace are said to portray her as a classical figure rather than a portrait or national symbol. It is typical of the British sail and steam vessels of the late 19th century.
The Rhine transported laborers from India and China, jute from Calcutta and lumber from Boston. After being damaged by a fire after World War I, she was sold to a junk dealer for $925. Shen then became a barge in New York.
This ghost-like carving called White Lady is not a figurehead, despite its strikingly similarities to other figureheads. One of the reasons the museum was able to determine it is more likely a decoration or sign are because the posture is too erect. Figureheads were carved to fit the curving shape of the vessel’s bow. Another reason this was not a figurehead is that her outstretched arm would have been particularly vulnerable to damage at sea. Also, her elaborate scrollwork base is very unusual for a figurehead. Lastly, there is no evidence of the wooden or iron fastenings that would typically have held the carving to a ship’s bow. You know, the obvious reasons.
Cover your eyes! This unidentified figurehead which has been named Women With Goblet by the museum is said to have been the victim of well intentioned but overdone restoration. The flowers around the bae were reconstructed and the outstretched right arm with the goblet is not original. Typically, carvers made the arms close to the body because it reduced the possibility of damage by the sea.
This figured, The Great Admiral, was craved in the honor of and dedicated to Admiral David G. Farragut. Farragut was an Admiral in the United States Navy during the Civil War. In 1869, a new clipper ship, The Great Admiral, was commissioned in his honor with this figured on the bow.
The figurehead was eventually salvaged after the ship was wrecked off the coast of Oregon in 1906 and it eventually made its way all the way to Mystic.
Woman With Beads was carved in the classical British figurehead style. It is said to represent one of Victorian England’s literary or historic characters.
Abigail is believed to have been carved for the vessel of the same name which was named after the ship’s owner’s wide, Abigail Chandler. The figurehead was found after the ship crashed along the coast of Massachusetts in 1817.
Great Republic once adorned the largest American ship of its day, if only for a few weeks. This figurehead was once on Donald McKay’s clipper ship The Great Republic. Built in 1853, the 335 feet long The Great Republic is the largest cargo ship ever built in the United States.
The eagle, which was carved by S.W. Gleason & Sons of Boston, was on the ship for a few weeks when the ship was damaged by a fire. The eagle was then removed and kept by Captain Nathaniel Palmer of Stonington, CT. Captain Palmer had the burned out hull of The Great Republic removed and built into a smaller ship. A new bow carving was replaced on The Great Republic when it was repaired.
This bust of a woman is believed to be from the mid 19th century. Although it is not clear who the woman is portrayed in this bust, it is most likely a wife, girlfriend or relative of a captain or ship builder.
The Gray Man is a bust of a man from around the 1830’s. It really isn’t a bust. It was originally a figurehead on a ship. However, after it was removed from its original vessel, it was painted blue-gray and the base was altered which makes it look more like a marble statue than a figurehead
This carved gold leafed pine eagle pictured above is believed to be carved by William Rush but this claim has yet to be verified.
While this eagle with its arms extended may have been originally intended to be posted on the flat transom at the stern of the ship, it is also very similar to the décor on public buildings during the 1800’s. It is something that looks familiar to me as I have noticed decorations and sculptures like this on or inside older buildings while visiting the historic homes and area of New England.
This carving of a mountain sunrise, Mt Washington Lunette once adorned the steamship The Mount Washington, a steamship on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. This fan-shaped panel, called a lunette, was located at the center of one of the boxes that covered the steamboat’s paddle wheels. The half round paddle boxes served two purposes. They helped to protect the wheels from damage while shielding passengers from the turning wheels as well as the water that was thrown up by their blades.
There are other statues and decorations scattered through out the living museum.
These sculptures above, I believe of a sea mammal, were located outside one of the buildings.
This horsehead, located outside one of the historical homes, may have been used to tie the reigns of your horse.
This outdated statue was located outside a cigar and supply shop. It is displayed, I am sure, simply to give an accurate display of what the shops at that time looked like. The craftsmanship is impressive regardless.
The Carver’s Shop is one of the shops replicated to show how statues and other carvings were made and sold. The carving in the last photo (bottom right) may look similar to the cat carving at the figurehead museum.
These are two other cute decorations I noticed at the museum during my visit.
There were several dogs at the museum. Who knew dogs were so fond of the sea?
Since I am posting these blog posts as a series, I will post one set of photos for each dog or group of dogs I saw there.
I saw Brandi (On the left) and Colby (on the right) sitting by a bench with their guardian before I entered the museum. They are both 6 year old Chihuahua and Japanese Chin mix breeds.
See you soon with the next installment from my visit here!
Below is a short video of the figureheads and the restoration of figureheads from Mystic Seaport’s website.
October 1st, 2017 at 3:05 am
There’s a few thousand hours of work by long dead craftsmen in all those beautiful carvings.
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October 1st, 2017 at 3:23 pm
Yes, I agree! It’s incredible to think of how long they have lasted!
October 1st, 2017 at 7:37 am
That figurehead museum is so cool! Thank you for posting dog pics too! I adore dogs! Hugz Lisa
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October 1st, 2017 at 3:32 pm
It’s my pleasure. I loved photographing these dogs. There are more dogs that I will be including in the other parts of the posts in this series. Thank you!
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October 1st, 2017 at 10:31 am
These are great pictures! I have always been fascinated with the figureheads on the ships. These are beautiful examples of and I’m sure the history of when they began being put on the ship and and when the practice ended is very interesting. Thank you for sharing these.
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October 1st, 2017 at 3:40 pm
Yes, imagine the stories they could tell and all of the things they have been part of! They really do have such a storied past. Thank you, Brenda!
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October 1st, 2017 at 6:13 pm
You do get around to a lot of special NE places.
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October 1st, 2017 at 6:48 pm
I try! ( : Thank you, Lulu!
October 5th, 2017 at 3:17 pm
I didn’t know there even was such a thing as a figurehead museum! Wonderful to stroll through it with you 🙂
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October 5th, 2017 at 10:29 pm
I know! It was a very pleasant surprise for me to find that part of the building. Each figurehead has such an interesting behind it, too. Thank you, Christy!