Way Back When … 1856
The Fairfield Museum’s Exhibition, Black Rock: 375 Years of Community closes on Aug. 4. Before the exhibition is packed up, locals can go in to see the many fascinating objects and photographs relating to the vibrant Black Rock community. One item in particular, a builder’s model of the ship Charles Cooper, is the focus of today’s Way Back When column.
Charles Cooper, a wooden, deep-water, square-rigged merchant ship, was built in Black Rock Harbor in 1856 — the largest and last ship built at the Black Rock wharves. Built by Capt. William Hall for New York’s South Street “packet trade” — when vessels ran on a fixed schedule instead of sailing only when full — Cooper sailed between New York and Antwerp until 1860. She could carry more than 250 passengers and 3,500 barrels of cargo, which included gunpowder, tobacco, flour, cotton, lard, codfish, beeswax, mahogany, nails, and barrel staves, as well as European immigrants to America.
After 1860, Cooper sailed to New Orleans, England, Australia, India, and Guam. In 1866, she set sail from Philadelphia towards San Francisco, but ran into trouble rounding Cape Horn. The ship limped into the Falkland Islands where an irreparable leak to the hull made her unseaworthy. Charles Cooper spent the next hundred years as a floating warehouse, lashed to a pier in Port Stanley.
In 2003, preservation work recovered much of the ship’s remains, in hopes of sharing and displaying her stories about the grand days of sail at Port Stanley’s Historic Dockyard Museum. Today, the recovered portion of its bow is part of a new initiative to establish Cooper Point, a small park within the Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust.
To see these objects up close and to view many other items relating to the history of Black Rock, visit the exhibition at the Fairfield Museum, 370 Beach Road. It is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The builder’s model in the exhibition is on loan courtesy of Bruce Williams, Captain’s Cove.
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org.