Tag Archives: Maine

Uncovering a Shipwreck

Our recent nor’easter uncovered a skeletal shipwreck on Short Sands Beach in my hometown of York, Maine, and I dispatched my parents to take pictures almost as soon as the skies cleared, knowing that our mercurial weather could result in its resubmergence at any time. This particular shipwreck has actually appeared several times over the last fifty years or so, but this time it attracted a lot of attention, both locally and nationally. Many of the stories referred to it as the remains of a “revolutionary era” ship, but the most recent report, based on empirical mapping and sampling by an archaeologist for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and past research, indicates that the ship might have been a pre-revolutionary “pinky” sloop named the Industry, which ran aground in York with a southbound cargo of lumber in October or November of 1769. The source for this information is a retired York police officer named Barry Higgins, who became curious about the shipwreck after its appearance in the 1980s. And where did Mr. Higgins go to research this wreck? Why the Phillips Library of course, which was/is not only the major repository of local and family history in our city and region, but also of maritime history. At that time, it was open and accessible, and Mr. Higgins found the reference to the Industry in the journal of York notary public Daniel Moulton: for which we can all see a description in the digitized catalog, but not much more than that.

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Shipwreck SS3The Short Sands Shipwreck last week.

First impressions are of the remains of a relatively small ship, yet the national reports immediately went naval: the Washington Post consulted with a Naval History and Heritage Command official who consulted a database of 2,500 shipwrecks but was unable to find any records indicating it was an American sloop. But Mr. Higgins knew just where to go thirty years ago, to Salem’s Phillips Library, a well-known repository of maritime history. All of these records are now removed from their natural foundation, en route to Rowley (or perhaps already there in their boxes), and hopefully the state of Maine will have enough sway to gain access so that the identity of this slippery sloop can be verified, again and once and for all.

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Shipwreck gone The Short Sands Shipwreck yesterday–gone but not forgotten.

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Hamilton House

While I was up in York Harbor for the weekend I took the opportunity to visit Historic New England’s Hamilton House on Saturday afternoon while everyone else was at the beach. I’ve been on a historic-house museum kick this summer, and while I’ve been to Hamilton House (in neighboring South Berwick) before, it merits repeated visits if only for its setting and gardens. It’s the perfect Colonial/Colonial Revival House, built in the earlier period (c. 1785) by new money and “restored” with not-quite-old Boston money at the turn of the last century. In between, it was a working farm, with hay in the attic and tenants on the first floor. After it was acquired by Historic New England in 1946, it was returned to its original appearance on the exterior, but the Colonial Revival summer house interiors were retained.

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Hamilton House

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Hamilton House today and in John Mead Howells’ classic Architectural Heritage of the Piscataqua (1937)+ a Charles Woodbury illustration of the house, the setting for Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Tory Lover (1901). South Berwick native Jewett apparently convinced her friends Emily and Elise Tyson (Vaughan) to buy the derelict house for their summer retreat. The Tysons had sold their former summer house in Pride’s Crossing, Massachusetts to Henry Clay Frick, who promptly knocked it down. 

Because it was a summer house, there’s more than a bit of incongruity between the furnishings and the architecture: the former is genteel “shabby chic”, early twentieth-century style, and the latter is quite grand, especially the large central hall. The straw matting running through the house contributes quite a bit to this rambling mix. While obviously I am a Philistine when it comes to the interior of Hamilton House, it is much appreciated by others, and was also quite influential in its own time, as explained in this great post over at the Down East Dilettante. I did appreciate how its interiors related to its setting, poised as it is over the Salmon Falls River with gardens, fields and forest also in view, and the rather charming Zuber-esque murals of Portsmouth artist George Fernald Porter.

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First floor parlor, murals and dining room, and the requisite open hearth in the kitchen.

The summer furnishings also make the house feel very airy, particularly on the second floor. If the Tyson ladies found anything remotely Victorian in the house when they took possession, I am certain that it was banished immediately! As we ascended upstairs, we could see an exposed beam which was repurposed by the house’s builder, Captain Jonathan Hamilton: when he didn’t need it for one of his ships, it was used for his new house.

