Maritime Trail | 400 Years of Seafaring History in New England

By Yankee Magazine

Mar 31 2017

fisherman_statue

The people of New England share a long, fascinating history with the seas. Here’s a sampling of museums, ships, and memorial sites along New England’s “Maritime Trail,” featuring stops in each of the six New England states.

MASSACHUSETTS

Battleship Cove

On Mount Hope Bay, visit the maritime museum and tour historic military vessels, including the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and the battleship USS Massachusetts. Home of the National PT Boat Museum. Fall River, MA. battleshipcove.org

A 1789 etching shows one artist's depiction of the Boston Tea Party, a political protest organized by the Sons of Liberty in December 1773 in resistance to the hated British tea tax imposed on colonists. Today, the interactive Boston Tea Party Museum gives visitors the chance to participate aboard reproductive merchant ships.
A 1789 etching shows one artist’s depiction of the Boston Tea Party, a political protest organized by the Sons of Liberty in December 1773 in resistance to the hated British tea tax imposed on colonists. Today, the interactive Boston Tea Party Museum gives visitors the chance to participate aboard reproductive merchant ships.
Photo Credit : ©2014 Stock Sales WGBH/Scala/art Resource, NY

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Hear the story of the 1773 costumed protest by the Sons of Liberty, and take part in history as you join the Patriots on two recreated Colonial merchant ships at Griffin’s Wharf. Throw a tea box into the water or indulge in a “cuppa” at Abigail’s Tea Room. Boston, MA. bostonteapartyship.com

Cape Cod Maritime Museum

This traditional museum of maritime art and Cape Cod history also features sailing tours and the Cook Boat Shop, where visitors can see inspired builders at work. Hyannis, MA. capecodmaritimemuseum.org

Berthed at Charlestown Navy Yard, c. 1930, was the USS Nantucket, a steamer (with auxiliary sail). A training ship from 1920 to 1944, it had served as a Navy gunboat in Asia and Central America from 1876 to 1920.
Berthed at Charlestown Navy Yard, c. 1930, was the USS Nantucket, a steamer (with auxiliary sail). A training ship from 1920 to 1944, it had served as a Navy gunboat in Asia and Central America from 1876 to 1920.
Photo Credit : Leslie Jones Collection

Charlestown Navy Yard

Part of Boston National Historical Park, the Navy Yard is home to the 1797 USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides,” a symbol of freedom on the high seas) and the World War II destroyer USS Cassin Young.Charlestown, MA. nps.gov/bost/historyculture/cny.htm

Custom House Maritime Museum

View artifacts of distant voyages and intricate model clipper ships in Newburyport’s 1835 Custom House, birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard. Newburyport, MA. customhousemaritimemuseum.org

Essex Shipbuilding Museum

Artifacts, photos, manuscripts, tools, and a waterfront site where Essex shipwrights built Gloucester fishing schooners for more than 300 years, including the surviving Evelina M. Goulart; also view the Lewis H. Story, a recreated classic chebacco boat. Essex, MA. essexshipbuildingmuseum.org

Expedition Whydah

History meets fantasy in this collection of more than 200,000 artifacts and treasures from the only pirate shipwreck to be discovered, the 1717 Whydah. Provincetown, MA. whydah.com

Gloucester Fisherman Statue
Gloucester Fisherman Statue

Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial & Cenotaph

Along South Stacy Boulevard stands the man at the wheel, facing the harbor—a memorial to Gloucester fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. Gloucester, MA. nps.gov/nr/travel/maritime/glo.htm

“Storm Warriors” at Point Allerton U.S. Lifesaving Station, Hull, Mass., c. 1891. Today this headquarters is home to the Hull Lifesaving Museum, featuring photo and artifact collections and hands-on exhibits on the maritime history of Boston Harbor. At right is a rescue surfboat atop a beach cart, ready to roll.
“Storm Warriors” at Point Allerton U.S. Lifesaving Station, Hull, Mass., c. 1891. Today this headquarters is home to the Hull Lifesaving Museum, featuring photo and artifact collections and hands-on exhibits on the maritime history of Boston Harbor. At right is a rescue surfboat atop a beach cart, ready to roll.
Photo Credit : courtesy of the Hull Lifesaving Museum

Hull Lifesaving Museum

Exhibits tell the story of the 1889 Point Allerton U.S. Lifesaving Station. Hull, MA. lifesavingmuseum.org

