A Day in Salem

Every year, Destination Salem hosts Salem Tourism Day, a day to celebrate all that makes Salem wonderful and unique for visitors.  We were delighted to join our fellow tourism colleagues for a day dedicated to exploring the spooky, glamorous, literary, nautical, and delicious sides of this multifaceted city

TrolleyEssexStChauffeured by the Salem Trolley, the day began with a step back in time aboard one of the Trolley’s special tours.  After dark, the spirits of Salem come alive for the Salem Trolley’s “Tales & Tombstones” tour. This hour-long, narrated tour takes you through scenes of murders, ghosts, secrets, curses, and legends.  Spooky and often silly, this tour is a must for visitors interested in Salem’s colorful history (just make sure that one of the tour’s many spirits didn’t hitch a ride on the trolley with you!).  “Tales and Tombstones” is available on Fridays and Saturdays, July-August, and Thursdays-Sundays in October.  Be sure to reserve your tickets today – this popular tour sells out quickly!

After looking back at Salem’s scarier history, we were treated to trip aboard the Friendship, the National Park Service’s replica of the 1797 Salem East Indiaman Friendship.  A fascinating look into the mercantile shipping and trading, the Friendship is a great place to start exploring Salem’s history as a bustling port.  The Friendship is open for tours year-round (please schedule your tour in advance November through April).

Friendship of Salem - Krsitina Smith

Once we were finished roaming the high seas, we were treated to lunch at Salem’s newest restaurant, the Sea Level Oyster Bar.  With unparalleled views of Pickering Wharf, Sea Level offers the freshest seafood, incredible gourmet pizzas, and so much more.  The menu is a can’t-miss – everything is great (Sea Level’s chef, aside from being crazy-talented, was a contestant on TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen”).  Did we mention the amazing indoor/outdoor bar on the second floor?


After lunch, it was time to explore Salem’s glamorous side.  A city of infamous history, scenic waterfront, and gorgeous architecture, it’s no wonder that several movie and television productions have used the city as a backdrop.  Salem Historical Tours’ TV & Movie Sites Tour takes you around to various locations featured in such films as “Bride Wars,” “Hocus Pocus,” “American Hustle,” and more.

to play withOur day in Salem ended with a trip to the House of the Seven Gables.  The inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name (Hawthorne’s cousin, Susanna Ingersoll owned the house), it is immensely appealing for bibliophiles, history buffs, and fans of architecture.  A tour of the house gives you an insight into life in the 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century Salem, marking structural and cosmetic changes to the house.  This 359-year-old landmark does not disappoint.  Also located on the property are the Retire Beckett House (1655), Hooper-Hathaway House (1682), Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace (1750), and The Counting House (1830).  During your visit, be sure to meander through the gorgeous Seaside Gardens which encompass four centuries of planting schemes.

For more information on Salem (including upcoming events, itineraries, and a terrific blog), visit www.salem.org.

April Showers and May Flowers: The Gardens of the North of Boston (Part III)

DanversGlen Magnaformal garden_credit Heather King

Glen Magna Formal Garden – photo by Heather King

The first blossoms have arrived and the air is fragrant with sweet aromas – the garden season is just about here in the North of Boston region!  Throughout this spring we have brought you a series of blogs on the region’s many gorgeous gardens and are wrapping up with three more wonderful places to visit.  Yes. we know that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to these hidden gems, but we don’t want to spoil the fun in discovering a new garden to explore.  Along your journey, though, you should definitely visit..

Beauport garden sundial - gloucesterBeauport, the Sleeper-McCann House Gardens
75 Eastern Point Boulevard
Gloucester, MA

The summer home of Henry Davis Sleeper, one of the first professional interior designers in the United States, Beauport is an Arts and Crafts-style mansion housing a curious and fascinating collections of colored glass, china, folk art, and more.  No two rooms are similar and each room is uniquely spectacular.  This spectacular attention to design and detail continues outside in the immaculate garden “rooms” which overlook Gloucester’s scenic waterfront.  These Arts and Crafts-style gardens were recently restored to reflect their original 1920s-30s appearance.  Beauport’s grounds are open Tuesday – Saturday, May 23-October 17.  Visitors are welcome to visit the grounds and gardens, bring picnics, or rent them for small gatherings/weddings.  For those especially interested in learning more about Beauport’s gardens, we recommend their Creating Beauport’s Historic Landscape event on May 21.  Learn how the landscape evolved over time, the philosophy behind the 2011 landscape restoration, and how the exterior of the house and the landscape play together.

