“Climb aboard another era” in this 19th century seaport village.
Mystic Seaport village has the usual findings: blacksmith, cooperage, church, drug store, typical New England homes, bank, general store, school house, & printing office. But there are some things that set it apart for me such as the Thomas Oyster House and the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard.
Thomas Oyster House
Research carried out in 1967 revealed that this structure is one of the few remaining buildings that could be classified as a typical small northern oyster house. The building was constructed about 1874 at City Point, New Haven, Connecticut, by Thomas Thomas. New Haven once was the largest oyster distribution center in New England; now there is only one oyster-opening shop left in this state, that of the Bloom Brothers in South Norwalk.
Initially Mr. Thomas used the building as a culling shop, where oysters were sorted by size and shipped in their shells, by the barrel, to markets in New York City and as far away as California. Following Mr. Thomas’s death, his son John took over the business and converted it to a shucking house. This involved opening the oysters upon delivery by the oyster boats. They were then packed in iced wooden kegs ready for delivery to various markets. The building was used in the oystering business until John Thomas’ retirement in 1956.
As demand for oysters grew and natural beds were over fished, oystermen in the 1850s learned to cultivate oysters in undersea “farms.” Surveyed and buoyed, these private grounds extended along the Connecticut shore. Some were used for spawning new crops, often using adult “seed oysters” dredged from natural beds. Others were used for growing oysters to market size. Oystermen working on private grounds were free to use steam- or gasoline-powered vessels to dredge, and to haul their dredges with power. Like farmers tending their fields, oystermen laid down old shells, which they called “cultch,” for juvenile oysters to settle on, then mopped up the predatory sea stars and otherwise protected their “crop” for the three years it took the oysters to grow to market size.
Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard
Witness the lost art of wooden shipbuilding in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, an awe-inspiring opportunity to watch skilled craftspeople perform skills made nearly extinct by steel and fiberglass.
From a visitors’ gallery, the Shipyard offers a bird’s eye view of carpenters’ shops, an amazing 85-foot spar lathe, a rigging loft and a large, open area where the Museum’s vessels are brought indoors for repair.
Other shipyard sights include a paint shop, a metalworking shop, documentation shop, lumber shed and an old-fashioned saw mill full of rough-cut logs. Best of all, everything’s being used – historic methods for historic vessels.
This village will appeal to both children and history buff’s alike. Some neat hands-on activities for children include catching hermit crabs with small nets and a build your own boat activity. Also carriage rides through the village and short plays and demonstrations at various times throughout the day.