Background on Lagoda/Bourne Building Centennial

For high-res images contact Gayle Hargreaves

NEW BEDFORD, Mass – The story of the world’s largest ship model and her “brick berth” involves a businessman’s fortune, a fabled ship, a determined daughter and philanthropist, and a labor of love. Lagoda, a half-scale model of a 19th century whaleship, sails into her second century this year as the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s signature exhibit and a unique learning tool.  Ensconced within the equally impressive Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum building (Bourne Building), the world’s largest ship model and its story are no less remarkable today than in 1916 when the Lagoda was dedicated. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is marking the 100th anniversary all year with special lectures, tours, presentations and family programming, supported by the National Park Service: Maritime Heritage Program, and Kenneth T. and Mildred S. Gammons Charitable Foundation. On Saturday, August 6 the Museum hosts the Lagoda Centennial Gala, supported by BayCoast Bank and Bristol County Savings Bank.

About the origins of the world’s largest ship model and her brick berth

In January 1915, philanthropist Emily Bourne notified William W. Crapo (1830-1926), president of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, of her desire to build a soaring church-like structure atop Johnny Cake Hill adjacent to the Society's gallery of whaling artifacts located in a former bank on North Water Street. The structure would be purpose-built to receive the world's largest ship model, whose main royal truck would rise to 50 feet from the floor/water­line to nearly touch the apex of the museum's barrel-vaulted ceilings. She would build it as a memorial to her beloved father, Jonathan Bourne, one of New Bedford's most successful whaling merchants. The ship to be immortalized was his favorite, the Lagoda - the most successful of his fleet. Miss Bourne donated $75,000, about $1.7 million in today’s dollars, to the Historical Society to fund the project.

The gift was one of a number of important charitable donations made by Miss Bourne over her lifetime. Her philanthropy provided significant funding for the Jonathan Bourne Memorial Library in Bourne, Mass.; the Workshop for the New York Association for the Blind in New York City; and the New York Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor. In New Bedford her legacies included gifts to St. Luke’s Hospital, Grace Church and an additional $12,000 to the Old Dartmouth historical Society.

Miss Winifred Holt described Emily Bourne in the 16th Report of the New York Association for the Blind in 1922 as someone who left a “new and lasting trail of light behind her,” with her philanthropic support of many causes, organizations and institutions.

Miss Bourne persuaded her friend architect Henry Vaughn (1845-1917) to design the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum building. Vaughn was a distinguished architect of churches in the northeast United States. He was one of the architects of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, collaborated on Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., and Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut.

Vaughn planned an elaborate Georgian Revival exterior.  Within it would include upper galleries from which to survey the ship, supported by a colonnade of the Doric order, giving the space the reverential air of a Romanesque church. The half-scale model of the whale ship, Lagoda would be dramatically enshrined as the building's centerpiece exhibit.

The building, which would eventually evolve into the New Bedford Whaling Museum, rose swiftly in 1915, with enclosure completed before the end of the year. Immediately, the Lagoda began to take shape within the great hall, like a gigantic ship in a bottle, under the able supervision of Edgar B. Hammond (1853-1937).

A New Bedford native, Hammond was an accomplished architect, builder and highly respected community leader. He designed many residences and city buildings, including the Taylor, Harrington, Shawmut Avenue and Phillips Avenue Schools, and several fire stations, as well as the Vocational School at Hillman and Ash Streets. Hammond was elected chair of the Vocational School after it was completed in 1907, a position he held for the rest of his life. He was a founder of the New Bedford Yacht Club and later designed and built the club's elegant headquarters on Pope's Island. A five-term commodore of the club, he owned three yachts over the years, the Medea, Fantasy I and Fantasy II - each of them built in his own shop.  

In addition, his reputation as an expert maker of ship models was well known. His myriad skills, combined with decades of public service, made Edgar the natural choice to realize Emily Bourne's vision to construct an exact model of her father's favorite ship in half scale. Edgar threw himself into the project, researching every aspect of the work. Frank B. Sistare & Son, jobbing contractors with whom Edgar had collaborated on other building projects, executed the ship's carpentry work.

New Bedford historian Zephaniah W. Pease recounted, "Mr. Hammond has spent days in hunting up and interviewing at every stage of the work, old whalemen and artisans who knew the Lagoda. He even took the chance of submitting the rigging and sail plans to a group of old whaling masters for their O.K. Anybody who knows the critical spirit of the old whalemen will realize what a test Mr. Hammond chose to apply to his work." (ODHS Sketch #44)

Pease observed, "It is a labor of love with all concerned and it is believed the memorial will quickly secure national fame."

Hammond sought out retired whaling masters to assess the accuracy of his sail plan for the Lagoda. The bark Charles W. Morgan of New Bedford, the only surviving square-rigger of the Lagoda’s vintage, was a primary source for his research. In a fitting turn of events, modern day experts closely examined and took measurements on the Lagoda model during the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan between 2008 and 2013. The Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, was restored in the Henry B. du Pont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport.

The dedication of the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum and its centerpiece exhibit, the half-scale model Lagoda, was front page news in The Evening Standard on Thursday, November 23, 1916. By this time, New Bedford whaling was almost completely finished as an industry, and the old traditions that had founded the city were becoming transformed into other avenues of manufacture and production. Governor Calvin Coolidge spoke at the ceremony: “We should dedicate this Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum not only to the strength and character of the man whose name it bears, not only to the charitable impulses which have led the daughter to make this splendid gift; but we here also dedicate it to commercial enterprise… in order that we may go forward together to a happier more prosperous day.”

 

Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
ghargreaves@whalingmuseum.org
508-997-0046 Ext. 139 (office)

 


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum
The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours April through December: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6For more information, visit www.whalingmuseum.org.