The construction and re-configuring of the north end of the Mystic Seaport campus for the new McGraw Gallery Quadrangle and the Thompson Exhibition Building unfortunately requires the demolition of the G.W. Blunt White Building.
The building was constructed in 1964 and was purpose-built to house the Museum’s growing library. The man for which the building was named was a successful businessman in the Mystic area. Along the way he started sailing, eventually becoming the Commodore of the Cruising Club of America. He also took an interest in the local Marine Historical Society (known today as Mystic Seaport), joining the Board of Trustees in 1947 and serving as the Vice President from 1955 until his death from a heart attack in 1962 while doing what he loved: sailing.
Unfortunately, throughout its existence, the building suffered from chronic flooding due to the site’s high water table and moisture and mold was a perennial problem. In fact, the unsuitable conditions in the building resulted in the research library being moved across the street to the Collections Research Center (the library still bears the Blunt White name). Serious thought was given to incorporating the granite-veneer core of the building into the new exhibition hall, but the environmental issues and additional construction costs could not be justified. In the end, completely new construction made more sense for the overall project and site.
During the demolition of the building a special time capsule was recovered. Mrs. G.W. Blunt White helped seal the time capsule behind the newly laid cornerstone in October, 1964, and on March 16, 2015, with the help of the project contractor A/Z Corporation, the sealed copper box was removed and handed over to the Museum’s Collections and Research Vice President Paul O’Pecko for safekeeping. A few of the items found in the time capsule, which can be seen in the photo above, include Blunt White’s distinctive private pennant; an issue of the New York Times from July, 1964, showing Operation Sail in which schooner Brilliant participated; a number of Cruising Club of America (CCA)-related items; and papers and pamphlets related to the Museum’s happenings of the day.
Henry duPont, in recognizing the importance of his good friend at the time, spoke of the importance of a library to such an institution. “Bricks and mortar, steel and wood–fashioned in a beautiful and commodious building–do not in themselves create a library. The real library is the collection of important and meaningful books, manuscripts and publications, and the uses to which they are put.”
Mystic Seaport still celebrates the man after whom the library was named and takes comfort in the fact that the library collections are in a better environment and still serving the purpose about which duPont spoke half a century ago.