Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Griscom Day, AM - Birding Halibut Point, 1941

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

When I heard from centenarian Roland Clement, by email, that he had been birding on Halibut Point with Ludlow Griscom on December 7, 1941, my antennae stretched in several directions at once. I went down to the Massachusetts Audubon Society headquarters in Lincoln to find out more about the master.
Edwin Way Teale photo and article1
Everyone at  Mass Audubon reacted alertly to my interest. The aura around "The Lud" is still palpable, though he winged from this life fifty-five years ago. Many testimonies and anecdotes from his fellow naturalists perched on the library shelves.

Roger Tory Peterson, a Griscom protégé and originator of the Field Guides that revolutionized outdoor learning, wrote that his mentor "bridged the gap between collector of the old school and the modern field of ornithologist with the binocular. He was the high priest of this new cult of split-second field identification. My own field guides, though a visual invention, were profoundly influenced by his teaching."2

Peterson  recalled that Griscom, born in 1890, recalled coming of age when a man was "perfectly free to shoot as many warblers in the morning as he could skin in the afternoon, by first ringing a doorbell, hat in hand, and courteously requesting  permission, it was entirely possible to blaze away and shoot the warbling vireo out of the treetop onto the lawn."2 But Griscom advanced the sport of virtual hunting where birds could keep their fascinating feathers unharmed.
"Four-thirty A.M. The start of a field trip, Griscom style sneakers and an old suit."
Edwin Way Teale1
Here are recollections of a couple of other ardent companions:

One day of bird-watching a là Griscom and they [skeptics] would be ready to elevate this robust, he-man activity to a place beside mountain-climbing and the cross-country marathon....From the time the car rolled out of his Cambridge driveway a little after 4:30 until it rolled back again after 10 pm, the trip ran like a subway schedule. - Edwin Way Teale1  

"Are you sorry now you came?" he asked, as if anyone were ever sorry they had gone on a trip with him, even those times when his car got stuck in a soggy field in early spring or in snow on an unused road in winter. - Cora Wellman3

*  *  *
I take you now to his favorite chowder house in Newburyport with Ludlow Griscom (LG) and two acolytes, Roland Clement (RC) and Bill Drury (BD).

LG  If you boys are finished lunch we'll move right along to Halibut Point. Allow me to pick up the check. Roland, you've recorded everything from Plum Island and the Merrimack? We didn't do so badly. 
RC  I believe we have it all. 

LG  Remember: ornithologists want complete records of every species seen, all the numbers, weather, barometer, wind, tide, trends, everything. Listers are content to just check off the sighting of a species on their scorecards. Our data, besides its value to science, enables us to out-list the Listers on any competition. I'll see you at the car. We'll get to a few more spots with some zip to them.

BD  I think he was pretty disappointed about getting skunked on the ivory gull and gyrfalcon after those trophies he had last year. But we saw every other kind of raptor imaginable. That was a great look at the snowy owl.

Snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus
RC  I can't believe he spotted it behind the dunes, like he knew it was there. It's the first one reported this far south this year. You know I've been collating the New England lists for the Bulletin. This will be the earliest snowy owl of the year.
BD  How about the golden eagle he nailed on that old stump by the Merrimack River when everybody was fixated on bald eagles by the Chain Bridge. And then, while we're ooh-ing and ah-ing about that, he picks up a Barrow's goldeneye in flight over the river. Unbelievable.
RC  He's heading out, we'd better get going. I hope my sneakers dry before we get to Halibut Point.
* * *
"A Griscom Day, PM" will continue this field trip into the afternoon, in next week's essay.

1     Edwin Way Teale, "Ludlow Griscom, Virtuoso of Field Identification,” Audubon Magazine #62, 1960.
2     Roger Tory Peterson, "In Memoriam: Ludlow Griscom," Auk #82, Oct 1965.
3     Cora Wellman, "Birding with Ludlow Griscom," Bulletin of the Massachusetts Audubon Society (BMAS), Winter 1965.