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Hamilton Dolls

Just three of Elise Tyson Vaughan’s vast collection of dolls: apparently the remainder are in the Peabody Essex Museum. It’s impossible to search its vast collections so who knows?

The Tysons moved an adjacent barn and laid out an enclosed garden of “colonial” flowers surrounding a sundial and fountain and extending to a garden cottage composed of salvaged doors and planks from a first-period house across the river: a shady respite from the summer sun but at the same time open to its environs. As you can see, it’s the season for phlox, which surely must be the perfect Colonial Revival perennial.

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Hamilton Garden Cottage

Hamilton Garden


Of Pumpkins and Politics

I’ve spent the last few days up in York, far away from the maddening crowds in Salem. This strategy of exiling myself from Witch City in October as much as possible is working well so far. Do not be fearful of my title: I’m certainly not going to weigh in on this terrible election. But I do like to discuss politics as a historical and social phenomenon occasionally, and this weekend the consequences of our long national nightmare weighed heavily on me. It was a beautiful, golden weekend, with harvest festivals everywhere I went in southern Maine. In York, the entire spectrum of the community was assembled with tents and tables on the green before the First Church and Town Hall: representatives of local businesses, nonprofits and civic groups mingled with with colonial reenactors and festival attendees. The happy Democrats were there, but the Republicans, either due to embarrassment or division, were nowhere to be found. Their absence made me very sad, not for the sake of partisanship but for community: I grew up in a world where the important standards and goals were engagement and civility and discourse, and I fear that world is no more. I remember the Democrats’ table and the Republicans’ table being side by side, prompting a healthy, happy exchange; I remember holding a sign for my candidate and that of his opponent, while my neighboring, “opposing” signholder went for coffee for both of us.

Of course these sentimental/sad thoughts did not stop me from taking in the local color, which was very autumn-hued, and it’s always comforting to look at beautiful old houses, which have seen worse than this (maybe?)

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York Village Pumpkin Patch and Marketfest this weekend, and some of the open houses of Museums of Old York:  Jefferds’ Tavern (c. 1750), the Emerson-Wilcox House (exterior and interior, c. 1742) and some militiamen in front of the Old Gaol (c. 1720). Below:  a bit further out: Hancock’s Warehouse on the River, a favorite house on Pine Hill Road heading towards Ogunquit, the McIntire Garrison (c. 1707) on Route 91, and two Historic New England properties, the beautiful Hamilton House (c. 1785)  and Sarah Orne Jewett  (c. 1774) House, both in South Berwick.

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Random Scenes of Summer

The only unified themes of today’s post are the season and the necessity of cleaning out the photograph folders on my phone, camera, and computer: everything seems very vivid this time of year so I snap, snap, snap away and now I must purge! There’s always something to see in Salem, and then we ran up to my hometown of York Harbor to escape the heat–but the heat was there too. I am not a beachgoer, so I spent the hot days in the “cottage” (which was supposedly built for precisely such weather) indoors and the cool day (we had three successive days of 95 degree-70 degree-95 degree weather) walking around looking at other cottages. Even though I grew up in York,  I still see something new every time I take a walk–as in Salem. I missed the annual vintage car show while up in Maine, but before I left I checked out two of the city’s newest enterprises: Waite and Pierce, the new shop on the grounds of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and Notch Brewery & Taproom, a beautiful space crafting for drinking in good company, with no obtrusive televisions and bad food (just big soft pretzels, for now).

Mid-August, Salem: the scuttelaria are out in my garden (along with the phlox), Java Head window exhibition at Salem Maritime’s West India Goods Store (curated by an SSU History student who did much more research than I did for my post), goods at Waite and Pierce, and the Notch experience.

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In York and York Harbor: gardens at the Stonewall Kitchen company store; antiquing (the watercolor below, which was quite expensive, is supposedly a Salem street scene–not sure where–maybe Sewall Street before it became a parking lot for the YMCA?), York Harbor map (1910) and cottages present and past (on this particular stroll I was taken by the older, smaller, mostly-white cottages on the Harbor side), our family house (brown) and the Elizabeth Perkins House (red) and garden on the York River.

