Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunset Saga, Part 2

About a century ago a photographer recorded this scene at the base of Halibut Point. It was likely hand-colored either as a postcard or a small painting. Folly Cove resident Sarah Dunlap discovered it in the early 1970s at Mr. Gray's used furniture store in Pigeon Cove, framed and glued to cardboard. We can't turn to the back side for clues of origin. 

(1) Folly Cove Pasture
At the rear of the picture above Granite Street rises the sunset-viewing hillside noted in my last posting, a part of the Babson Farm reverting to brush and trees. Bay View Avenue at left gave access to land development efforts and the quarries.  A derrick  crowns the skyline. Cows were walked over to graze from Seppala's farm at the head of Folly Cove. The sun has set on all these times. 
(2) Folly Cove, from the bend in the road

Photographer Charles Cleaves stood beside Granite Street at the center-rear of scene (1) above, probably at an earlier period. He took many such views on glass negatives in the first decades of the twentieth century. Notice the trolley tracks that served Cape Ann until 1920. The accompanying utility poles do not appear in the first picture, suggesting that they had been removed by the time of the pasture scene.

Large granite blocks from Halibut Point quarries reached the Folly Cove pier over a railroad trestle. Many of these were destined for the Sandy Bay breakwater prior to 1916. Cobblestones piled on the far side of the road in this photograph (2) await shipment to street surfacing projects in distant cities.
(3) The field in the bend in the road

A companion view shows the land beside Granite Street - the pasture of the first photo - being cultivated by horse and plow. The cobblestones piled by the shore await sloops or schooners. They may have been carted down here by paving cutters working all winter in 'motions,' the small quarries on Woodbury Hill above Folly Cove.

(4) Baiting trawl lines, 1860s
The shoreline itself had long been occupied by the shacks and flake yards of local fishermen who kept their dories at the head of the Cove. In the photo above are rows of tubs, anchors, and fish curing racks (flakes).
(5) Margaret Hoyt sketching
G. D. Clements photo, c. 1930

In this photograph of serenity and change the modern era closes in on Folly Cove. Although a caption note tells us that there are flake yards below, refrigeration and the diesel-powered Gloucester fleet will soon replace the dories along the beach. These hybrid vessels still utilize sails while seining. 

Near this spot distinguished artists Ellen Day Hale and Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements relocated the homestead of first-settler Samuel Lane uphill to a superior view and began attracting painting students to their summer studio. One of these was Margaret Yeaton Hoyt who arrived in 1916 with her husband and infant son William D. "Bill" Hoyt, Jr. They commissioned their own cottage named "The Folly," with marvelous sunsets to seaward. 

Bill Hoyt took a great interest in photographing the schooner fleet, which he documented in Hanging On: The Gloucester Waterfront in Change, 1927 to 1948. His extensive collection of Cape Ann memorabilia has contributed greatly to the resources of the Sandy Bay Historical Society.  We are fortunate to have his witness and record of the sunset of an era.
* * *
Today the William D. Hoyt, Jr. Wing extends the welcoming capacity of the Sandy Bay Historical Society and provides a research center for perusal of its archives. The preservation and documentation of invaluable photographs, under the guidance of Leslie Bartlett, has made possible these visual time-travels into the story of our place. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Saga of Sunset Rock

Even if you don't have time to stop in at Halibut Point for a sunset stroll, the view from the bend in the road across Folly Cove will be spectacular. From how many places on the East Cost can you see the sun set over the ocean?
Stereopticon view near Pigeon Cove, Sandy Bay Historical Society
Back when the attractions of our area were just being discovered by the vacationing public, Henry Leonard recommended that visitors stretch their legs from the resorts on Phillips Avenue.
At the going down of the sun many walk the little distance on the old road of the village to Sunset Rock in the Babson pasture. Here the spectacle of the setting sun, and of the colors that slowly fade while the evening's shades are falling, is the more than reward for strolling a few rods. 
 Pigeon Cove and Vicinity, 1873