        Ludlow Griscom, "Eastern Massachusetts Birds in 1940," BMAS #25, 1941.
        Ludlow Griscom, "A Year's Birding by Automobile," BMAS #26, 1942.
        Roland Clement, letter to Martin Ray November 17, 2013.
        Chris Leahy, guide to all things avian and Audubon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Stream of Legacies, Halibut Point, 1938

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

A coterie of well-heeled, talented Victorian ladies established summer studios at the base of Woodbury Hill, across the street from Folly Cove.

Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements and student
Photo probably by Ellen Day Hale
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements and Ellen Day Hale built adjacent houses in Folly Cove, straddling the Rockport-Gloucester line. They had collaborated on an article about the granite industry for Harpers Weekly in 1885, authored by Miss Hale and with an etching by Miss Clements.
"The Derrick," 1885
Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements etching
Sandy Bay Historical Society
They employed local families in meeting the necessities of life. Miss Clements in particular was encouraging to bright youngsters, among them Albert Seppala of Sunnyside Farm and the sons of Pastor Ronka, the Finnish minister in Lanesville. She thought she saw something special in Mary Pucci from a homestead up on Gott Avenue, Halibut Point.
Last year I had the opportunity to talk with Mary about Miss Clements' influence, among other topics. Shortly afterward Mary Pucci Couchman, retired pediatrician, passed away. I take pleasure in imagining this 1938 meeting between the two of them, attended by Miss Clements' Irish maid Lizzie.
M  Hello, Lizzie!
L    Welcome to 'Thickets,' dear. That's Miss Clements' name for the house. She's expecting you in the garden. Let's go right on through to the terrace.
Interior of 'Thickets'
Sandy Bay Historical Society
M  Thank you, Lizzie.
L    Miss Clements asked me to bring out some of her home-made yogurt with berries. Would that suit you? You know, she and Miss Hale brought the culture back from one of their travels abroad. They hid it in their bandeaux when they crossed the borders.
M   I'd like to try it.
Rose trellis on 'Thickets'
Sandy Bay Historical Society
L    Here we are. Miss Clements, Mary Pucci is here.
C    How nice to see you, Mary. Let's sit over here at the table. I see you brought the book.
Leather-bound La Gerusalemme Liberata, 1856 ed.,
in the hand of Mary Pucci Couchman, 2014
M   Yes, my parents were glad to have you see it. It's an heirloom. It belonged to my great-grandfather. La Gerusalemme Liberata means Jerusalem Delivered. It's one of the great epic poems in Italian, from the Renaissance period. Torquato Tasso completed it in 1581.
C    Have you read it yourself?
M   I'm working on it. Sometimes we read it all together at home. It's actually in Tuscan, which my parents say is the purest dialect in Italy and produced its highest literature. Florence is there, and Lucca near our family home in Mutigliano.
C    I'm glad you're proud of that, and that you're keeping up the language.
M   We have lots of Italian families here in our neighborhood, but hardly any of the others speak Tuscan. Antone Balzarini - who operates the farm at Halibut Point, and came from Lombardy which has a lot of French and German influence - used to ask his kids to listen to me speak 'pure' Italian. See here, the book is inscribed by my great-grandfather. 
Sebastian Pucci, of Mutigliano
C    That was your father's grandfather?
M   Yes. He was the bailiff to a landowner, an overseer of the pastures. The shepherds would be out in the hills for a long time. They would stop by the house on their way out, to borrow this book. My great-grandmother would lend it to them. They would read it out in the hills. Sometimes it got wet.
C    Then your father brought it here?
Emilio Pucci, Halibut Point
Family photo
M   Yes. He came here to work in the quarries, then at the Tool Company, then in landscaping. He grafts fruit trees at our place across from the Gott House. He has a huge garden.
Mary Pucci on left
with Phoebe and Howard McLellan
on the steps of the Gott House, 1929
C    Did you know that, before you were born, we - that is my friend, Miss Stephenson - purchased your family's house on Folly Cove? See there, right across the street? We named it 'Gaviotta' which means 'seagull' in Portuguese. We use it for a guest cottage.
View from 'Gaviotta' c. 1938
Hale/Clements photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
M   I did hear about that. My mother thought the cottage was too drafty in the winter time. She threatened to go back to Italy. Now, with Mussolini in power, she says she's glad she didn't. 
C    Mary, you seem to know a great deal about the world. You're planning to go to college, aren't you?
M   Yes, I want to study nursing at Simmons College. 
C    That's wonderful. Miss Stephenson and I want to help you do that. We want to help you with tuition. We've looked into your records and are sure that you will be successful. All we ask is that you make the most of it. Now here comes Lizzie with a little treat for us. 
M   Oh, Miss Clements, thank you. My parents will be so relieved. I won't let you down. 
*  *  *
Inscription from Gabrielle Clements to Mary Pucci, 1943
Upon graduation from Simmons and bound for the Yale University School of Medicine, Mary received from Miss Clements a leather-bound set of The Divine Comedy, Tuscan author Dante Alighieri's masterwork of literature.