Maritime Gloucester

At America’s oldest seaport, experience the ongoing relevance of maritime Gloucester: Sail aboard the schooner Ardelle, visit the Sea Pocket Touch Tank Aquarium, or lobster on the Western Edge. Gloucester, MA. maritimegloucester.org

Mayflower II

A gift to the States symbolizing American and British unity, the Mayflower II sailed across the Atlantic in 1957 and is now a model and museum of the Pilgrims’ 1620 voyage. Plymouth, MA. plimoth.org/what-see-do/mayflower-ii

Nantucket Historical Association Whaling Museum

In the shadow of a 46-foot sperm-whale skeleton, walk though exhibits of maritime history and decorative arts. Nantucket, MA. nha.org/sites

Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

Learn the history of the islanders who rescued travelers from Nan­tucket’s waters, once one of the “graveyards of the Atlantic.” Nantucket, MA. nantucketshipwreck.org

Plimoth Plantation

With its 17th-century English Village and Wampanoag Homesite, Plimoth Plantation lets you explore the year 1627 as it brings Pilgrim and Native American history to life. Plymouth, MA. plimoth.org

U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum

Home to the USS Salem, launched in 1947, the world’s only preserved heavy cruiser and a veteran of the Cold War. Artifacts, memorabilia, and a Navy SEALs exhibit are on the third deck. The Salem also hosts an “Overnight Adventure” program. Quincy, MA. uss-salem.org

CONNECTICUT

Charles W. Morgan & Joseph Conrad

Retired for 52 years, the Joseph Conrad once sailed 58,000 miles around the world, while the Seaport’s “crown jewel,” the refurbished Charles W. Morgan, the last surviving wooden whaler, made her 38th voyage in 2014, visiting New England ports with dockside exhibits. Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT. mysticseaport.org

Connecticut River Museum

A restored historic steamboat warehouse preserves the culture and history of the Lower Valley, including ship models and paintings, fishing tools, navigational instruments, and artifacts of the river industries, shipbuilding and yachting among them. Essex, CT. ctrivermuseum.org

Custom House Maritime Museum

Within this 1833 structure, visitors will find a detailed history of Connecticut, with exhibits on lighthouses, shipwrecks, and the Amistad. New London, CT. nlmaritimesociety.org

Freedom Schooner Amistad

In 1839, Sengbe Pieh led a revolt aboard this slave ship that would ultimately result in the kidnapped Africans’ return home; today, the re-created Amistad stands as a lesson in human rights and freedom. New Haven, CT. amistadcommitteeinc.org/story-of-the-amistad

Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard

From the visitors’ gallery, watch master shipbuilders employing traditional skills to restore the port’s historic wooden vessels. Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT. mysticseaport.org

Old Lighthouse Museum

This 1840 stone lighthouse and dwelling is home to the Stonington Historical Society’s maritime collection, which includes artifacts from the 1814 British attack on the town. Stonington, CT. stoningtonhistory.org

Submarine Force Museum

Explore the decks and control room of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the 1952 USS Nautilus, whose record-breaking history of maritime exploration includes the first successful sub voyage to the North Pole. Groton, CT. ussnautilus.org

U.S. Coast Guard Museum

On the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy, view 220 years of history through artifacts such as the museum’s golden eagle figurehead; World War II art and propaganda posters; medals; and models. New London, CT. uscg.mil/hq/cg092/museum/Default.asp

RHODE ISLAND

Continental Sloop Providence

Tour this 110-foot replica of America’s first warship — Rhode Island’s official flagship and sailing ambassador. Newport, RI. (Note: The Providence was badly damaged during a wind storm in 2015 and is currently undergoing reconstruction.)

Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island, honoring the legacy of the legendary builder of racing and cruising vessels, houses collections of yachts, models, artifacts, and vintage photos. This 1912 shot of the shop shows work on a rowboat, foreground, and on the Alerion, background, designed by Captain Nathanael Greene Herreshoff for his own use.
Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island, honoring the legacy of the legendary builder of racing and cruising vessels, houses collections of yachts, models, artifacts, and vintage photos. This 1912 shot of the shop shows work on a rowboat, foreground, and on the Alerion, background, designed by Captain Nathanael Greene Herreshoff for his own use.
Photo Credit : courtesy Herreshoff Marine Museum

Herreshoff Marine Museum

Home to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, honoring the legendary designers and builders, the best sailors, and the fastest yachts. View boats, models, and memorabilia. Bristol, RI. herreshoff.org

