Monthly Archives: July 2014

Maritime History and Mansions at the Marblehead Museum

museum galleryMarblehead is a small coastal town with a lot of charm and personality.  Its rich history (which includes, among its numerous maritime feats, the birth of the US Navy), scenic coast (which has inspired artists for centuries) and beautiful homes are all brought together at the Marblehead Museum & Historical Society.  This week, we took a trip to Marblehead to visit the Museum and learn a bit of our region’s fascinating history.

Marblehead is known for its historic maritime contributions and fishing industries but did you know that it was also once a hub for shoe-making?  We usually associate shoes with the Merrimack Valley area of our region – Haverhill was even once known as the “Shoe Queen City” – but as the fishing industry waned a bit in the 19th century, Marbleheaders turned to making shoes for additional income – an industry that was soon to thrive.  This fascinating bit of history is the subject of the Museum’s current exhibit , “Fishing and Shoemaking in Marblehead” (on view through September) at their Washington Street gallery.  This exhibit is part of the Museum’s Marblehead 101 series which was created to introduce and showcase’s Marblehead’s unique history.

frostHoused in the Museum’s main location is also the J.O.J Frost Folk Art Gallery, a permanent collection of paintings and sculptures by Marblehead native J.O.J Frost.  A fascinating figure, Frost did not begin his artistic career until he was 70.  He was inspired by Marblehead and his boyhood memories of the town after the Civil War and, untrained as an artist, used materials he had on hand (such as house paint and found wood scraps) to create his pieces.  What Frost lacked in training, he more than made up for in talent – his pieces are a lovely glimpse into history, perhaps a bit idealized, but nevertheless portraying the beautiful simplicity of Marblehead at the end of the 19th century.  The Gallery is open year-round – Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4 June through October, and Tuesday-Friday, 10-4 November through May.

wallpaperMany jewels decorate the Marblehead Museum’s crown but, in our opinion, the brightest is the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, a breathtaking Georgian home located across the street from the Museum’s main building.  Built in 1768 for Marblehead’s wealthiest merchant and ship owner, Jeremiah Lee, the Mansion is a grand piece of architecture with a lovely summer garden in the back.  And, spectacularly, the mansion stands in a near-original state, a testament to the expert craftsmen and artists whose original work (which includes gorgeous handpainted wallpaper) has lasted for centuries and the careful care of the mansion’s 3 owners in the past ~250 years.  Unlike most historic homes, the entire Jeremiah Lee Mansion (all 17 rooms) is on view for visitors.  Tours of the Mansion are available June through October, Tuesday-Saturday 10-4.

No trip to Marblehead would be complete without a tour of the Mansion – we cannot recommend it enough!  The historic significance and careful preservation make the Mansion a North Shore must-see for historians and architecture enthusiasts alike.  The Mansion is so perfectly and wonderfully decorated that walking through the doors is like stepping back in time.  The lavish entry alone, with its beautifully hand-painted wallpaper and  meticulously hand-carved stair railings, is enough to make your jaw drop.


Fun Fact – George Washington may not have slept at the Lee Mansion, but he did pay a visit to Marblehead’s wealthiest citizen. Washington visited Marblehead to thank the people for their contributions to the Revolutionary War.  And he was certainly not the first famous figure to visit the Mansion.  A shipping merchant, it was likely that Lee was involved in transporting arms for the Colonial army.  He met with several Revolutionary War leaders and it was after one of these meetings in Lexington that Lee died.  Strangely enough, none of Jeremiah Lee’s personal papers exist – it is believed that he instructed his wife to burn them upon his death as they contained information about some of these secret dealings and incriminating evidence that Lee was involved with the Colonial rebellion against the British.

The Marblehead Museum is also preserving history dated to another important American war, the Civil War.  The G.A.R & Civil War Museum is also open for visitors on select dates throughout the year.  The G.A.R (Grand Army of the Republic) was an organization formed to provide support for Civil War veterans and their families – an important early step in supporting our veterans. The G.A.R. room is preserved just as it was when it last held a meeting in the 1930s and the Museum features uniforms, weapons, and period images on display.

