Monthly Archives: May 2014

Certainly not shutter shy…

The Huffington Post recently named Newburyport and Gloucester among 15 of New England’s most picturesque towns.  We certainly agree and thought the article rather timely as we had just done 2 photography field trips to both towns and got some beautiful photos.  Which North of Boston towns do you think are the most picturesque?  Visit us over at our Facebook page – we’d love to hear what you think and see your photos!

(Photos by Kristina Smith)


Bartlett Mall, Newburyport


Lightpost, Newburyport MA

beauport garden

Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, Gloucester


Beauport tree, Gloucester


Beach, Gloucester


What’s in a name?

Tucks Point in Manchester

Tucks Point

Many of the 34 cities and towns of the North of Boston region were once known by different names: Salisbury was once “Colchester,” Danvers was “Salem Village,” and Lynn was, in a confusing turn of events, incorporated as “Saugus.”  The beautiful coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea was once called…”Manchester.”

Okay, so originally, Manchester-by-the-Sea was known as “Jeoffereyes Creeke”.  That name did not last long and the town was renamed “Manchester” in 1645.  But why the addition of “by the sea”?

Aside from Rhode Island, each New England state has a town called “Manchester.”  During the days of railroad travel, this became a little confusing (especially since Manchesters New Hampshire and Massachusetts are only 65 miles apart).  Railroad conductors thus began to call Manchester, MA “Manchester-by-the-Sea.”  This visually descriptive name helped to differentiate Manchester, MA from the others.


Manchester, Singing Beach Moonrise credit Dale Blank

Singing Beach – Dale Blank

The people of Manchester liked the descriptive name and took a fancy to it.  Manchester was a popular seaside resort town frequented by everyone from presidents and politicians to actors at the turn of the 20th century and the new name seemed to suit the town well in everyone’s opinion.

By “everyone” we mean “everyone but Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.”  Holmes thought the name pretentious and would address letters to Manchester friends from “Boston-by-the-Charles.”

Manchester officially became Manchester-by-the-Sea in 1989 – so today, only Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the only two New England states without a town called “Manchester.”

(Additional Fun Fact: each New England state does have a town called “Warren”)


This Old First Period House


Coffin House (1678), Newbury. Photo from

For today’s “Fun Fact Friday” on our Facebook page, we did a post on how Ipswich has the most “First Period” homes in the country.  But, does “First Period home” mean?

“First Period” generally refers to the first period of settlement in the United States – the early 1600’s-early 1700’s.  Due to this early time period in American history, “First Period” architecture is only found in the areas of the United States settled before 1700 and most of these structures are found in coastal New England

Historic New England has a fantastic Architectural Style Guide which covers the style and characteristics of the “First Period” (or “Post-Medieval English”).  The structures are wood-framed and covered with clapboard or shingles (due to the abundance of wood).  The homes are typically two stories tall and have chimneys located in the center of the home (the best and most efficient location to heat the entire home).  The homes also feature steep roofs and small windows with diamond panes.


Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House, Wenham. Photo from

Historic New England also has a fantastic slideshow on their website, featuring great examples of “First Period” homes.  Many of these homes in Essex County are open to the public on “17th Century Saturdays”, the first Saturday of the month from June-October.


Whipple House (1677), Ipswich

Rebecca Nurse House, Danvers

Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Danvers

Stepping into the past with Salt Marsh Antiques

syrup canThroughout the North of Boston region, there are numerous treasure troves known as antique shops.  A fun weekend activity is to go “antiquing” along Route 133/1-A where the majority of the antique shops are located.  This week, we made our way down Route I-A and visited Salt Marsh Antiques in Rowley.  More than a treasure trove, Salt Marsh Antiques is like stepping into a time machine.  Situated in a historic barn, the store is a place where the past becomes tangible.

The barn itself was built in the early 1800s.  By the 1980s, the barn was in rough shape and was to be burned down, if not for Robert Cianfrocca intervening.  He purchased the house and the barn and set to raising the barn (by himself!) and opened Salt Marsh Antiques in 1986.

