Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Super

Gail Halloran has been closely engaged with Halibut Point ever since it was first designated a State Park. She offered these recollections in a recent interview.

Gail Halloran, 1986
When Halibut State Park was created in 1981, it was an exciting time. I was the first Park Supervisor. It was a seasonal position at first. The main building was still boarded up. All we had was a Jiffy John.

We opened the building the second year, but not yet as a visitor's center. I had a little wood-burning stove but no running water. The State and the local Advisory Committee produced a master plan fairly quickly.
I worked for the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). An early decision was to make a public parking lot in the field on the right as you drive in on Gott Avenue, near where Doctor Webster had planted quite a few evergreens.

Parking lot construction, 1980s. Joe Halloran on right.

Joe Halloran, the DEM project engineer, did an impressive job. We're married now. Having Joe's help was invaluable in those early days. He knew about some 8' x 16' wood panels that had been used in pouring a concrete dam in Amesbury, and had them trucked down here to use as the walls of the maintenance barn. We stretched the budget by making eighty per cent of the building out of recycled lumber.

The osprey nesting platform, late 1980s.
Joe Halloran on rope, Scott Haverty on pole.
A friend of ours, Scott Haverty who worked for Mass Electric, helped to mount a pallet on a pole for an osprey nesting platform. Scott didn't mind heights.

I heard about some under-utilized equipment at the State gravel pit in Manchester. Two big front loaders were sitting there idle, and a wonderful operator named Doc Fialho. We got it approved for him to come up here for the summer. In two hours with that machine he carved out the path through the brush to make access to The Back 40. It was a great example of two State agencies helping each other out without bureaucracy and funding problems. We used wood chips on the trails that the Asplundh company was glad to dump here from their utility-clearing work.
First tour guide training session, May 1987
From left, counterclockwise: Clark Wood (Park staff), Eileen Ford, Walter Johnson, Carole Hardy, Kathy Harris, Gail Daigle, Paul Faranato
The Friends of Halibut Point State Park got organized about 1986. They've been invaluable with supplementing and supporting Park programs. Through 50-50 matching funds projects with the State we've been able to enhance things like trail maintenance, guest speakers, cultural programs, and new windows for the Visitors' Center.
Comprehensive Plan, by City Design consultants
The State hired a consulting firm, City Design, to pull together a comprehensive plan for the Park. We all thought a granite museum would be an ideal feature, as you see pictured on the left in their schematic.
I retired as park supervisor in 1994, when Joe and I had a baby. It was a hard decision. Before I left I tried to find funds for energy innovations to make the Park self-sufficient.
We commissioned a study that determined it was a viable site for a wind generator. Offshore Services, a Rhode Island firm run by Henry DuPont , won the contract to construct a windmill about 1997.  It wasn't here very long. It made a lot of noise. We don't know if it was installed wrong, or whether because of the granite it vibrated a lot. It sounded like a helicopter, and they took it down. I tried to find a quieter one, just to complete the process. It would be a great educational tool.
Some other technology we've installed are photo-voltaic cells, solar panels, a geo-thermal heat pump, and composting toilets.
Gail Halloran and young protégé splitting granite, c. 2000
The Friends drafted me into the volunteer group soon after I "retired." I've been president of the organization for the past ten years. It's a great way for me to stay in touch with things and to help out. It's a way for people who love the Park to work together.
Gail provided all the photographs and graphics for this article.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Eminent Domain

Eminent domain The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

Ted Tarr initiated the campaign for public taking of Dr. Richard Webster's property at Halibut Point for creation of a State park. The petition and adjudication proceedings went on during the 1960s and '70s. Ted offered these recollections during our interview on September 30, 2013.
.  .  .
After the Town voted to ask the State to acquire Halibut Point as park land, our State Representative Dick Silva (Democrat) submitted the bill, but he couldn't push it through. The Websters were willing to sell, after a while, for the right price.
When  our State Senator Bill Saltonstall (Republican) was about to retire, they asked him what he wanted as a going-away present, and Bill said "Halibut Point State Park." So this was going to be his legacy.
Halibut Point aerial photo
Courtesy of the Webster family
At that point Dukakis (Democrat) was governor. Some of his friends wanted to buy it and build 270 condominiums around the quarry. So he wouldn't sign the taking papers. Then Ed King (Republican) came along. I had gotten to know him a little bit through Lloyd Waring [a prominent Rockport Republican], and a few other people, Young Republicans. We were reasonable in those days.

