Mystic Seaport Museum

“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.

Oyster farming

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.


About Laurel

Laurel Thorndike is our "artist in residence" here at We Love Museums. "Lately I have been experimenting with a very illustrative style. Using images & feelings as a writer would use words to bring characters "to life" Suggesting a possible story or building from existing ones." Inspiring artists & art periods include Art Nouveau's Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parrish. Pre-Raphaelites such as Waterhouse, Holman Hunt, Leighton. Portrait painter's John Singer Sargent and Julio Romero de Torres. Symbolists such as Jean Delville and Carlos Schwabe. In 2001 she studied photography with nature photographer Patrick Pacheo Zephyr. She immediately fell in love with using the camera to 'paint with light'. Using natural light to create a picture full of emotion from something as ordinary as a reflection in a small pond or a lone tree on a hill. In 2014 she attended the 'Illustrator Master Class' at Amherst College, A one week intensive with the instruction of some of the finest illustrator's in the country! Her works have been shown at the juried Art On The Mountain show 2004 & 2005 Wilmington VT and the Northeastern Fine Arts Juried Exhibition at the Green Trees Gallery Northfield MA 2005. As well as at various galleries and art fairs throughout New England. Her work can be viewed and purchased at:

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