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Summer 8 Sewall Street

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Summer 17 the Samuel Donnell Garrison today and on the left in the older photograph–across from the entrance to the Harbor beach

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Summer 9 an ongoing–and ambitious– restoration by a family: it was fun to see them working together……..

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Summer 18.jpg goldenrod time at the Elizabeth Perkins House garden

An appendix:  While hiding from the heat indoors, I browsed through several old photographic books of York, and became intrigued (for the fourth or fifth time) with “The Comet”, an odd contraption featured at Short Sands Beach in York Beach a century ago, in which tourists were carried out onto the sea on a track: has anyone seen such a thing anywhere else? Was this a contemporary seaside fad or a unique York Beach attraction?

Comet Collage The Comet in action


Ernest M.A. Machado, Salem Architect

I tend to romanticize architects and the practice of architecture. When I first went to the house of my now-husband, who is an architect, I expected it to be Monticello-like, with a study in which a drafting table took center stage, surrounded by lovely hand-drawn renderings on whitewashed walls. My vision was not realized, and of course he is generally bent over a computer rather than a drafting table. It’s impossible to romanticize his work now that I know much more about it, so while I maintain a wifely interest in his business and projects, I also tend to drift away, back, towards architects who lived in ages past, who can easily engage and distract me. Just yesterday I walked over to take a picture of a Salem house which was built and occupied by a very prominent horticulturist and landscape architect, Harlan P. Kelsey, about whom I wanted to write a post (it is spring after all, even if it is a frigid spring, and so time to turn to gardening). But the more time I spent looking at the house, the less I was interested in its occupant and the more I was interested in its architect. And so I forgot Kelsey (for now–I’ll come back to him because he is pretty amazing), and began to focus on Ernest M. A. Machado, the likely architect of One Pickering Street and a man who is very easy to romanticize because he died relatively young, very tragically, and with much apparent promise.

Fortunately Machado’s life his well-documented: he seems to come from a family that wanted him (and all of its members) to be remembered: there is a nice genealogy and some pictures here, and the family donated his own photographs of completed projects to his alma mater, MIT. Ernest Machado was born just up the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea to a Cuban émigré father and a North Shore mother who was orphaned but nevertheless connected. Juan Francisco Machado and Elizabeth Frances Jones met and married in Massachusetts, returned to Cuba for a decade, and then settled in Massachusetts permanently to raise their large family, first in Manchester and later in Salem. The Machado house is one of my favorite in Salem: a stunning brick Federal on Carpenter Street. Ernest attended Salem schools and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating from its pioneering architecture program in 1890. After working for at least two prestigious Boston architectural firms, he established his own practice in partnership with his future brother-in-law Ambrose Walker, with offices in Salem (on Church Street), Boston and Ottawa (where his brother was an established banker). In the later 1890s he seems to be working feverishly, with commissions in several Boston suburbs, Salem, and all along the North Shore. This pace continued in the new century, all the way up to his death by drowning in Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire in September of 1907: he was 39 years old and had just completed his most challenging commission: the 14,000 square foot brick mansion of Governor Charles B. Clarke on Portland’s Western Promenade.

Machado Kelsey House One Pickering Street Salem

Machado Carpenter Street Salem

The Kelsey House on Pickering Street & Machado family home at 5 Carpenter Street.

Machado’s mark on Salem is not hard to find. Besides the Kelsey house and a few other residences in the McIntire Historic District and the Phippen house on the Common, he supervised substantial renovations to the Salem Club and the Bulfinch Bank on Central Street. He rebuilt the Salem Lyceum on Church Street, and as a testament to his versatility, designed both a commercial building on Washington Street for the dry goods retailer Charles W. Webber and the Blake Memorial Chapel in Harmony Grove Cemetery. Yesterday I trudged over through driving rain to contemplate the chapel, and then walked up the hill to his grave, part of a family plot of elegant markers which apparently he also designed (and unfortunately very wet by the time I got there).

