Life in Mystic
The Town: Mystic, Connecticut, a picturesque community of nearly 10,000 residents, is a destination for tourists, history buffs, boaters, and coastal enthusiasts. As such it has a lively social scene during summer months when a brief walk to the downtown with its classic bascule drawbridge and many watering holes and eateries can offer a pleasant break from academics.
The name “Mystic” was derived from the Native American word Missi-tuk, meaning great tidal river. This area was likely explored for the first time by Europeans in the 1600s by Captain Adrian Block, and settled by the English in 1654.
Mystic became a shipbuilding center for the whaling and fishing industries by the early19th century. One Mystic-built ship of note, the 47-foot sloop Hero, carried Stonington native Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer to his discovery of Antarctica in 1820.
Ship building in Mystic continued through whaling and sealing days, and during the California Gold Rush, when the Mystic yards launched numerous ships, including the famed clipper ship David Crockett, whose average speed around Cape Horn to San Francisco was never equaled.
During the Civil War, shipbuilding efforts in Mystic peaked. Mystic produced a greater tonnage of ships than any other port of her size in the U.S. However, after the war, ship building in Mystic dwindled, and the boatyards were replaced with woolen mills. Other factories local to Mystic produced velvet, soap, and razors. By the early 20th century small boatyards embodied the legacy of Mystic’s glory days.
Mystic Seaport: Among the visitors to the museum every fall and spring is a small group of undergraduate students who have chosen to spend a semester of their college education at Mystic Seaport to study the sea with the Williams College-Mystic Seaport Program in Maritime Studies. This is the only undergraduate residential program at a museum in the United States, and was inspired by the Munson Institute itself.
Housing: Between four and seven Munson participants live in each of four historic houses adjacent to Mystic Seaport and the Mystic River. These nineteenth-century homes, where shipbuilders, mill workers and fishermen once lived, are equipped with high-speed internet connections, microwaves, furnishings, air-conditioning, and the comforts of a modern home. Rooms are either singles or doubles, while all other spaces in the house are shared in a cooperative approach to summer living. The Williams/Mystic students use these houses during the fall and spring, and summer-time neighbors could include museum studies interns and marine science researchers.
Local Attractions: The Mystic region is rich in cultural and natural attractions. Minutes away from Mystic Seaport is the Mystic Aquarium with its belugas, dolphins, touch tanks and more, as well as the Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, with more than 10 miles of hiking trails. Downtown Mystic is a picturesque destination in its own right with shops, restaurants, riverside park and intriguing drawbridge. In nearby Groton one can find the USS Nautilus on display at the Submarine Force Museum next the active submarine base. Across the river New London has a working waterfront, a transportation hub, museums, historic homes, Connecticut College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Twenty minutes in the other direction brings one to the open ocean beaches of Rhode Island. Within an hour one can also reach Hartford, New Haven or Providence, while another hour brings one to the threshold of Boston or New York City.