Ken came back this summer and found his way to the Searsport Museum…Here’s his letter to you…
It almost seems like New England created the idea of the maritime museum. The Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport is among the best with its diverse collection of exhibits, educational offerings and hands-on activities for both adults and children. The museum is a campus of thirteen historic buildings all in their original location on Church Street. The large collection includes not only paintings but all sorts of ship models, dioramas, furniture, photographs, manuscripts, scrimshaw, tools, small boats, and many artifacts from around the world. And with all this they are not sitting still, in fact they are adding more.
The Fowler-True-Ross House and Barn is a 19th Century sea captain’s family home with furnishings. Fowler was a Searsport farmer who later became a sea captain in search of better economic prospects for his family. His decision must have been a good one as he and his wife had five sons who also became ship’s captains. As his fortunes improved, he built a Federal style house on to the original the two-room farmhouse that overlooked bustling Main Street. Among the artifacts displayed in the house is a panoramic photo of 1905 Hong Kong and Captain Pendleton’s portrait as Japanese samurai. The house was continually occupied by descendants until 1967 and then given to the Museum for the enjoyment of future generations.
The Captain Jeremiah Merithew House contains a number of exhibits including a gallery of more than 300 portraits of Searsport sea captains. Searsport produced both boats and sea captains. Among the works in the gallery upstairs are maritime paintings by renowned father and son painters, Thomas and James Buttersworth. A painting thought to be by James Buttersworth created excitement when it recently turned up on a recent episode of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.
The First Congregational Church of Searsport is not part of the Museum but adjacent to the Merithew House and is open to visitors at selected times During the day without a service, the light flowing through the stained glass windows creates a quiet atmosphere where one can easily spend time in contemplation; I pause for more than a moment here. It’s still an active church – be sure not to miss it.
Across the street are two barns housing recreational and working small boats of all sorts. The Peapods, Dinghies, Rowboats, Sailboats, Lobster boats, Skiffs, and Canoes have been beautifully restored and the nice feature is you can really get up close to check out all the details (however without the benefit of an old Maine salt casting a suspicious eye or tongue). The quote by curator Ben Fuller here tells it all, “Unlike art and objects like cars, boats are like people and as they age they are no better or worse, they just look different.”
I did not spend much time in the “yard in the yard” but this grassy area features a model of a square riggers mast and working lines and sails. Kids of all ages will enjoy playing here.
Among the activities coming in July are a Day Camp, Lobster boat races in Searsport Harbor on the 11th and the 24th will feature a Museum Celebration featuring canoe building and a new fisheries exhibit called “Gone Fishing”.
In Searsport center Coastal Coffee provides a nice ice coffee break or consider Mariner’s Tavern for lunch or dinner. There is a grassy quiet picnic area behind the Congregational church that is an ideal space for any break.
The museum is a quick eight-minute bike ride from Searsport Shores Campground by way of the wide-shouldered Route 1. For visiting hours and more information please visit www. penobscotmarinemuseum.org.