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/Marbleheadmuseum

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/Marbleheadmuseum

Lee Mansion Gardens
161 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA

The Jeremiah Lee Mansion, owned and operated by the Marblehead Museum, is a marvelous example of Georgian architecture.  Built in 1768 by the wealthiest merchant and ship owner in Massachusetts, Jeremiah Lee, the spectacular and imposing mansion hides a wonderful secret – its historically-inspired gardens.  Maintained by the Marblehead Garden Club, the Lee Mansion Gardens are set out in a series of outdoor “rooms” (a configuration that we’ve come to see in many gardens while researching this blog).  The perennial border surrounds the large upper terrace, which overlooks the sundial garden with its octagonal-pattern of boxwood bushes.  The herb garden features a wide array of herbs authentic to the 18th century and a pea-stone path navigates through the lower garden with its native trees, wildflowers, and shade plants.  The beauty of the outdoors continues in the mansion where visitors are greeted with beautiful floral arrangements in the entry hall.  The Lee Mansion is open Tuesday through Saturday, June-October and visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the gardens with a new brochure the Marblehead Garden Club has put together.

Derby Summer House, Glen Magna. Photo by Amanda Levy, courtesy of Essex Heritage

Derby Summer House, Glen Magna. Photo by Amanda Levy, courtesy of Essex Heritage

Glen Magna Farms
Ingersoll Street
Danvers, MA

Much like Beauport, Glen Magna stands as a prime example of early 20th century summer living in the North of Boston region.  The property, anchored by a Colonial Revival house, encompasses eleven acres of scenic grounds and award-winning gardens.  In the late 1800s, Ellen Peabody Endicott, granddaughter of the property’s original owner Joseph Peabody, expanded and enhanced the grounds; work that paid off handsomely when she was awarded the Hunnewell Gold Medal from the MA Horticultural Society.  This prestigious award is given to the owner of an estate whose grounds are adorned with “rare and desirable ornamental trees and shrubs in a tasteful and effective manner so as to present successful examples of science, skill and good judgement as applied to the embellishment of the country residence.”  Most noted in the gardens is the Derby Summer House, a 1789 two-story “summer house” moved to the property in the early 20th century.   Glen Magna Farms is  currently owned by the Danvers Historical Society, who restored the gardens to their Ellen Peabody Endicott-era appearance and continue to uphold their noted (and beautiful) reputation.  Check out the Glen Magna Farms Gardens blog for photos and information on upcoming events.

How does your spring grow?

This spring, we’ve been bringing you a series of blogs on gardens in the North of Boston region (click here for part 1 and here for part 2).  Today, we decided to give you a “live” glimpse into spring in the North of Boston region, courtesy of some fantastic Facebook pages (follow the links below and give them a follow!). The way things are looking now, we’re in for a colorful spring and summer!


Tulips at the House of the 7 Gables, Salem. Via www.facebook.com/7gables

Blossoms at Marini Farm, Ipswich. Via www.facebook.com/marinifarm

Blossoms at Marini Farm, Ipswich. Via www.facebook.com/marinifarm 


Blooming peach trees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury

Blooming peach trees at Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury. Via www.facebook.com/ciderhillfarm01913


BearskinNeck.net - Daffodils at Waring Field, Rockport. Via

BearskinNeck.net – Daffodils at Waring Field, Rockport. Via www.facebook.com/bearskinneck


Ssockapella – Dogwood at Salem State University. Via www.facebook.com/SSockapella



Flowers - Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover

Stevens-Coolidge Place, North Andover


Earlier this month, we introduced you to one of the North of Boston region’s best hidden treasures – its numerous gardens!  As we get further into the spring and closer to the peak garden season, here are three more floral gems to visit as you navigate the region’s living history…

