Independence Seaport Museum

Independence Seaport Museum

Exterior of the Independence Seaport Museum
Location within Pennsylvania
Established 1961
Location Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Coordinates 39°56′43″N 75°08′30″W / 39.945314°N 75.141771°W / 39.945314; -75.141771
Type Maritime Museum
Visitors 84,000 (2011)[1]
Director John Brady (CEO)
Curator Craig Bruns
Public transit access SEPTA Market–Frankford Line, SEPTA Bus Routes 17, 21, 33, 42, 48

The Independence Seaport Museum (formerly the Philadelphia Maritime Museum) is a museum dedicated to the maritime history of the Philadelphia region and other major urban ports along the Delaware River. It sits in the Penn's Landing complex along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. Founded in 1961, it offers dozens of exhibits, include the warship USS Olympia and the submarine USS Becuna.


In 1961, maritime collector J. Welles Henderson felt that Philadelphia's maritime history had been forgotten, and was frustrated that his city lacked a maritime museum like those in New England.[2] So he rented a room in the Athenaeum on Washington Square, set out his personal collection of maritime items, and opened the Philadelphia Maritime Museum.

In 1974, the museum moved to 321 Chestnut Street, into a building built in 1898 for the First National Bank.[3]

In 1995, the museum moved to Penn's Landing along the Delaware River, after spending $15 million to renovate a building used by the Port of History Museum, which had closed two years earlier. It was renamed the Independence Seaport Museum.[2][4]

In June 2007, former Independence Seaport Museum president John S. Carter pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion from misappropriating about US$2.5 million in funds from the museum. He received a 15-year sentence in federal prison.[5][6] Carter, who was president of the museum from 1989 to March 2006, was accused of using money from the museum to buy numerous personal items, including two boats, an espresso machine and a carriage house for his home in Cape Cod between 1997 and 2006.[5][7]

In February 2010, museum officials announced that the cruiser Olympia needed $10 to $20 million for hull repairs to prevent her from sinking and would consider transferring her to a new steward. The Seaport Museum held a preservation summit in March 2011, and shortly thereafter announced that qualified interested organizations could apply for stewardship of Olympia through a transfer application process vetted by a review panel of historic ship and preservation experts.

In April 2011, John Brady was named the Seaport Museum's new president. Brady was formerly the longtime director of the Workshop on the Water, the museum's boat shop specializing in the building and restoration of traditional wooden boats.


The USS Olympia at Penn's Landing

There are many maritime artifacts, ship models, and full-sized boats in the permanent and interactive exhibitions. The exhibits focus on the Port of Philadelphia, trade, immigration, shipbuilding, and deep sea submersibles.[8] There are two historic ships displayed near the museum. They are the Spanish–American War-era cruiser USS Olympia, one of the United States' first steel warships, and the World War II submarine USS Becuna.

Boat Shop

The Independence Seaport Museum's boat shop, Workshop on the Water, is dedicated to the skills and traditions of wooden boat building and sailing in the Delaware Valley and the New Jersey shore. The workload includes new builds and restorations of historically significant wooden boats. Past projects include catboats, sandbaggers, sneakboxes, whitehalls, marsh cats, and Beetle whaleboats. The shop's current project is a full-scale replication of a 1700s coastal schooner in a colonial-era shipyard.

See also


  1. Hanna, Maddie (12 December 2012). "Seaport museum sets new course". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  2. 1 2 Downey, Sally A. (13 May 2007). "His love of the sea launched a museum". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  3. Philadelphia Architects and Builders: National Liberty Museum
  4. "Maritime Museum Sets Sail Today", Philadelphia Inquirer, July 2, 1995
  5. 1 2 McCoy, Craig R. (2 March 2007). "Seaport museum taps veteran skipper". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  6. "Former museum leader gets 15 years for fraud, tax evasion". Philadelphia Business Journal. 2 November 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  7. Shiffman, John (22 May 2007). "Ex-seaport museum chief charged". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29.
  8. "Permanent Exhibits". Independence Seaport Museum. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
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Coordinates: 39°56′47″N 75°08′25″W / 39.94627°N 75.14023°W / 39.94627; -75.14023

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