Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Avenues, 1878

A one-per-decade series of glimpses, 1860-1960

Pigeon Cove House, 1870s
From a Rogers stereograph, CAM*
"You've enjoyed another successful season, Mrs. Robinson. The Pigeon Cove House seems to have been well patronized as usual." 

"Yes, Mr. Babson, thanks in no small part to your Ocean View improvements. You and Mr. Phillips have made the Avenues so much more pleasant over the last ten years. Our guests enjoy outings along the coast to Andrews Point and beyond. I believe your brochure mentions constructing two miles of new roads in the neighborhood."

"Departures, Pigeon Cove House"
From a Moulton stereograph, CAM
"That's right. The lots are selling quite well. I see you have one of our original maps on the wall."

Ocean View subdivision, c. late 1860s
Archives of Rockport Town Clerk
"We've come a long way since those days. If you look closely at the map you can see where the Pigeon Cove House was located on what was still called Main Street back then. We moved the building around the corner to the shoreline just seven years ago, right on the bend of your Phillips Avenue. Our side street Cathedral Avenue is named for the coastal cliff formations. Did you know that?"

Detail of Ocean View map
"I sure did. Take a look at these new stereographs we're producing. You see this shows the intersection at Babson and Ocean Avenues just three blocks from here. We've made the roads fifty feet wide."

"Intersection of Babson and Ocean Avenues"
Phillips & Babson stereograph, CAM
"Very nice. Have you seen Mr. Moulton's new stereographs? He gave me this lovely print from one of them, entitled 'Cathedral Rocks.'  You can see how popular that spot is. Your nearby wharf and boat landing made it so much more convenient."
"Cathedral Rocks"
From a Moulton stereograph, CAM
"If all goes well we may be able to deepen the channel to allow the approach of large steamers from the city, to bring excursionists directly to the Avenue premises."

"You certainly are forward-thinking."

"It is proprietors such as yourself, Mrs. Robinson, that make our area comfortable and attractive."
"Parlor of the Pigeon Cove House"
From Erkkila Collection stereograph, CAM
"We prosper together, Mr. Babson. Perhaps our greatest debt is to Mr. Phillips."
"Undoubtedly. He witnessed how the coming of the railroads to Swampscott transformed his home town. He foresaw the value of coastal property up here once the railroad was extended to Rockport. When the line reaches Pigeon Cove we'll be able to commute door-to-door to Boston in a bit over an hour."
"I should think you'd have quite an obstacle with the granite companies."
"Mr. Phillips has achieved remarkable things in his day. A man of very few words until he's made up his mind. As you've noticed with his schooner 'Fearless,' he never loses a race."
"Yes, I remember the scuttlebutt after he bested the heavyweight yachtsmen off the Isle of Shoals a few years ago. They couldn't understand whether it was the way he modified his boat, or his seamanship, or both. And he always wins first prize in the Boston regattas."
"Well, he comes from a fishing family. Then he got into business supplying fish oil to tanneries around Lynn, and dealing in medicinal cod livers. Let me tell you an illustrative story. Back about 1850 an elderly lady by the name of Bartlett, from Blue Hill Maine, came into his Boston store with a sample of oil she had skimmed from a kettle while boiling menhaden to make chicken meal. Those menhaden are very oily and abundant all summer around Blue Hill. He offered her $11 a barrel for all she could produce. Her husband and sons made 13 barrels that first summer and 100 the next. Mr. Phillips has since built factories to do the processing. Now he's known internationally as 'The Oil King.'"

"A man of vision."

"Yes. An original thinker. Remember the excursion train he arranged to promote Ocean View? Half-price fare, leave Boston at 8:15, carriages to meet the train and get folks here by 10:00, free chowder collation at the Big Tent at 1:00. We had 300 people come and sold 30 lots on the spot." 

"Yes, some of the inquirers stayed overnight here at the Pigeon Cove House with considerable excitement.  You know, I've been wondering about the Penobscot Indians encamped this summer on the Avenue, trading baskets. Is that one of his promotional ideas?" 

"Let's just say that they're from Old Town, Maine, which is not so far from Blue Hill." 

"What else is he thinking about, if you don't mind my asking?" 

"One of these days you may be seeing a hot air balloon overhead. We need an up-to-date picture of Ocean View. An aerial perspective would really interest people." 
Pigeon Cove, 1886
Ocean View makes up the lower right quadrant.
Halibut Point is the lower right peninsula.
George Walker lithograph


  • * CAM Cape Ann Museum stereographs, Fred and Stephanie Buck, archivists
  • Sandy Bay Historical Society; special thanks to Leslie Bartlett, who pointed the way to Eben Phillips
  • "Pigeon Cove" lithograph from The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library
  • The Town on Sandy Bay, Marshall Swan
  • "Eben Phillips," in History of Essex County, Duane H. Hurd, 1888
  • Swampscott: Historical Sketches of the Town, Waldo Thompson, 1885
  • Gleanings from the Sea: Showing the Pleasure, Pains, and Penalties of Life Afloat with Contingencies, Joseph Warren Smith, 1887
  • "Statement of Eben Phillips, January 21 1874" in Report of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, 1877
  • Cape Ann Advertiser, May 7, 1869; May 22 and 29, 1874; July 23 and Oct 22, 1878; January 23   and July 15 1879
  • Gloucester Daily Times, September 1, 1891

1 comment:

  1. The Beverly's owned the Pigeon Cove Inn in the 1940's-late 60's and were very good friends with my grandfather who was a Dr. in Gloucester. Dr George M. Doyle who lived at 33 Middle St. Mr. Beverly (I can not recall his last name) was an artist and did a lot of very rubenesque style nudes and portraits. His daughter Gail was my mother's best friend. Later in the 1960's Gail Beverly later married taking on the name Sharfman inherited the Pigeon Cove Inn and she hosted all the theater people from NYC who came to Rockport to do plays at the Playhouse in Rockport. The place buzzed with NY actors and actresses learning lines together, laughing, and socializing. At that time, when I was a teenager, we lived one summer in the Pigeon Cove Inn. I still remember my room and visiting the rooms and kitchens of others. We swam in the quarries on hot nights (Mason's, Granblads, Halibut Point, Nattis etc.), hitchhiked or walked to Lanesville to go to the Lanesville Teen Center (now known as the Community Center) and had a typical (for the time) barefoot summer spending lots of time outdoors, on Flatrocks, Sailing in Rockport, and I had a job at the time working at the Easterly Inn on the back shore which was owned by my grandparents, Bill and Melissa Smith. I have very fond memories of The Pigeon Cove Inn. I stayed there the very last summer it ran as in Inn and I believe it was in 1969. Later it was sold, part of it torn down and made into apartments and later condos. Whenever I drive by I think of those times there and it puts a smile on my face.