The four volumes of The Divine Comedy, 1893 ed.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Philadelphia - Folly Cove, 1921

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

William Meyerowitz and Theresa Bernstein, 19191
In the spring of 1920 newlywed artists William Meyerowitz and Theresa Bernstein spent the summer season in East Gloucester where George Stacy, the proprietor of the Hawthorne Inn, let them use a little studio to give classes. They quickly became immersed in the distinguished company of painters and patrons centered on the Gallery-on-the-Moors.

William Meyerowitz, Self-portrait, 19171
William applied himself to etching innovations. Theresa recalled their experiences years later. 1

      When the time came to print the etchings, we went to the Hales' in Folly Cove. Ellen Day Hale had a press, which she graciously offered to us....
      At their studio William demonstrated the process of printing. We made this trip several times, until Ms. Hale offered us a little cottage at the edge of the shore. She said, 'Why do you want to stay in East Gloucester and come here to print? It's such a long trip. We have a cottage you can occupy. You won't have to run out for all your meals. Everything can be brought to you, and you can always have dinner with us.' We accepted the offer and moved to Folly Cove.
      Our cottage was called 'Gaviotta,' which means 'seagull' in Portuguese. As it was very dark inside, they suggested that we draw squares with white chalk wherever we wanted windows cut out of the walls. There was no electricity, but we had an oil lamp, and a kerosene stove for cooking....
      William experimented with etchings in color throughout that summer. He felt that this was a unique opportunity since he had the studio and the press at his disposal. He was trying to gain certain effects with color by superimposing one color over another on one plate, or with two plates, or in three printings, according to his design. He managed to get an emotional effect in a medium that was so unyielding.

William Meyerowitz, Fishermen at Sunrise
Etching produced at Folly Cove, 1920
 Theresa and William returned to Gloucester the following summer. I take the liberty of composing a letter she might have written home.

Dear Mother,
          Cape Ann continues to mix together stimulating artistic dimensions, the locale, the patrons, the artists themselves. We've been swept up in exhibitions this summer at the Gallery-on-the-Moors and the birth of the Rockport Art Association. Aldro Hibbard invited William to be on the jury of the RAA's first show, at the Congregational Church for 'openers.'
          We have happily renewed our Folly Cove acquaintances. Last year we were so immersed in work that we didn't realize what an extensive settlement of artists inhabits this remote corner of the Cape. Remarkably most of them are connected to my own birthplace: Philadelphia, and our Academy.

'The Folly' and 'The Playhouse'
Hoyt photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
           We were introduced to Folly Cove by Margaret Hoyt, whose husband William is first cousin to President Wilson. Their cottage is on the Gloucester side of the Rockport Town Line. Margaret was one of our etching students last year. She had also studied with Gabrielle De Veaux Clements who in 1883, with Ellen Hale, established the first studio in Folly Cove called 'Thickets,' on the Rockport side of the Town Line. Miss Clements is a Philadelphian and a fine etcher in her own right. Another of her specialties is church murals. 

