Museum Honors Donald C. McGraw

The new Gallery Quadrangle will be named for the late Donald C. McGraw, a passionate advocate for maritime preservation.

The Mystic Seaport Board of Trustees has decided to name the new Gallery Quadrangle for the late Donald C. McGraw, longtime supporter of the Museum and a charter member and first chairman of its National Council of Advisors.

“We felt that the best way to honor the legacy of Don McGraw would be to name the Gallery Quadrangle after him as the buildings that make up the space are dedicated to exhibition, a subject which was very dear to him,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White.

The new McGraw Gallery Quadrangle will unite all of the exhibition and gathering spaces on the north end of Mystic Seaport
The new McGraw Gallery Quadrangle will unite all of the exhibition and gathering spaces on the north end of Mystic Seaport.

An avid collector, McGraw brought his passion for the artifacts of America’s maritime heritage to his leadership and support of the Museum, and his philanthropy significantly increased the endowment and the enhancement of the Museum’s priceless collection of J.E. Buttersworth paintings. The McGraw family’s commitment to Mystic Seaport continues with his son Robin’s service on the Board of Trustees.

The McGraw Gallery Quadrangle will replace what is now Anchor Circle on the north end of the Museum’s grounds. It will be comprised of the Stillman, Wendell, Mallory, and Schaefer Buildings as well as the Greenmanville Church. The to-be-constructed Thompson Exhibition Building will complete the Quadrangle’s north border with a grassy open space in the center. The Quadrangle is scheduled to open on June 15 of this year. The Thompson Exhibition Building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.

Moving the Packard Cabin

Despite a month of seemingly relentless snow, work on the project continues to move forward on schedule. Of particular note is the relocation of the Benjamin F. Packard Cabin to the second floor of the Stillman Building. The Packard Cabin has been located in a small brick building that once housed a power plant for the mill complex that existed on the site before Mystic Seaport. The building, which dates to the late 1800s, is scheduled for demolition in early March to make way for the Thompson Exhibition Building (the North Boat Shed and the G.W. Blunt White Building are also scheduled for demolition this month).

Museum shipwright Roger Hambidge works on the foundation for the Packard Cabin's new location
Museum shipwright Roger Hambidge works on the foundation for the Packard Cabin’s new location

The cabin was salvaged from the “Down Easter” Benjamin F. Packard prior to her scrapping after the hurricane of 1938. The 244-foot long ship—more than twice as long as the Charles W. Morgan—was built in 1883 and spent 25 years in the Cape Horn trade carrying cargoes from America’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. After a subsequent period as a “salmon packer” where she would carry a seasonal cargo of equipment and workers to Alaska’s salmon fishery and return months later with the workers and canned salmon, the Packer ended her years as a dockside attraction at the Playland amusement park in Rye, NY, until the hurricane rendered her unfit for even that duty.

None of the Down Easters have survived and the Packard Cabin is an important artifact of that ship type. Visitors can view the officers’ mess cabin, the captain’s day cabin, and the captain’s stateroom. The excellence of materials and fine work of the paneling, including ornate carvings and beautiful veneers, are testament to the grandeur of the ship. Relocating the cabin requires that it be carefully disassembled and transported upstairs in the Stillman Building. However, before it could be reconstructed, a framework had to be built to support the panels. This was an involved process as the curved sheer and camber of the deck of the ship had to be recreated in a sub-floor. This was painstaking and precise work carried out by Shipyard and Interpretation Department staff. One benefit of the move to is the extra space available for additional artifacts and exhibition elements. The plan is to present the cabin in the greater context of the Down Easter and coasting trades when the exhibit is reopened later this spring.