McGraw Quad Project Enters New Phase

Thompson Building Site
The site of the new Thompson Exhibition Building on the north end of the Museum grounds. The cupola from the demolished G.W. Blunt White Building (center) is being recycled.

The McGraw Gallery Quadrangle project is entering a significant new phase as the contractor has almost completed demolition work and site preparation is underway for the construction of the Thompson Exhibition Building and the quadrangle landscaping.

The plan called for the G.W. Blunt White Building, the North Boat Shed, and the brick outbuilding that formerly housed the Benjamin F. Packard Ship’s Cabin to be razed. The Packard Cabin and the Cruising Club of America (CCA) exhibit that was on the first floor of Blunt White are both being relocated to the Stillman Building. The CCA exhibit, “The Adventurous Use of the Sea“, has also been reproduced as an online exhibit.

The McGraw Gallery Quadrangle is a major undertaking by Mystic Seaport to transform the north end of the Museum to greatly enhance the quality of exhibition space and offer a more robust year-round experience for visitors. The distinctive Quad will mesh existing buildings and grounds with the new exhibition building. Named for the late Donald C. McGraw, a longtime Mystic Seaport supporter and passionate advocate for the collection and preservation of maritime artifacts, the Quad seeks to unify the components of the north end of the Museum by focusing on their common role as formal exhibition galleries. The Quad’s cornerstone, the 14,000 square-foot Thompson Exhibition Building, named for the late trustee, Wade Thompson, and designed by the renowned Connecticut firm Centerbrook Architects and Planners, will house exemplary exhibition facilities, the latest technologies, and flexible spaces to engage with visitors and serve their diverse interests.

The New McGraw Gallery Quadrangle will unite all of the exhibition and gathering spaces on the north end of the grounds.
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With demolition complete, work will focus on the drilling of 20 465-foot deep wells for a geothermal heating and cooling system, the installation of new electrical, telecom, and water infrastructure, and additional site preparation in advance of pouring the foundation for the Thompson Building. The contractor will also address the Quad landscaping with an intended completion and opening to the public early this summer.

“The project is moving along very smoothly despite a challenging winter in terms of snow and work conditions, and we are very excited to move from the demolition phase to actual construction of the new Thompson Building and Quad,” said Ken Wilson, director of facilities at Mystic Seaport.

In addition to the new construction, most of the existing exhibit galleries around the Quad are receiving upgrades and new exhibits. This June “Voyaging in the Wake of the Whalers” will open on the first floor of the Stillman Building. This 4,400 square-foot exhibit is a fresh take on the history of American whaling and will combine Museum artifacts, artwork, audiovisual elements, and interactive displays to facilitate an understanding of the forces that initially drove the whaling industry, humankind’s changing perceptions of whales, and the latest research into whale-human interactions. The exhibit will also incorporate elements from the Charles W. Morgan‘s 38th Voyage last summer.

In September, “Ships, Clocks & Stars — The Quest for Longitude” will open in the R.J. Schaefer Building. This award winning exhibit, produced by the National Maritime Museum in London, tells the story of humankind’s epic effort to solve the riddle of determining longitude, ultimately accomplished by John Harrison’s achievement of building the perfect clock. The exhibit has 148 artifacts, art objects, and working replicas of the original Harrison chronometers–including the actual case of his H4 chronometer that won the coveted Longitude Prize, the X-Prize of the 18th century. Mystic Seaport is just one of three museums worldwide selected to host the exhibit outside the United Kingdom.

The project is scheduled for completion in fall 2016 with the opening of the Thompson Building.