, Salem, MA


December 18, 2013

Where every day is a tea party

Swampscott's Ford is VP, executive director of museum recognizing historic event


When Historic Tours took over the attraction in 1989, he was named its general manager.

The goal since then has been to update and expand the attraction, add ships, and do justice to what the Sons of Liberty and the event meant for the history of the nation.

Plans to bring the museum into the 21st century were put on hold, however, when the gift shop was struck by lightning and burned. The museum closed. A replica of the Beaver, one of the three ships raided during the Tea Party, escaped harm, fortunately. But there was another fire in 2007, and in all, it took 12 years to rebuild. The attraction reopened in the summer of 2012.

As head of the museum, Ford would like to see Dec. 16 become a nationally recognized day and to grow the annual re-enactment event with encampments, seminars and symposia “to really put Dec. 16 on the map.”

“It was the single most important event that led to the American Revolution,” he said.

An event in mid-December would also generate business for hotels, restaurants and stores, he said.

The new Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum on the Fort Point Channel is on the same body of water where Griffin’s Wharf — where the Tea Party took place — once stood.

It cost $28 million to build the museum dedicated to a tax revolt, but Ford said it did not include a dime of taxpayer money. The project is an example of a successful public-private partnership, he said. Historic Tours of America put up $6 million, and the city of Boston, through the Boston Redevelopment Authority, put up $3 million. The city is the landlord for the site, and the BRA grant came from mitigation money from a private developer of a nearby project.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority put up the rest through an $18 million construction loan, with money for the loan coming from a fund from user fees tourists pay on sightseeing tours, attractions and car rentals, among other things.

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