DSC_0229  DSC_0246

(The barn before and after being raised and renovated)

I was lucky to meet with Bobby (who, besides being an antiques expert is also a photography ace) and get a first-hand tour of the shop.  He explained that there are two levels of antiques: “real antiques” which are 100+ years old and “period antiques” which date to the 18th century.  More modern pieces are “period” pieces – retro, vintage, and other assorted synonyms.  The store itself is full of amazing pieces; all beautiful to look at and fascinating with the stories they have to tell.

Books on shelf

lampDuring my visit, I learned a bit about antiques and the antique market.  It’s hard to predict whether an item will be incredibly valuable or not – the antiques market is constantly flip-flopping and ever-changing.  Bobby explained that high-end pieces, such as jewelry, paintings, and antique furniture, sell better and quickly, but the demand and prices for certain pieces are greatly influenced by the electronic media.  For example, when Martha Stewart shared her affinity for jadeite, jadeite products became highly sought-after and prices skyrocketed.  After the fad faded away, prices depreciated and collectors, who had stocked up on jadeite thinking they could make a fortune, were left in the dust.

With a shop full of wonderful pieces ranging from sparkling jewelry and delicate glassware to sturdy, finely-crafted furniture, one wonder’s what Bobby’s favorite piece is.  He personally collects bog shoes (which are worn by horses in the salt fields and are very rare) and clocks, but has a special affinity for paintings from the mid-1800s and earlier.

DSC_0187After careful thought, he showed me a wonderful painting of ballerinas and explained that it was an oil painting by Peter Malkin.  Malkin was a Mossad agent undercover in Paris in the 1950s-60s (his cover was that of an artist). Malkin is best-known for capturing Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi official who was wanted for war crimes.  The painting itself is beautiful but the history behind the artist makes it an incredibly fascinating and special piece.

if you’re going to be in the North of Boston region, you must stop by Salt Marsh Antiques.  It’s impossible to visit without falling in love with at least one piece.  They are open Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:30pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-5pm.  On Fridays, they even do free appraisals on small items.



Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Folly Cove Rum!

doorNow that spring is officially here, we love to get out and explore the North of Boston region.  This week, while out and about researching local breweries and distilleries, we took a field trip to Ryan and Wood Distilleries in Gloucester.

Ryan and Wood Distilleries is truly a family affair (we were lucky to meet the Ryan family – Kathy, Bob, and Doug – on our tour). Family-owned, their passion for distilling is contagious and their knowledge of everything from distilling and its history, Gloucester, and tourism is astounding.  The family’s roots go back a long way in the fishing industry.  However, seeing a decline in the industry, the family wanted to move over to manufacturing.  Kathy Ryan, our awesome tour guide, explained that the family looked towards manufacturing as a non-fishing blue collar industry for Gloucester.

bittlesPost-prohibition, few small distilleries re-opened in the United States.  Americans had grown used to  having to import their liquor from overseas distilleries (today, over 90% of liquor in the US is made overseas) and the distillation process was extremely regulated and difficult to break into (due to the fact that improperly-distilled liquor can be lethal)  In fact, in 2006, Ryan and Wood received the 73rd license to distill in the U.S. since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 (the first on the North Shore!). Distillation remains a small industry and, today, there are a little over 400 distilleries in the country.

 During our tour, it was obvious that a lot of hard work and care goes into all of Ryan and Wood’s products.  And, it’s well worth it; their products – Folly Cove Rum, Knockabout Gin, Beauport Vodka, and Rye Whiskey – are fabulous.  The products are authentically hand-crafted with only the finest ingredients and reflect and recall the beauty and history of Gloucester.

stillWe cannot recommend a visit to Ryan and Wood Distilleries enough.  The free one-hour tours are absolutely fantastic and it’s fascinating to see such a neat product made – from grains, to distillation, to the aging process in giant barrels, to the hand-bottling and packaging.  The tours are also super-informative – we have pages of interesting tidbits we could share, but it’s so much more fun to take the tour than read about it! We will say though that one of the highlights is seeing the massive, 17-foot copper still custom-built in Germany.  With Father’s Day coming up in next month, a trip to Ryan and Wood would round out a fun afternoon spent with Dad.

Tours are available Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.  Ryan and Wood also offers private and group tours – please call (978) 281-2282 for reservations.