SSV Oliver Hazard Perry

This Rhode Island–built tall ship is also a classroom; the education-at-sea program features courses in the maritime arts and sciences. Newport, RI. ohpri.org

U.S. Naval War College Museum

Housed in a former poorhouse, the college was founded in 1884 by Commodore Stephen B. Luce. The college’s grand original building is now a museum of naval warfare, plus collections of artworks and artifacts of Narragansett Bay. Newport, RI. usnwc.edu/museum

MAINE

Grand Banks Schooner Museum

Visit the Sherman Zwicker, the museum’s 142-foot traveling treasure, with a tall history of North Atlantic voyages. Boothbay, ME. schoonermuseum.org

Great Harbor Maritime Museum

Special events with boatbuilders and changing exhibits; Great Harbor is rebuilding its local maritime history in a renovated fire station. Northeast Harbor, ME.

J. & E. Riggin

Climb aboard this former oyster schooner for a three- to six-day cruise along the Maine coast and islands. Gourmet meals are a specialty. Rockland, ME. mainewindjammer.com

Kittery Historical & Naval Society Museum

Visit a museum that’s as connected to its naval memorabilia as it is to the local history of the town, established in 1647. Kittery, ME. kitterymuseum.com

Maine Coast Sardine History Museum

Learn about the impact of the sardine industry on coastal towns while visiting Ronnie and Mary Peabody’s collection, including machines, vintage tins, and tools. Jonesport, ME.

Maine Lighthouse Museum

Lose yourself in the lenses and other artifacts, as well as the history of the Coast Guard, the lifesaving services, and the lives of lighthouse keepers. Rockland, ME. mainelighthousemuseum.org

Maine Windjammers

Relive the Age of Sail on three- to six-day cruises aboard one of nine schooners and tall ships (five of them historic, including the Lewis R. French) plying the Maine coast and islands. The website offers links to the individual vessels’ sites. Camden/Rockland, ME. sailmainecoast.com

Penobscot Marine Museum

View collections of folk art, portraits of sea captains, and scrimshaw. Searsport, ME. penobscotmarinemuseum.org

Swan’s Island Lobster & Marine Museum

Take a ferry to visit the Turner brothers and discover their collection of antique equipment on an island whose main occupation is lobstering. Swan’s Island, ME. swansisland.org

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Gundalow Piscataqua

A historical reproduction of the type of classic flat-bottomed barge that was once common on coastal waterways. Saturday mornings with the kids, cool jazz at sundown, or catch the afternoon breeze — join the Piscataqua (picnic in hand) as it sails upriver. Portsmouth, NH. gundalow.org

John Paul Jones, a hero of the American Revolution.
John Paul Jones, a hero of the American Revolution.
Photo Credit : Private Collection/The Stapleton Collection/The Bridgeman Art Library

John Paul Jones House

The naval hero of the American Revolution was a tenant here in 1781 while he supervised the building of the America. It’s now home to the seaport’s history of maritime trade and warfare. Portsmouth, NH.

Strawbery Banke

Walk among 10 acres of heritage gardens, historic homes, and interactive exhibits as you experience four centuries of Portsmouth life, here in its original neighborhood, “Puddle Dock.” Portsmouth, NH. strawberybanke.org

USS Albacore

Decommissioned in the early 1970s after 19 years of active duty, this submarine is now open for tours. It features a cylindrical hull that was revolutionary at the time the Albacore was developed, in 1953. Portsmouth, NH. ussalbacore.org

VERMONT

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Celebrating Vermont’s own “fresh­water sea”: LCMM’s expansive collection includes the 1902 ice yacht Storm King inside the museum, and restored and replica vessels in the harbor. LCMM is also a nautical archaeology center studying artifacts from the lake’s 300 shipwrecks. Vergennes, VT. lcmm.org

Lake Champlain Navy Memorial

Commemorating the lake’s significant naval history and honoring the U.S. military, past and present. At the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, next to ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center, stands the bronze Lone Sailor; critical naval actions are described on granite slants. Burlington, VT. navymemorial.org

Ticonderoga

The eclectic Shelburne Museum is home to this preserved 1906 side-wheel passenger steamer, state-of-the-art in its day. Shelburne, VT. shelburnemuseum.org

For more information, see New England Maritime Museums, Historic Sites, Art, and Cruises.

This article first appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Yankee Magazine.