'The Thickets'
Clements/Hale photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
        Between those two houses Miss Hale had 'Howletts' constructed a few years ago. This is where we have used the etching press.
Clements/Hale photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
        You must remember Charles Grafly, professor of sculpture at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. We hear of him as this country's finest teacher in that field. He has created a beautiful estate just a short distance up the hill from Folly Cove.
Charles Grafly
Wichita State University archives
courtesy of Kirk Noyes
        Professor Grafly has in residence right now one of his students from the Academy, a young man named Walker Hancock.
Walker Hancock, The Seaweed Fountain, bronze, 1921
Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Gift of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy
        Walker is modeling classical and local motifs into his current project "The Seaweed Fountain." It promises to be a lovely piece once cast in bronze.

Edwin Clymer, A View from Above
        At the head of the Cove is the fairly new house of Edwin Clymer who made this striking watercolor on the West Coast. We used to see him paddling about in a rubber inner tube, but have never been invited in to his studio. I do know that he is active in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Sketch Club; and the Philadelphia Water Color Club.

Nicola D'Ascenzo
D'Ascenzo Studio Archives, Athenaeum of Philadelphia
        Directly across the Cove from our little 'Gaviotta' cottage rises the edifice of stained glass artist Nicola D'Ascenzo, trained at our Academy and based in a very successful Philadelphia studio. He's taken the reins from La Farge and Tiffany.

Mansions on Folly Point
Nicola D'Ascenzo residence on the left
Sandy Bay Historical Society

Young people in dory
Clements/Hale photo
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Theresa Bernstein, Folly Cove, 1921
Theresa Bernstein, Expressions of Cape Ann & New York, 1914-1972,
The Stamford (CT) Museum, 1989
        You see we are not at all lost for Philadelphians! With our their bright lights we and the native neighbors still enjoy the seaside pleasures of the rocky cove.
        William and I will be back to see you in New York for some part of the winter. We're giving thought to a Cape Ann residence and will enjoy hearing your views.

1 Theresa Bernstein, William Meyerowitz, The Artist Speaks, 1986.
Additional sources:
Walker Hancock, A Sculptor's Fortunes, 1997.
William D. Hoyt, Jr., letter to Rev. Robinson, April 19, 1973, courtesy of the  Cape Ann Museum.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Enterprise and Light, Halibut Point 1913

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

Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point, 1913
Oil painting by Leon Kroll
What makes a scene appealing to an artist, and how does he make it his own?
When Leon Kroll fixed his gaze on Halibut Point in 1913 he encountered dual majesties of nature and industry. He approached this scene with a bright innocence very different from his usual subdued palette and emphasis on human figures. The composition and colors offer a child-like response to the choo-choo train dwarfed by an immense man-made hole in the rocky shoreline. It's the kind of painting he might have made years earlier in the company of the Impressionists he studied with in France, but nothing like his canvases that were winning praise and prizes at the New York Armory Exhibition of 1913. It suggests he was flabbergasted by what he saw.

Leon Kroll in his Folly Cove studio, c. 1940s
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute
For Kroll coming to Cape Ann was an excursion from another world. Sixteen years later he was drawn back to begin renting studio space in Folly Cove and finally to build his own studio there. The light and the land were that compelling.
From his vantage point in that first encounter he might have observed Altti Peterson in this drilling crew at the Babson Farm (Halibut Point) Quarry.

Babson Farm Quarry c. 1913
Altti Peterson second man from right
Family photo.
Twenty years earlier Altti's parents Antti and Maria Kokkonen with an infant daughter had arrived in Rockport from Finland via New York and Boston. They got off the train at the end of the line and walked up Granite Street with all their possessions toward Pigeon Cove. They crossed the Granite Bridge over the tracks leading down to Granite Pier. At the Rockport Granite Company office that same day Antti - surname now Peterson, after his own father Peter - was hired on to work at the Babson Farm Quarry.

