New London Maritime Society
The Mission of the New London Maritime Society (NLMS) is to protect and preserve New London's U.S. Custom House, three area lighthouses, and Long Island Sound, and to promote, interpret, and celebrate the rich maritime life & history of the port of New London and the surrounding region through museum exhibitions, educational programs, and preservation initiatives.
The Custom House Maritime Museum/New London Maritime Society (NLMS) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and receives no regular funding from any organization. We rely entirely on donations and the money raised from visitors to the Museum. There is one staff member; the museum is run by a dedicated band of volunteers who give generously of their time.
With possible demolition looming, Impassioned New Londoners organized to preserve their local U.S. Custom House and, in 1983, established the New London Maritime Society (NLMS), repurposing the building as the Custom House Maritime Museum.
New London’s 1833 US Custom House was built at the height of the City’s maritime power, when New London was the second-greatest whaling port in the world. City leaders had petitioned the U.S. Treasury to build them ‘a gem on the waterfront’. Architect Robert Mills, best-known for his design of the U.S. national Washington Monument, provided just that.
Housed in the 184-year-old Robert Mills building at 150 Bank Street, today we are a nonprofit historic site—the nation’s oldest continuously operating U.S. Custom House and scene to much of the area’s maritime history. The Custom House is a lively maritime museum, preservation, and educational organization. Since 2009, NLMS also has taken on stewardship of the three major beacons leading into this historic port: New London Harbor Light — established 260 years ago and still an active aid to navigation, it is the first and the tallest lighthouse built on Long Island Sound; Race Rock Light Station, off Fishers Island, New York, built by local legend Captain T.A. Scott and lit in 1878; and New London Ledge Light, first lit in New London harbor, in 1909.
Through museum exhibitions and educational programs, the museum actively promotes, protects and celebrates the maritime history and current life of the port of New London and the surrounding region.
To paraphrase our City Council, who wrote in 1832 about their proposed new custom house: we are a true ‘gem on the waterfront’.
The Custom House Maritime Museum has developed into a community museum, which is a very special kind of place. We work to illustrate the maritime connections among us by presenting the stories of our neighbors, and we do this in several ways: the museum has become something of a social center, where people of all walks of life meet to talk, tell stories, hold meetings, and play cribbage; we present “Jibboom Roundtables” –panel discussions featuring individuals who share a common maritime interest or experience (recent roundtable topics have included tugboat workers, design of New London’s Parade, oyster farming in Long Island Sound). We develop 'cabinet' exhibitions drawn from our members’ personal experiences: the ‘Two Lives of the Grandma Sue’—the story of one of one member’s 80-year-old grandfather, who fulfilled a lifelong dream to build & sail a boat to Florida, is one example. We also bring attention to the people and events which have made our region great. A recent exhibition on Rod Johnstone, designer of the J/Boats, is such a show. To get the word out, we produce quarterly newsletters and a program on local cable television: Custom House Maritime Matters.
150 Bank Street
New London, CT 06320
New London, CT 06320