Photo by Leah Jones

Photo by Leah Jones

Ropes Mansion Garden
318 Essex Street, Salem
Gardens open year-round

Behind the Colonial Revival-styled Ropes Mansion in Salem’s McIntire Historic District lies a not-so-hidden secret: a formal garden.  Originally built in the Georgian style in 1727, the mansion underwent a Colonial Revival-inspired renovation in 1894.  In 1912, a garden was laid out to reflect the home’s new style.  Surrounding a central sundial, the paths of the garden lead you through grounds displaying a vast array of roses, hydrangea, and delphinium, as well as plenty of benches to relax on and a stocked koi pond.  Fun Fact – Don’t be surprised if the Ropes Mansion looks a little familiar upon your visit.  It was filmed as one of the characters’ homes in the movie “Hocus Pocus.”  (Thank you to the Salem Inn for additional information on this garden).

Atkinson Common fountains - NewburyportAtkinson Common
390 High Street, Newburyport

A popular backdrop for weddings, proms, and family photos, the gardens at Atkinson Common are a Newburyport staple.  In the 1870s, an open field off of High Street was left to the City of Newburyport.  The local families of the Belleville neighborhood worked to convert this blank canvas into a public park and garden and thus the Belleville Improvement Society was born.  For over 100 years, the Society has continued to preserve, maintain, and improve Atkinson Common, with its winding walkways, elaborate gardens, historic gazebo ,and lily pond.

The Common also features a Civil War statue and Soldier and Sailors Tablets to commemorate Newburyport’s Civil War veterans as well as a 50-foot stone observation tower.

Garden - Stevens-Coolidge Place, North AndoverStevens-Coolidge Place
137 Andover Street, North Andover
Gardens open daily, year-round, 8am-sunset.
Home closed to public with the exception of special tours and events

Inspired by the luscious gardens of Europe, the property formerly known as Ashdale Farm transformed into a chic, elegant estate under the care of Helen Stevens.  In the family since the early 1700s and farmed for generations, the property was inherited by Ms. Stevens and underwent a long transformation after she and her new husband, John Gardner Coolidge, made the farm their summer home around 1914.  Stevens, from one of North Andover’s founding families, and Coolidge, a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and the nephew of Isabella Stewart Gardner, were inspired by their travels around the world.  The country house, redesigned by Joseph Chandler (who, as we mentioned in our earlier post, had previously laid out the Seaside Gardens at the House of the Seven Gables), featured art and furniture from the couple’s trips around the world (Coolidge served as a diplomat in Mexico, Nicaragua, Europe, and Asia).  For the gardens, though, Helen Stevens and Joseph Chandler looked specifically towards France.

Featuring numerous perennials, roses, informal shrubs, herbs, fruit trees, and potted greenhouse plants, the gardens recall a French Chateau.  Organized into outdoor “rooms,” the gardens were meant to have a feeling of  “…simplicity and an indescribable air of peace,” according to Chandler.

Upon Helen Stevens Coolidge’s death in 1962, the property was left to the Trustees of Reservations who renamed it the Stevens-Coolidge Place to honor its former owners.  Admission to the property is free (on-site donations welcome).  While visiting the gardens, you may catch a glimpse of the many butterflies and birds attracted to the wide array of plants and flowers.  Foxes, owls, hawks, and frogs have also been known to visit the property as well.  On Fridays and Saturdays, in July and August, visitors are invited to purchase bouquets in the pick-your-own Cutting Garden.

April “Staycation”

Why spend April vacation in front of the TV when there’s so much to do and to explore?  The North of Boston region offers a myriad of awesome Vacation Week activities for kids of all ages – here are just a few of the fun things to do during April vacation (to check out more events, visit our school vacation calendar of events).

lil' cow - Appleton Farms, IpswichDig In! Farmer for a Week at Appleton Farms
April 21-23
Perfect for ages 9-12

Dig into the farm and roll up your sleeves in the kitchen! Discover how delicious food grows on the farm and ends up on your plate every day. Follow the life cycle of a plant from seed to harvest, learn how a cow can turn green grass into creamy milk, meet our farmers and much more. Get a taste of our Appleton Cooks! program as we take our fresh ingredients and prepare a scrumptious and healthy lunch in our farm kitchen every day.  Please call 978-356- 5728 ext.18 for more details.

earth-day-1024x450April Vacation Week Fun at the Wenham Museum
April 22-26

The Wenham Museum has week of April Vacation Fun planned for kids of all ages. Learn about reuse and recycling while creating recycled art and engaging in other outdoor activities during the Earth Day Celebration. Have your silhouette created by artist Carol Lebeaux or make your own art as you create your own character in your very own four-page story. Don’t miss their Frozen: The Real Story of Ice on Wenham Lake exhibit – from a sock-skating rink, fun, child-size ice house, and costumes too dress up like your favorite “Frozen” characters, this exhibit is too cool to miss!