Ed became governor, which scared the hell out of me because he was from Massport, and I was thinking "Bulldozer King." It turned out he was a great conservationist. I was having lunch with him at Lloyd Waring's, because they were political friends. I finally said, "Governor, I want Halibut Point, because the taking papers are going to expire in a month. You've got to do it right now. No further delays.
Governor Ed King with Selectmen Ted Tarr and Nick Barletta
Photos: Halibut Point State Park files
He came down here on a terrible day to sign the taking papers. Landed down there at the Pier in a helicopter. It was windy. They almost crashed. We got him up here to the side of the pit--it was blowing a gale--and signed the papers. He said, "Alright, Ted, why the hell'd you get me down here on a day like this?" I said, "That's for voting for the Bottle Bill." He said, "Don't you ever forgive? I don't forgive, either." He was a heck of a nice guy.

Governor Ed King and Selectman Ted Tarr
So that's how Halibut Point got started. The Park had an Advisory Committee. I'm the last one of that. Now we have the Friends of Halibut Point. The State Advisory Committee is kaput.

Once the State had somebody from some agency come down, who decided they wanted us to fence off the ocean so people wouldn't fall into it. I said, as soon as you put a roof over Quabbin Reservoir, we'll put a fence around the ocean. They went away, finally, and we've never seen them again.
What I'm afraid of right now is that the State is underfunding the parks. They've cut the budgets every year. We're now a subsidiary of Salisbury Beach. The permanent staff is gone. So I'm going to start getting busy and get the parks together and start another organization, get some publicity and get some more money for the parks.

I've gotten the Waring Preserve in the South End. I've gotten Thacher's Island. My friend John Kieran, we have his preserve too, which I finally cleaned up the other day. I just like open space. I think the public does too.
Ted Tarr

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Freedom has roots in innocence, the unfenced sunshine of youth. Walking along the Halibut Point shoreline my mind free-wheels through time. Whose is this?

I talked to people who had grown up here in earlier times. I listened to origin stories of ownership of the land.
Edith  Polloni Humlin
"The Halibut Point that I really loved was my favorite spot in the world. You go around the Gott house and down that path. There are wading pools and flat rocks where we learned to swim. They have the softest rocks in the world. There was a mooring stone we kids used to go through, and caves.
I was born in Pigeon Cove in 1915. Then we moved up by the Old Farm Inn when my father died, around 1922 or 1923. My friend Eleanor Silva - she was a Balestraci at the time - lived in the white Victorian house that's part of the State Park now, across from the parking lot. Her family used to take their cows into Andrews Hollow where there was a meadow. We could walk from there over to the Halibut Point I'm speaking of, with the soft rocks and the wading pools.
The quarrying had just about stopped, up on the hill. I don't know if there was even water in the quarry at that time. But later, as teenagers, we swam in that quarry.
About that time the Village Improvement Society arranged for that favorite spot of mine to go to The Trustees of Reservations. One day probably in the 1960s Eleanor and I found they'd dug a big ditch to close off the path. We were so mad we took a petition door to door and got them to open it up again."

Mary Pucci Couchman
"I was a year and a half old when we moved to Gott Avenue, probably 1923. There was a lot of vegetation, even in my earliest memories. Wonderful blueberry patches. My mother had a field that went from her back yard to the water. She used to rent it in the summer to a fellow with horses. After we grew up they didn't need a house with so many rooms, so they moved over to Granite Street.
I came back home one year and my father said, don't be walking around the quarries, it's owned by a plastic surgeon from Boston and the picture has changed up there. We are not to go walking along the ocean. It's private property. There are caretakers, two guys living up there, and they love dogs. Dogs bite, Mary, don't go wandering around up there. Of course I'd always come home, and the first thing I'd do would be to take a walk around that wonderful scenic point.
The Websters came and changed the lay of the land, and they had rules and regulations. They put in evergreens. We didn't have evergreens. We had maybe one 'turpentine pine tree,' we called them. The real scrubbies. But these are fancy cultivated evergreens that are up there now. That was wide open. Mr. Korpi used to bring his cattle up there. I used to fly kites there."

