SAG HARBOR WHALING & HISTORICAL MUSEUM
The building housing the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum was originally constructed c. 1845 as the private residence of Benjamin Huntting II (1796-1867), one of Sag Harbor’s prominent whaling ship owners. The Greek Revival design is attributed to the prominent New York architect Minard LeFever (1798-1854), who also designed the “Old Whaler’s” Presbyterian Church just two blocks away.
The house boasts a temple-fronted portico, ornate Corinthian columns and bold “Greek Key” wall elements. On the roof line are hand crafted wood carvings said to be (highly stylized) whale’s teeth and blubber spades – a nod to the source of the Huntting family’s wealth. The interior includes intricately carved door and window frames, decorative plaster, and an oval staircase in figural maple that is a tour de force for the period. The total cost of construction of the house was $7,000.
Following the death of Huntting’s son Benjamin F. Huntting in 1886, the house went unoccupied by the family and was eventually purchased in 1907 as a “summer cottage” by the widow Margaret Olivia Slocum [Mrs. Russell] Sage who, upon her financier husband’s death a year earlier, had become one of the wealthiest women in America. Mrs. Sage put her fortune to philanthropic use all over the country, including Sag Harbor (where she had family ties) funding the creation of the John Jermain Library, Pierson High School and Mashashimuet Park.
Two years after her death in 1918, the house was adopted for use as a Masonic Temple (still housed on the second floor). In 1936, the newly-founded Museum was invited to display its collection on the Main Floor; the building and grounds were formally deeded to the Museum by the Masons in 1945.
The mission of the museum is to preserve, interpret and promote the culture of Sag Harbor through its collection of historical objects related to the village’s whaling history, as well as the presentation of contemporary exhibits and events that reflect the culture of the village today and put Sag Harbor’s past and present into context.
Capital Campaign in Progress
The Museum’s capital campaign is an ongoing effort to fully restore the Benjamin Huntting house to its original glory. We’ve made tremendous strides thanks to our wonderful community of friends and family in Sag Harbor and beyond and could not have gotten this far without their help and dedication! But we’re not done yet. We’re still fundraising to complete this project.
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to our ongoing campaign you may do so by clicking the “Donate” button below, calling us at 631.725.0770 or simply by mailing your check payable to: The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum and sending it to P.O. Box 1327, Sag Harbor, NY 11963.
“Sailors Folk Art”
The Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum has almost 200 pieces of scrimshaw in its collection, including whalebone swifts (used to wind wool), pie crimpers, forks, busks, jewelry, carved toys and, of course, classic examples of whaling scenes etched upon the teeth of sperm whales.
As with most scrimshaw, few pieces in the collection can be tied to a specific individual, or even a particular ship or voyage; this information has been lost with time. Each however represents what might have been hundreds of hours of sanding, smoothing, carving, etching and inking, making them some of the most beautiful examples of “the sailors folk art” as can be found.
— Copy & Photos courtesy of Richard Doctorow, Collections Manager, Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum.
The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum
200 Main Street. Sag Harbor, NY 11963
Call: 631.725.0770 / Fax: 631.725.5638 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs copyright Jeff Heatley.