Waterslide-cocokeySplash into vacation at CoCo Key!

Many deals and packages available for families to enjoy a fun day of swimming, slides, and more at Massachusetts’ largest indoor water park, CoCo Key.  With the “Family Four Pack,” families save up to $30 on day passes.  Or, buy one pass, get one free on “Thrifty Thursdays” (offer valid 4-9pm).

owl_birchbarkLet it Grow – School Vacation Week at the Peabody Essex Museum
April 21-23

Spread your branches to celebrate the return of spring and join the Peabody Essex Museum’s Earth Day festivities!  Enjoy art-making, demonstrations, and so much more!  Make your own paper or even learn to “leaves”drop on the inner (secret!) life of trees!

UntitledApril Vacation at the Cape Ann Museum
April 21-25
Ages 3-12

Join the Cape Ann Museum Activity Center for a great week of programs for kids of all ages!  Explore poetry and painting, learn about the many types of fish native to Cape Ann, make your own stamps,  and much, much more!  Click here for an event flyer and more information.  These programs are FREE for children (with the purchase of adult admission).

Exploring the North of Boston Region

Now that spring is here, why not go out and discover all that the North of Boston region has to offer? Our itineraries page features four fantastic self-guided itineraries to help you explore every nook and cranny of the region, discovering hidden gems, historical treasures, and much more on your journey.  These itineraries are great for first-time visitors wanting to soak in as much as the region as possible or seasoned natives who want to seasoned natives eager to delve into the treasures of their own back yards.

Schooner Lannon credit SAPearson

Schooner Lannon, Gloucester

Cape Ann – Sandy beaches, picturesque lighthouses, whale watches, great seafood, a thriving arts community, and historic harbors are waiting for you on Cape Ann.  Explore its four communities – Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea – as you navigate up routes 128 or 133.


GauntSquare - Methuen

Gaunt Square, Methuen

Merrimack Valley – This western part of the region is rich with industrial history – from the humming mills of Lawrence to the former “Shoe Queen City of the World,” Haverhill – and bursting with creativity, great shopping, numerous festivals, and fantastic food.


House of the 7 Gables - Salem. Photo by Brand USA

House of the 7 Gables, Salem. (Photo by Brand USA)

Greater Salem – From the Salem Witch Trials to the birth of the US Navy, National Guard, and marshmallow fluff, history is just one jewel in the crown of the Greater Salem area.  See a Broadway-style show, explore a 200-year-old Chinese house, view an expansive toy and doll collection, or spend your day at the country’s oldest agricultural fair as you tour this rich, multifaceted area.

Newburyport_MG_6193 MOTT

Market Square, Newburyport. (Photo by MOTT)

Greater Newburyport – Just a hop over the New Hampshire border, the Greater Newburyport area welcomes you with.  Enjoy beachfront dining and arcades, unique shopping, ample birding opportunities, numerous orchards and seasonal picking, historic harbors, and more historic homes than anywhere else in the country.

April Showers and May Flowers: The Gardens of the North of Boston (Part I)


Visiting the North of Boston region this spring and summer?  We’ll let you in on a little-known secret – one of the region’s best hidden treasures may be right under your feet.  And now that spring is (finally) here, and the snow is melting away, we can once again enjoy these beautiful, scenic, and incredibly photogenic gems – gardens!  Scattered throughout the North of Boston, these gardens reflect the history and beauty of the region.  Each garden has a unique story to tell, so while you’re in the region this spring, why not visit…

Willowdale garden - Topsfield, MA. Photo by Kristina SmithWillowdale Estate
24 Asbury Street, Topsfield MA