Locomotive shuttling granite blocks from quarry to wharf
beneath the bridge on Granite Street
SBHS photo
Antti's sons Altti and Carl had formative work experiences at the Babson Farm Quarry before moving on to other careers. Altti was a striker (sledgehammer) in a two-man team for the larger blasting holes, later moving to pneumatic drilling. Carl scrambled around work stations on precarious ladders as a tool boy running back and forth to the blacksmith shop for sharpening the drills. Carl's son Fred, who provided this information, eventually became a manager at the Cape Ann Tool Company and presently serves as Treasurer of the Friends of Halibut Point State Park.
Derrick lifting a granite block to the locomotive at Babson Farm Quarry,
for transfer to the shipment point at the Folly Cove Pier
CAM photo
Rockport Granite Company inspectors at the quarry
CAM photo
By this time nearly all the quarrying operations on Cape Ann were owned and operated by the Rockport Granite Company. It sustained business in a competitive market all over the Eastern United States, meeting capital and labor requirements, production standards, and stockholder satisfaction. 

Placing capstones on the Sandy Bay Breakwater
SBHS photo.
The major propellant to expansion of the Babson Farm Quarry was the decades-long effort to create a Harbor of Refuge off Rockport, that envisioned a nearly two-mile long offshore breakwater at depths averaging sixty feet, capable of offering shelter to naval and commercial ships in stormy weather. Located on the coast with limitless stone, Halibut Point was in a unique position for development of the quarry. It sent a prodigious quantity of its core to the project.
Babson Farm
The Rockport Granite Company acquired nearly all the Babson Farm on both sides of Granite Street. It rented the land to aspiring immigrant Antone Balzarini for agricultural pursuits and raising horses for quarry teaming. Later generations of the Balzarini family created the Old Farm Inn on part of the property.

Halibut Point - Folly Cove 1873
Watercolor tinted etching by Kruseman Van Elten
Forty years earlier a painter chose to portray Halibut Point serenely. By 1913 enterprise had created an industry at its zenith but soon to fade and disappear. Social, technological, and economic forces extinguished the light of the granite industry. Federal funding for the harbor of refuge dried up. Concrete and asphalt replaced paving blocks as automobiles replaced horses.

The light of full citizenship lifted immigrants out of a low-paying and dangerous workplace. The light of natural beauty eventually resulted in the acquisition and dedication of Halibut Point to quiet enjoyment for the Commonwealth.

Interview sources:
·Marie-Claude Kroll Rose (daughter of Leon Kroll), 2014
·"The Reminiscences of Leon Kroll," Columbia University oral history manuscript,     1957
·Fred Peterson, 2013
·Mary Balzarini Anderson (daughter of Antone Balzarini),
   in Rockport Recollected, ed. Roger Martin, 2001.
CAM  Cape Ann Museum
SBHS  Sandy Bay Historical Society

Thursday, January 1, 2015

From Finland to Folly Cove, 1903

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

The Seppala family of Cape Ann raised twelve children on the one-acre Sunnyside Farm at Folly Cove. Father had come over from Finland first; then Mother and their two youngsters, one of whom, Hilma, wrote down her recollections years later as a married woman. Family photos are contributed by Zenas and Merry Seppala, and Sandra Seppala Jamieson. Additional photos from the Hale/Clements  legacy of the Sandy Bay Historical Association.

Hilma Seppala Sauter's Story

In the summer of 1902 my father Samuel Seppala came to Folly Cove to visit his sister Ulriika, wife of Matti Williams, intending to stay for only a short time. He left my mother Alexandra, my brother Heino and me with a housekeeper at his five-room home in Teuva, Finland.  He also left his saw mill and grist mill business in the care of his partner.

Alexandra's parents Herman and Maria Varsamaki
Matti Williams had arrived on foot from Boston twenty years earlier to take a job in the quarries. When Company officials couldn't understand his Finnish name Maenpaa they called him Williams, after his father's first name. Matti became one of the first Finnish home owners of that period.  He eventually operated a dairy and sauna business on his one-acre site at the head of Folly Cove.
Father  slept in an attic bedroom with seven other men during his stay. Opposite in another large room lived a couple with five children.  There were as many as forty children on the property at one time!  Practically all the men worked for the Rockport Granite Company. 