For more information on the Marblehead Museum & Historical Society, please visit  Be sure to keep up with the Museum’s upcoming events at

Thank you to the Marblehead Museum for inviting us to visit (and for the fantastic tour) and for supplying the photos for this blog! 

The Secret Case of the Village Theatre Company

ABBphoto-4330 (2)Arthur Conan Doyle’s new detective manuscript is missing and young H.G. Wells only has an hour and a half to find it – what is he going to do? It’s up to novice detectives, Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson to find it.  Unfortunately, thanks to Wells’ new time machine, Holmes and Watson accidentally end up in the 21st century!

To make matters worse, our duo are not only two fish-out-of-water, but they end up in the Freudly Institute among fellow patients Marilyn Monroe, Tarzan, Lizzie Borden, Queen Victoria, Count Dracula, and George Washington!  There’s just one problem – the Institute is for people with grandiose delusions and the doctors think Sherlock is their newest patient (and Watson his personal doctor just playing along!).

As if that was not enough, a mysterious dead body is found outside and it’s up to Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery, find the manuscript, and prove that he really is the famous Sherlock Holmes in the Village Theatre Company’s hilarious new production, “The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes.”

ABBphoto-4171 (2)The Village Theatre Company began in 2009 with the goal to create a fun, creative, and positive environment for actors and crew alike to come together and feel comfortable and welcome.  Village Theatre lives by the proverb that “it takes a village” and successfully strives to put the community back into community theater.  Have a budding (or experienced) actor in the family?  All are invited and encouraged to audition for Village Theatre’s upcoming shows.  It’s a great experience for actors young and old alike.  Village Theatre Company is more than a theater group – they are a friendly, welcoming, tight-knit theater family always eager to assist each other, encourage individual expression, and help each other to grow.

“Sherlock” is a fun, witty show featuring a talented, clever cast.  Part of what makes the show so enjoyable is that the actors on stage are having as must fun performing as the audience does watching.  The show runs this Friday, July 18th through Sunday, July 20th.  There are two shows on Saturday, July 19th; a 2pm matinee and a 7pm evening show.  The shows are performed at the Laurel Grange (21 Garden Street, West Newbury, MA).  It’s the perfect show for the whole family to attend!

ABBphoto-4228 (2)We eagerly look forward to Village Theatre upcoming production “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” the hilarious musical “[lovingly] ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail'” which is set to hit the stage this winter.  Being familiar with the show and knowing Village Theatre’s excellent quality, we can say that this is one musical you don’t want to miss!

In the meantime, keep up with the Village Theatre Company on Twitter @VTCvillage or visit their website – and sign up for their e-mail list.


ABB LogoAll photos in the blog are courtesy of Amy Brogna Baione Photography – you can see more of Amy’s excellent photos at

Taking in the views at the Emerson Inn by the Sea

innNestled on a quiet street in Rockport is the Emerson Inn by the Sea.  As the name suggests, this historic inn is an oasis of relaxation and tranquility with unparalleled clear views of the ocean.

The Inn is named after transcendentalist author Ralph Waldo Emerson who visited Rockport in the the mid-1800s with friend Henry David Thoreau (on an apparent vacation from Walden Pond) when it was known as the Pigeon Cove House.  The House itself was a tavern before Hannah Jumper and her teetotalling Hatchet Gang raided Rockport, crusading against the “demon rum” and leaving the small town “dry” until 2005.  In the wake of Ms. Jumper, owner William Norwood turned the popular Pigeon Cove tavern into a boarding house.  After Norwood’s death, the Inn was sold to a Mrs. Robinson (no, not that Mrs. Robinson) who had the building moved from Pigeon Cove to its current location where it was extensively renovated and reopened as the Hotel Edward a name that stuck until 1964 when the new owners, the Wemyss family, renamed it after Emerson’s visit nearly 100 years prior.  We were lucky to get a first-hand tour of the Inn from current owner Bruce Coates.

pic_rms_kc_2Open year-round, the Emerson Inn by the Sea features 36 rooms and suites, each carefully and brightly decorated with antiques and clever reproductions which recall the simple elegance of the turn-of-the-century.  Each room is appointed a private bathroom, air conditioning, telephone, data port, wireless high-speed internet, cable television, and more – all modern luxuries that, along with the relaxing environment, help make your stay comfortable and serene.

