Peter Stanford, the founding president of the South Street Seaport Museum and a passionate advocate for New York City's and the country's maritime heritage, has died. Stanford, who lived in Westchester County, was 89.
In addition to founding the Seaport Museum with his wife, Norma, in 1967, Stanford was the second president of the National Maritime Historical Society. Several notable institutions were founded under his stewardship at the society, among them The Council of American Maritime Museums, in 1972; the American Society of Marine Artists (1977); the American Ship Trust (1978); the Hudson River Maritime Museum (1979); and the National Maritime Alliance (1987). Stanford was also instrumental in the founding of the Council of American Maritime Museums.
“Peter was a persistent man, endlessly insisting that the apparently impossible could be achieved. And in that — and as long as he and Norma were involved — he was quite right,” said Jonathan Boulware, the museum's director. “It was Peter's vision in the 1960s that led to the preservation of the counting houses of the Seaport, including Schermerhorn Row, one of New York City's treasures,”
Stanford hailed from Brooklyn, and was a World War II Navy veteran. He earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1949 and his master's from King's College, Cambridge, England in 1951. He was also the recipient of an honorary doctor of letters from the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler and in 2012. He received the Don Turner Award presented by the USS Constitution Museum for his critical role in saving and preserving historic ships.
Among his many magazine articles and books was “A Dream of Tall Ships: How New Yorkers Came Together to Save the City's Sailing-Ship Waterfront,” which he coauthored with his wife. The book, published in 2013, recounted their efforts to create the historic South Street Seaport.
“We have much to do to be equal to Peter's expectations. But I share the confidence that he placed in us. The legacy of the South Street Seaport Museum lies in Peter's oft-repeated assertion that 'this Museum is people,'” Boulware said. “There, we are faithfully carrying on and offering the very best tribute to Peter's life's work.”
A memorial service is planned for April 9 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Mount Kisco.