As Father’s visit to Folly Cove continued, more and more he wanted to stay in this country.  Mother  was anxious to join him. On July 2, 1903 at age twenty-two, with Heino and me she left the Seppala home for Kristiina, a seaport on the west coast of Finland.  Her own mother was driving the horse-drawn wagon. She must have had a heavy heart seeing her loved ones leave for a strange land, perhaps never to see them again.

Ellis Island immigrants
National Park Service photo
We arrived in Hull, England after five days at sea and crossed to Liverpool by train. There we were put on the steamship "Campania" for New York though our booking was for the "Lucania" to Boston. After nine days we  landed at Ellis Island. We boarded a train to Boston, transferred to North Station, and continued to either Gloucester or Rockport where we found the electric street car to Folly Cove. Father was waiting to greet us. I wish I had been older to experience the happiness of their reunion!

Postcard courtesy of Elana Pistenmaa Brink
It is amazing now to think that mother, who did not know a word of English, could make such a trip with two young children and arrive safely at her destination of 1236 Washington Street, Folly Cove, Gloucester, Massachusetts, U. S. A. One can only say it speaks well for the know-how of the authorities involved in that great immigration era in our nation's history.

After Mother's arrival at Folly Cove with its humming activity, she was at first overwhelmed by it all. However, after a quiet period (and a good cry) one day by herself sitting on the rocks at Folly Cove beach at the foot of the Williams' land, she looked at the beautiful nature around her, the ocean, the sky, the cliffs of Folly Point, and realizing the soothing beauty all around her she suddenly said to herself "This is it." And she never cried again!

Samuel and Alexandra Seppala, 1927
Hilma (back row, center) was born in Finland,
the others at home in Folly Cove
She made many new friends and entered into the busy life of the immigrant settlement. Coffee pots were always brewing, and everyone helped one another with a mutual understanding of each other's problems.

Folly Cove c. 1925
W. D. Hoyt Sr. photo
There were so many Finnish children to play with that most of us older children knew no English (myself included) when we entered school. When I, many years later, asked my first grade teacher how she ever coped with so many of us, she said, "I knew you all came from good families, and you learned fast."

Seppala horse team moving stones from beach
Father worked in the quarries up to 1919, when he bought the Williams property from Ulriika, after her husband's death. He gradually went from stone work into a dairy and sauna business as did Matti Williams before him. As time went on the nineteen-room house was occupied more and more by the Seppalas, with eleven children in the family, and became even more of a Seppala homestead when Mother had the other fourteen room house demolished in 1945. After father's death in 1943, the dairy business was sold to Dr. Babson Farm in Riverdale.
Samuel Seppala and son driving cows to pasture,
Gloucester/Rockport Town Line
Sandra Seppala Jamieson
2014 interview

My father Lauri grew up at Sunnyside Farm, delivering milk before school. They used to take the cows to graze in the adjacent meadow owned by the Taylors across a little bridge over the brook that flows into the Cove.  They cut hay in the big fields out on Folly Point. Eventually they had to add a milk room to the barn when pasteurization became required.

Lauri Seppala 1923
 Finnish was the primary language at home. The house was heated by stoves in the kitchen and parlor. There were chamber pots in the house and an eight-holer outhouse over the brook that ran down to the Cove. Pastor Ronka, the Finnish minister, was a tenant in the early days.

Uno Seppala, Richard Seppala, Marjorie Wheeler, Martha Koski,
Vera Seppala, Hilda Ross, c. 1933
After Grandfather died Grandmother - Mummu - stayed on. My father was in the Coast Guard. My unmarried uncles still lived there like a tenement house, working at the Tool Company. Mummu ran a sauna every Saturday. George Demetrios and others patronized it. There would be great philosophical discussions in this run-down little building in Folly Cove.

Alexandra at Vera's wedding August 24, 1947
Everyone went to visit Mummu on Sundays. Soon after this photo was taken health problems necessitated a leg amputation. She carried on at home for many years with the help of Hilma and Henry. Eventually she lost a second leg. She went into Den Mar Nursing Home in 1966 and passed away very quickly.