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Machado 4 Carpenter

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Machado Harmony Grove

Machado Chapel

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Machado Grave

Machado in Salem: 16 Beckford Street and Four Carpenter Street; his own photograph of the Webber store on Washington Street, from the MIT Machado Archive; The Blake Memorial Chapel at Harmony Grove Cemetery and the (very wet) Machado grave(s) at Harmony Grove.

Looking at his Salem work as well as the portfolio of North Shore commissions (lots of residences and clubhouses for both the Salem Country Club and the Manchester Yacht Club) in the digital archive at MIT, it’s hard to discern a distinct Machado style: there are Colonial Revival houses in both the classical and Tudor traditions as well as lots of Shingle residences reflecting contemporary trends. But remember, he was a young architect, just establishing his practice and business and no doubt catering to the desires of his clients. Who knows what he would have achieved over the next thirty or so years of his working life? He could have maintained and expanded his practice as a Gold Coast residential architect, or he could have rebuilt Salem after the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Or both.

Machado Agge House MIT

Machado C.F. Allen House MIT Dome

Machado R. Wheatland House MIT

Machado Sanden House MIT

Machado House MIT Dome

Machado House MIT

Machado Lynn House AABN

Machado’s photographs of his own work at the Machado Archive at MIT: the Agge, Allen, R. Wheatland, and Sanden houses, and two unidentified houses (one of which looks just like a house in my hometown, York Harbor, Maine); a Tudor house in Lynn, from American Architect and Building News, 1906.

Appendix: you can stay in Machado’s recently-restored Clarke “Manor” (below) in Portland via airbnb; My Machado-obsessed day ended appropriately with a birthday party at one of his buildings: the Salem Lyceum, now Turner’s Seafood.

Machado Clark House Portland Zillow

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Thanksgiving Colors

We spent Thanksgiving up in my hometown of York Harbor, Maine, which is only about an hour north of Salem. When we arrived York looked very different than still-green Salem, coated in icy snow. Many people in the southern counties of Maine and adjacent counties of New Hampshire lost their power due to a Thanksgiving-eve snowstorm, but we were fortunate to have light and heat and lots of food and drink. While waiting to eat on Thanksgiving Day, we took a drive around the grey town: York (encompassing York Harbor, York Village, York Beach and Cape Neddick) is a summer town and it always looks strikingly stark to me in the winter. I’ve also got some pictures of my stepmother’s Thanksgiving table here–before we messed it up. When we returned to Salem, all was icy and white but today is forecasted for the 50s so the terrain is returning to that golden brownish-green hue so characteristic of November.

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This cat o’nine tail exploded before we left; the rest burst while we were away (just one day and night!) Impossible to clean up all this fluff.

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Thanksgiving table: Della Robbia plates and Shaker chairs.

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Fifty shades of grey off Nubble Light.

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White on white: one of my favorite houses in York, and the gargoyle outside my parents’ house.

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My favorite childhood painting.

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Back home; sunny Sunday.


The Last Week of July

The last week of July was full of contrasts and transitions for me: we spent most of it in York Harbor, but I traveled back every other day for my evening class, we left for Maine on a dark rainy day in which a tornado swept down in a town just to the south of Salem (very unusual for Massachusetts) and enjoyed clear sunny days thereafter, the late-summer flowers are of course also a study in contrasting color. For the most part, we’ve been so fortunate this summer to have beautiful weather: often sunny, never too hot, with rain occurring often enough to keep everything green. I hope this continues throughout August but the dog days do threaten……anyway, here are my favorite photographs from the week, mostly of gardens and flowers. I have included a photograph of the best ice cream stand in the world, Brown’s in York Beach, my father’s prized Swiss chard, and the gardens at Stonewall Kitchen’s company store in York, which are always inspiring–even the vegetables look beautiful (actually my father’s Swiss chard looks pretty good too). There are “soft” spots in nearly every picture so I apologize in advance: my camera lens got a bit smudgy when I was trying to take the first picture in the rain, and I never noticed until just this morning.

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