The destination was a pastured overlook with a 270° panorama of Massachusetts Bay. That landscape, considerably altered by quarrying, eventually became Halibut Point State Park. Wouldn't it be nice to know what it looked like back then?
"Sunset Rock"
Les Bartlett turned up a slide labeled "Sunset Rock" by Bill Hoyt, former curator of the Sandy Bay Historical Society. Bill had spent youthful summers at nearby Folly Cove. He made slide copies of numerous local interests. Could this photo be showing the crest of Halibut Point prior to demolition by the granite industry?

I made my interest known to local historians, archivists, and recreationists. Cautions of interpretation came in from all directions. Joe Garland had pointed to a Sunset Rock as a hiking destination intriguingly linked to another Babson farm:
        Across from the Babson farm, whose cows not so many years ago supplied Gloucester with milk from the Riverdale meadows....Sunset Rock rises unmistakably on our left front, the granite hump of The Poles on our right.
                                                                The Gloucester Guide, A Retrospective Ramble, 1973.

I climbed the trail through the Poles Hill reservation in Riverdale to take a look. The views are splendid as promised, but I couldn't find a topographic duplicate to my photo. I had to believe that Halibut Point was still in the running.
"Sunset Rock," Riverdale 2014
In The Geology of Cape Ann (1888) Nathaniel Shaler illustrated a local granite formation with this drawing "Annisquam Sunset Rock." I searched the westward-facing slopes of Annisquam without finding a convincing match to my quest.
Shaler's ”Sunset Rock, Annisquam" 1888
There were trails on the ground and in the archives. I checked atlases of the period published by George Walker of Boston. A newspaper of the day reported the mapping activity.
      The quaint-looking wheelbarrow run along our sidewalks the present week [is] an odometer, measuring, as it goes, and used in making an accurate survey of the village....
Cape Ann Advertiser, September 29, 1882
Up in the sky a fantastical invention was making it possible for artists to gain aerial perspectives from hot air balloons.
Folly Point, Halibut Point, Andrews Point,
top to bottom on the right of this view in 1886.
Pigeon Cove Harbor is bottom center.
Of course I couldn't see enough detail to identify Sunset Rock. Then another slide surfaced from Bill Hoyt's collection, a copy of a painting from the late nineteenth century.

"Evening, Pigeon Cove"  
Kruseman Van Elten, 1874
The boulders and cows in this pastoral scene united nicely with the possibilities of Babson Farm on Halibut Point in the 1800s. I made another field trip, finding places where the features of Folly Point and Ipswich Bay line up quite precisely with those in the painting. The artist was taking in a sunset from Halibut Point almost a century and a half ago.

It was an expansive time in America.  Cape Ann was becoming a destination of industry, art and leisure. 'Pigeon Cove' referred to an experience broader than the North Village of Rockport or the fishing and granite-shipping harbor at its center.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Allure of the Archives

Sandy Bay Historical Society
Winter being the perfect season to deepen my knowledge of Halibut Point inside cozy research facilities, I made my way over to the Sandy Bay Historical Association (SBHS) which aims to gather all things memorable in Rockport (Sandy Bay). 
Judy Bogage
Volunteer Judy Bogage is there to welcome visitors and help with organizational chores at the Museum.
Les Bartlett
Upstairs, Les Bartlett is scrutinizing glass plate negatives from bygone eras, bringing his photographic expertise to curatorial improvements of the collections, and finding gems for his in-depth publications of local history. 
As a newcomer to this den of antiquity I find myself tip-toeing through rooms and corridors as though they contain elements of a sanctuary, or delicate furnishings, or sleeping secrets, all of which, come to think of it, seem to define the place. There's a sense of anticipation that something unknown might be knowable, that our predecessors left us clues, that experiencing the past sympathetically can be interesting or even enlightening. 
Last year Yale University Press published The Allure of the Archives. In titling their translation of a 1989 French classic by Arlette Farge they tease us about the sensual aura of intimacy with ancient voices and manuscripts.  Says the Barnes and Noble review of the book, "Farge’s classic work communicates the tactile, interpretive, and emotional experience of archival research...and an elegant literary reflection on the challenges of writing history." I anticipate the pleasure of those pages.
A constant marvel among archivists is the preservation of free working space. That challenge may be nearly as daunting as preserving the collections themselves. When I heard that SBHS received the research notes that Allen Chamberlain bequeathed to the [Pigeon Cove] Village Improvement Society, for his 1940 masterpiece Pigeon Cove 1702-1840, research director Gwen Stephenson managed to create a spot for investigation.