Ted Tarr

"I'm from the old line of Tarrs. In 1690 we got here. My family lived on Broadway.
I grew up in the woods around here. I had huts around Cape Ann. It was a different era. In the summertime we'd tell the folks, "See you in a week," and we'd take off for the woods - rob the farms for vegetables, but nothing more than we could eat. Borrow a dory without telling anybody, and go fishing. It was good.
I used to swim here at Halibut Point as a kid, just occasionally, because this was Pigeon Cove, and I was from Rockport. When I got out of the Service in 1962 I came over to take a swim. The then-owner was starting to turn it into a resort. He threw me out. Doc Webster. He threw me out because I wasn't a member of his association. I immediately got up a petition, put it in the Town Meeting, for this to be taken as park land. I didn't like being told I couldn't be here."

Ted Tarr's decades of political and environmental activism led to many terms in local government on the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Open Space Committee, and Board of Selectmen. He is lifelong member of the Republican Party where one might expect to find private property rights sacrosanct. In next week's  essay he will tell us about his pivotal role in State acquisition of Halibut Point by eminent domain.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pitcairn Park, Part 3 - Halibut Point, 1958

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

During much of the 1950s, '60s and '70s what is now Halibut Point State Park was owned by the Richard Webster family of Brookline, who vacationed in Lanesville and became enchanted with the former quarry property that had fallen into decrepitude. I reminisced with Mrs. Cleo Webster and her daughters Kate and Heather about their experiences. Heather, who was born after the days of Pitcairn, sorted through the family slide collection to provide these photographs.
Part Three - an interview with Kate Webster, second segment

My father's curiosity was insatiable. He liked people who were real and earthy and had character.
"Pitcairn" had several meanings for him. Primarily, of course, "pit' was the quarry and "cairn" was the grout pile. But he was an adventurer at heart so the idea of Pitcairn Island was a play on the word, too.

In all his early work as a plastic surgeon he was very much a pioneer. I don't think he was ever much of a conformist. He was constantly developing new instruments and techniques which are still used today. Coming out here and being totally his own person was probably an escape from whatever conformity he did have to go along with in Boston.

My parents bought this house around 1955 when they realized they wanted to spend a lot more time here. [Interesting coincidence - this was the headquarters of the Rockport Granite Company, which operated the Halibut Point Quarry - two eye-catching structures.]

A portion of the brochure
At some point my father decided to open the property to the public, for a small fee, to have recreational things going on. It was open for a summer or two, but then it turned out his manager was stealing from him, and he fought with the Town for permission to do what he wanted to do. It was a long battle and he got sick of the complications, and sick of not having people he could trust.

The Canteen

A rental party "Down Below"
Richard Webster hooking a trout
After the failure of Pitcairn Park my Dad explored the idea of developing it with condominiums. He felt that cluster zoning, keeping the majority of the land natural but owned by the condominium association, was reasonable. He felt very strongly about private property, that if you owned it you should be able to do what you wanted, within reason.

It broke his heart, and his sense of the American Dream, that the State was able to take by eminent domain private property that he had worked hard for, and that the Town, which was a place that he really loved, was so willing to do that to a person.
His interest shifted to fishing. He had bought part of the Granite Pier below the house, and developed a boat landing there. We'd go out chumming for tuna and sharks, every day.
Granite Pier boat landing
Charlie Bianchini and crew placing stones at Granite Pier
My sister Martha with a blue shark
There's an interesting back-story to the taking of Halibut Point. When I was twenty-one I was married to a man who had been the campaign manager for Jack Davoren who was the Secretary of the Commonwealth at that time. My husband said to my father, "Do you want me to fix this for you?" My father said, "No, I believe in the system, we shouldn't have to." I think he did have faith, and an excellent law firm.

Dad disposed of the Granite Pier and re-focused to Florida in the early 1960s, when he knew the handwriting was on the wall for Halibut Point. The State paid $600,000 to my family for 55 acres of waterfront land.

Winter on the Coast by Cleo (Mrs. Richard) Webster