A visit to Mystic Seaport’s Figurehead Exhibit
“Carving Grace” has an enormous back story of inspiring experiences. One of them was a visit to Mystic Seaport’s Figurehead Exhibit, which Nathan and I visited in February 2021. At that point, I’d started the story, and I felt I needed a kick.
While vaccinations had started to happen, we wouldn’t be eligible for ours until March. We desperately needed to get away, and because most of the seaport is outdoors, it seemed the perfect place to secure a change of scenery (we’d also gone there in September of 2020 for our anniversary).
Gallery: The Figureheads
Each figurehead is followed by the museum’s detailed description.
There’s quite a story behind this one. When I was a teen back in the 1980s, we’d go to museums and attractions, and I was always drawn to gift shops. Usually, I’d get books about the museum or attraction that was written and published specifically for the attraction, and sometimes even by the attraction—something you couldn’t buy anywhere else. This was something very special which, I believe, has pretty much vanished since you can now get things on Amazon and they’re always available. Back then, places would publish a limited run of these books. Sometimes, they were even chapbooks people printed using a small local press or printer.
On our drive out, Nathan asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. I said, ‘I’d love it if they had a book about the figurehead exhibit.’ We went into the store, and I wandered everywhere looking for a book, but couldn’t find it. Turns out, Nathan asked the shop owner, and they said they had an older one in the back room. It was beat up—but, oh, magic! It was clearly one of the books that had been published when the figureheads were exhibited the first time, back in the 1980s—and thanks to my husband, I was lucky enough to get it as my special Valentine’s Day gift!
There were several layers of stickers on the back. I was cracking up at the $19.95 price tag—which was consistent down to the bottom. A book like this would be closer to $39.95 now. $19.95 was about average at gift shops for limited run books back in the 1980s (I should know. My dad bought me enough of them….) This was considered expensive, at least at the time.
Gallery: Cabin from the1883 ship Benjamin F. Packard
What a treat to get to walk through a cabin from an actual ship! (Due to Covid, the Charles W. Morgan was closed—totally understandable. Cramped quarters with no room for social distancing).
There was something haunting about these recordings of whale song.
Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern was open for a limited selection of food and drink. Nobody beats the New England clam chowder at Mystic Seaport. It’s been a favorite of mine—and a must-do if on property—since I was a kid going there on field trips. Some people might argue this; just like Dirk says in “Carving Grace,” there’s a lot of pride in an establishment’s clam chowder, but honestly, I’ve never had a better one. And I’ve eaten a LOT of New England clam chowder in my lifetime.
This day was also special because it was the first time I’d eaten indoors since the pandemic’s start in the spring of 2020. I was nervous. But I did it. And I was fine.
Spouters is the inspiration for “Carving Grace”’s fictional original food stand, the Chowder Chantey.
Gallery: The Buckingham-Hall House
The Buckingham-Hall House served as inspiration for Ellouise’s home on Ricketts Street in “Carving Grace.” While the B-H house is a saltbox (I think) and Ellouise’s house is a Cape Cod, it’s really the B-H’s house’s interior which was in my head.
We bought these champagne glasses at the seaport gift shop!
Posted on November 1, 2021, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, Horror Stories, Short Stories, The Writing Life and tagged Buckingham-Hall house, fried artichokes, Howard Johnson’s Mystic, Mystic Pizza, Mystic Seaport, Mystic Seaport Figurehead exhibit, ship figureheads, Silent Pilots book, Spouter’s Tavern Mystic Seaport, what’s the clam chowder at Mystic Seaport like. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.