Gwen Stephenson
examining Allen Chamberlain's notes
Pigeon Cove is the colonial fishing/farming village that grew up to sustain the granite quarrying industry and the summer visitor recreations. At its northern tip Halibut Point retains experiential access to these dramas of geography and history. Allen Chamberlain's narrative, map and accompanying photographs document the  early settlement on which this activity is based.
Inside two storage boxes are field notes in his hand collating deeds, charts, surveys, sketches, and letters. There is correspondence with sources and keen collaborators. For someone able to sit quietly with the pages, the excursions and processes of Chamberlain's journey generate an inspired saga of their own. As a glimpse into genius, observes Les Bartlett, it's akin to looking at the annotated musical manuscript of a great composer.
"Hallowboat Point"
Chamberlain had been able to discover, and type up this transcript from the 1798 American Coastal Pilot, showing an intriguing name for my focal landform: "Hallowboat Point." It's the only such spelling I've been able to find through internet research. Can it allude to "Sacred Boat Point?" Tantalizing.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Winter Shoreline

If you've come to enjoy the Cape Ann coastline these last few months, the advent of spring means the end of winter-only pleasures we won't see again until frost re-clarifies the air and prompts Arctic waterfowl to return here for their 'balmy' winter residence. Now, as they begin to pair up for their journey north we have to accept a diminishment along our rocky shores, for there is scarcely any summer contingent of  birds to take up their niche.

We'll have compensations in the uplands, of course,  as plants green, as creatures stir, as daylight lengthens. It will be nice to enjoy shirt-sleeve comfort. But a certain zest will be missing, and a camaraderie with other adventurers who sparkle with the freshness of a nippy day.

Morning, looking toward Folly Point
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
At the root of our Judeo-Christian tradition is a permissive bequest. How this will play out at contemporary levels of population and technology is an unsettling question. The Halibut Point landscape has been exempted from further development, but surrounding forces continue their global ways. An itinerant flock of sandpipers from abroad stops for refuge.

Purple sandpipers, arriving at Halibut Point
Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?
In the Beatitudes Jesus called attention to the simple model of creation, centered on a human audience. Today that audience is a greater player with responsibility for continuity of the show, not theologically but ecologically.  It has become a question not just of relative value but of mutual survival.

Purple sandpipers, "beside the still waters"

Purple sandpipers, "I will fear no evil"
The overwintering pairs at Halibut Point pictured below will soon be on their way to northerly breeding grounds to fulfill their promise of procreation. Farewell, and Godspeed.

Common eiders -
circumpolar nesters along the coastline of Alaska, Hudson Bay, eastern Canada and northern Maine.

Horned grebes -
make nests of floating vegetation anchored to marsh plants, from the Arctic Circle south to the Great Lakes.

Harlequin ducks -
nest close to rapid mountain streams on  Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland and northeast Canada.

I walked far down the beach, soothed by the rhythm of the waves, the sun on my bare back and legs, the wind and mist from the spray on my hair. Into the waves and out like a sandpiper. And then home, drenched, drugged, reeling, full to the brim with my day alone.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 1955
Evening, Halibut Point