Sitting on the edge of the Long Island Sound in Kings Point, the Barstow Mansion is filled not with fanciful furniture and decor of the Gilded Age, but with models of ships, navigation tools for seafaring, other maritime ephemera. This Gold Coast estate is home to The American Merchant Marine Museum. Acquired by the United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association in 1975, the museum preserves, displays, and interprets historic artifacts and artwork related to the United States Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine, and the profession of seafaring. If you are an Untapped Cities Insider, you can join us, for free, on a special lunchtime tour of the museum on September 23rd when it will be closed to the public. After the tour you can enjoy the beautiful waterfront views as you picnic on the grounds.
The Barstow Mansion was built in 1910 for William Slocum Barstow. Before establishing his own electrical engineering firm in 1901, Barstow was a partner of Thomas Edison. He would go on to invent his own electric meter which we still use today to measure electrical usage. Along with his scientific accomplishments, Barstow was also the first Mayor of Kings Point. After Barstow died, his wife lived in the mansion until her death in 1953. The mansion was then purchased by the eccentric owner of Lundy’s Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Frederick W.I. Lundy. Lundy never actually lived in the mansion, and three years later it was bought by the USMMA Alumni Association.
The first iteration of the merchant marine museum, fittingly, sprung up on a boat, an old training ship called Emory Rice. Between 1946 and 1958 the Emory Rice served as a pier side “museum ship.” When the boat was scrapped in 1958, its collections were scattered around campus. This museum ship inspired Midshipman Charles Renick, who would return to the academy as administrator in 1961, to advocate for a permanent museum space.
The museum inside the Barstow Mansion officially opened on May 20, 1979. Inside you will find an extensive collection of nautical art, models, tools and other artifacts that span decades of maritime history. One highlight of the collections is aJapanese sword that was surrendered by Vice Admiral Matomu Ugaki to Supreme Allied Commander and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur on October 18, 1945. The sword on display is one of only five in existence.
In addition to housing the museum, the mansion also host classes for midshipmen. Since the Museum was taken over by federal control in 2009, midshipmen have played an important role in the maintenance and success of the museum as they provide much of the labor necessary to clean and organize its spaces.
You can join Untapped Cities on a special guided tour of the museum where we will have the space all to ourselves. After the tour you can enjoy the museum’s beautiful natural surroundings with a picnic on the grounds which face the Long Island Sound. Guests are responsible for their own transportation to the museum. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special events all year long.
Check out more photos of the American Merchant Marine Museum below: