Located at the corner of Union Street and Johnny Cake Hill, Captain Paul Cuffe Park is adjacent to the site where Cuffe operated his store, Cuffe & Howards.
The new park incorporates a large compass rose within an elaborate terrace of brick, bluestone, granite and Belgian paving blocks that recall Cuffe’s own ship’s compass – part of the museum collection. Plantings include boxwood; bayberry and sea roses donated by Sylvan Nursery, Inc., Westport, Mass. Construction and plantings were executed by G. Bourne Knowles & Company, Inc., Fairhaven. The park includes new interpretative wayside panels on Cuffe’s life, produced by New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. The Cuffe commemorative plaque and new lighting were funded in part by a grant from the City Works Community Improvement Program, administered by the City of New Bedford Community Development Block Grant Program.
The park site previously included 20th century whaling equipment including a 1936 harpoon cannon now on exhibit in the museum plaza, and a small garden given by the Garden Club of Buzzards Bay in 2003. Club members will continue to oversee the new planting.
The Cuffe Kitchen is a multi-media experience providing an opportunity to ponder the social and racial issues faced by prominent merchant, philanthropist, community leader, civil rights advocate and abolitionist Captain Paul Cuffe (1759 - 1817). The exhibition is installed in the kitchen gallery Museum members may remember as a recreation of an 18th century kitchen. Much of the wood in this room came from Cuffe’s home in Westport.
Born on the island of Cuttyhunk (off the coast of New Bedford) as the free-born son of a formerly enslaved West African and a free Native American woman, Cuffe became one of the wealthiest men of color in the nation, rising to national repute, even becoming one of the first black men to have a formal meeting with a U.S. President. Yet he struggled with the reality of the racial inequalities that have plagued America since its founding. Despite his successes, he was still stifled by segregationist and racist policies. Throughout his life Cuffe spoke out and worked for equality.
This exhibition poses questions about society in Cuffe’s time which have relevance to today in a thought-provoking, dynamic experience developed to promote contemplation and discussion by visitors.
From the Vault Paul Cuffe Manuscript Papers