Part of what sets the Emerson Inn apart from similar accommodations is the environment.  From the moment you walk through the front doors, you are greeted by the friendly staff (all eager to help make your stay memorable and serene).  Nothing at the Emerson Inn is rushed or hectic – the atmosphere is very laid back and casual.

Feeling stressed and unable to lay back and relax on your trip? Be sure to make an appointment at Le Petite Spa (located at the Inn) and enjoy a soothing massage from one of their wonderful massage therapists.

DSC_0366Perhaps the cherry on the Emerson Inn’s cake is their Grand Cafe.  The Boston Globe surmised it the best when they wrote that “Looking out over a garden and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, there are few more charming and picturesque settings than the one from this coveted seat at Emerson Inn By the Sea… The Grand Café has raised the standard for restaurants in Rockport.” Even if you are just in Rockport for a day trip, be sure to stop by the Cafe.  Breakfast is available year-round (chef Gail’s fried egg sandwiches cannot be beat!) and the new lunch menu is available from 12-3pm.  Looking to spend a romantic evening with that special someone?  Stop by the Grand Cafe for dinner (available Tuesday-Sunday).  Their Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning wine menu has the perfect libation to complement your romantic meal.  

Whether you’re planning a cozy romantic getaway or a wedding, conference, or special event, the Emerson Inn, with its comfortable rooms and unparalleled views, is the perfect place to stay and take in the beauty and culture of Rockport and Cape Ann.

For more information on the Emerson Inn by the Sea, please visit

For a list of their wonderful vacation packages, click here.


View from the Emerson Inn rooftop


Fun Fact!  Remember the Hatchet Gang?  While Rockport remained a dry town for over a century, this prohibition was repealed in 2005.  The Emerson Inn was actually the first Rockport business to receive a liquor license – a funny turn of events, seeing as the property started out as a tavern! 

A bit of North of Boston military history



For today’s “Fun Fact Friday” on our Facebook page, we asked our followers if they knew the National Guard originated in Salem, MA. Indeed, last year, President Obama signed a bill naming Salem as the official birthplace of the National Guard.  In 1636, the North, South, and East Regiments of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was formed – these three regiments first convened on Salem Common (a meeting celebrated by National Guard members every April on the Common).

But did you know that two other military branches also trace their roots back to the North of Boston region?

In 1791, the Massachusetts, a vessel built in Newburyport, was launched into service under the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service – a group that later evolved into the US Coast Guard.  That, coupled with Newburyport’s other notable maritime endeavors and bustling 18th century port, has given the city much reason to be proclaimed the birthplace of the Coast Guard.  This title, despite the historical evidence to back it up, is not “official.”  The Massachusetts was just one of seven vessels launched in 1791 – three of which may have launched before Newburyport’s cutter.


Photo: commons/8/87/Custom_House_Maritime _Museum.jpg

While Newburyport does have a very strong claim to the title of being the birthplace of the US Coast Guard (along with a signed 1965 proclamation by then-President Johnson), the Coast Guard itself does not name any one location as it’s official birthplace.  Instead, in 2012, Newburyport was honored by the Coast Guard’s Commandment’s Proclamation declaring the city “A Coast Guard City” during the celebration of the Coast Guard’s 222nd anniversary at the Custom House Maritime Museum.  Newburyport was the 14th city to be bestowed this honor, but, in our opinion, if any one of these cities were to be declared the birthplace, it would be Newburyport.

So, what about the third military branch with regional roots?  That would be the US Navy.  And for naval, military, and local history buffs, the distinction of being called the birthplace of the Navy is a tough battle with 5 (5!) cities laying strong claims to the title; 2 of which are neighbors within the North of Boston region.  We will delve right into that sticky situation in Part 2 of this blog series.