Seaport Museum's 19th-Century Print Shop Will Reopen, Advocates Say
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — The new managers of the struggling Seaport Museum New York have committed to reopen the 19th-century print shop Bowne & Co. Stationers, advocates said this week.
The store was forced to close in February because of the Seaport Museum's financial struggles and, in August, the museum formally laid off the shop's furloughed manager.
But at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the leaders of the Museum of the City of New York, which is taking over the Seaport Museum, promised to "reactivate" Bowne & Co., said Michael Kramer, a representative of the Save Our Seaport activist group who attended the meeting.
Bowne & Co. opened in 1976 as the Seaport Museum's tribute to lower Manhattan's history as a printing district, with presses from the late 19th-century and hundreds of pieces of rare type. Over the years, the shop became both an educational destination and a working store, taking orders from neighbors for unique wedding invitations and birth announcements.
Kramer, who spoke on behalf of Save Our Seaport, said the Museum of the City of New York did not give a timeline for reopening Bowne & Co., at 211 Water St., but he said City Museum Director Susan Henshaw Jones expects at least some of the museum's galleries would reopen this fall.
Doug Clouse, who ran Bowne & Co. until February, said he recently heard about progress in reopening the shop.
"I don't know anything for certain but hope the news is true," Clouse said in an e-mail Wednesday.
Last month, Clouse and the Friends of Bowne released a strategic plan showing how the shop could reopen and cover its expenses by holding printing classes and selling cards and other materials made on its antique presses.
The City Museum's board voted earlier this month to take over the Seaport Museum for an 18-month trial period, supported by a $2 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
The City Museum will operate the Seaport Museum's historic boats, some of which are in desperate need of repairs, and will also reorganize the library and mount a new exhibit this fall, according to museum officials. In addition, the City Museum will lead a membership and fundraising campaign to support the Seaport Museum in the future.
After Tuesday's meeting, Kramer said he was confident the Seaport Museum is now heading in a better direction.
"Save Our Seaport is looking forward to working with the Museum of the City of New York," Kramer said.
"We are assured that the feeling is mutual. It was a good meeting."
Seaport Museum chairman Frank Sciame said, "We are very pleased that things are moving in a positive direction for the Museum, and share the goal of seeing this important institution thrive once again."