THE ESSEX HISTORICAL SOCIETY & SHIPBUILDING MUSEUM BACKGROUND


The Essex Shipbuilding Museum tells the extraordinary story of a small New England village that built more two-masted wooden fishing schooners than any other place in the world.

Managed by the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit Massachusetts corporation founded in 1937, the Museum was established in 1976 as part of the town's observation of the American Revolutionary Bicentennial.  Preserving the history of the wooden shipbuilding industry, an integral part of the economy and culture in New England and the United States since the 1630s, the Museum maintains one of the best maritime collections in the region. 

Museum projects have built or interpreted schooners, Chebacco boats, sailing lighters, dories and privateers.  The only intact example of transitional dragger, the EVELINA M. GOULART is on display in our shipyard.  Innovative, experiential educational programs teach concepts through a rich mix of content knowledge and hands-on activities for children, adults, seniors and educators from around the world.

Located in the heart of Essex, Massachusetts, the Museum is adjacent to an acre of land set aside in 1668 “for a yard to build vessels and employing workmen for this end” and is integral to the town's historic character, scenic vista and central river basin.  Features include antique shipbuilding tools, photographs, documents, and exhibits portraying the shipbuilding industry.  Tours include video presentations and hands-on activities.  A gift shop offers ship plans, maritime books, and other nautical memorabilia.

Some Significant Events

1937. The Essex Historical Society, Inc., is founded and operates a small house museum in the center of town.

For many years, the society encourages its members to conduct research into all aspects of life in early Essex and to present their findings to the membership. The result is a body of historical papers for which contemporary researchers into early Essex life are deeply indebted.

1950s. Town meeting grants custody of the town's hearse house and two rare horse-drawn hearses to the society.

1976. The Society establishes the Essex Shipbuilding Museum as part of the town's observation of the American Revolutionary Bicentennial. Funding is provided by the society, the town of Essex, the Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission and the American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission.

1990. The museum acquires the EVELINA M. GOULART–– one of only seven historic Essex-built schooners that survive.

1993. The society purchases the historic site where the Story family operated its shipyards from 1813 to the end of WWII.

1998. The EHSSM commissions the construction of a Chebacco Boat, the LEWIS H. STORY to serve as the museum's flagship.