Set in the center of the North of Boston region, the Willowdale Estate is a 4-acre estate located in the spacious Bradley Palmer State Park.  Constructed in 1901 as the summer home of Bradley Palmer, Willowdale is a gem of subtle elegance and great charm.  It is a marvelous venue for weddings and its beautiful garden makes for the perfect backdrop for your outdoor event.   Maintained by the extremely talented Kim, the garden is a picturesque butterfly-attracting wonderland.  Willowdale offers a series of great events; including cooking classes, a Halloween party, and free house tours; throughout the year.  While you are visiting the estate, be sure to take a walk through the garden

Gables flowersSeaside Gardens – The House of the Seven Gables
115 Derby Street, Salem MA
Open year-round

The House of the Seven Gables is a literary and historical landmark that attracts visitors from around the world, but it’s the Gables’ Seaside Gardens that invites visitors to stay a little longer after their tour.  The Gardens reflect four centuries of planting schemes and hearken back to plantings of the Colonial era.  The garden beds were laid out by a landscape architect, Joseph Chandler, hired by the Gables’ founder Caroline Emmerton in 1909.  Emmerton wanted the gardens to be an “oasis of beauty” enjoyed by all and was fastidious in regards to the gardens’ maintenance (these high standards are still in practice today).  The gardens feature a rose trellis, delphinium, sweet William, chrysanthemums, impatiens, lavender, santolina, a Wisteria Arbor, and many more beautiful plants, herbs, and flowers.  Most prominent are the lilacs whose unobtrusive color and lilting scent set the serene environment of the garden.

Gate in Long Hill garden - BeverlySedgwick Gardens – Long Hill
572 Essex Street, Beverly MA
Open daily, year-round, 8am-5pm.  Guided tours offered in the spring, summer, and fall.

Long Hill is a 114-acre property purchased by publisher Ellery Sedgwick in 1916.  Sedgwick’s wife, Mabel, was a talented gardener and horticulturist with an ambitious green thumb who designed a whimsical landscape which continues to inspire 100 years later.  The Sedgwick Gardens are laid out very much like a house – each section is a separate “room,” if you will, with its own distinct features and decoration.  After Mabel Sedgwick’s death in 1937, the gardens were enhanced by the second Mrs. Sedgwick who had an extensive knowledge of rare and exotic plants (Mr. Sedgwick had a thing for green thumbs, apparently…).  Fun Fact: Does the last name sound a little familiar?  Ellery Sedgwick’s older brother’s (Henry Dwight Sedgwick) great-granddaughter is actress Kyra Sedgwick.  And thus, Long Hill is only a few degrees away from Kevin Bacon.

lynch park garden-CH-SUMMER OF 2008 007Rose Garden – Lynch Park
Beverly, MA
Open daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day, 8am-10pm

The 16 acres known today as David S. Lynch Memorial Park were originally known as Woodbury’s Point.  With its seven-gun battery, the fort at Woodbury’s Point was an important location to keep Beverly’s port safe and secure – after the British troops closed Boston Harbor, the coastal town of Beverly had become an important port from which to cut off British supply lines.  By the 20th century, Beverly had become a posh location for Boston’s wealthy to spend their summers.  Many luxurious summer homes were built and Woodbury’s Point became Burgess Point.  The Evans family built one of the finest summer estates on the North Shore on Burgess Point and one of their cottages was rented by none other than President Taft during the summers of 1909 and 1910.  Apparently, Mrs. Evans was not fond of the hoopla and bustle surrounding her celebrity tenant and informed the President that the summer of 1910 would be his last on her property as she was taking down the cottage and putting an Italian rose garden in its place.  President Taft moved to a summer home on Corning Street, the cottage was moved to Marblehead, and the rose garden, with its gorgeous imported plants and shrubs, still stands today.

But wait, you may ask, who was David S. Lynch and where does he come into this story?  Lynch never actually lived at Burgess Point – he was the owner of a leather factory who wanted to make sure that everyone in Beverly had a beautiful outdoor place to visit and enjoy.  When he died in 1942, he left $400,000 to the Lynch Park Board of Trustees to buy and maintain a public park.  At that time, Burgess Point was owned by Beverly Hospital, who found the land expensive to keep up and happily sold it to the LPBoT for $50,000.  The hospital was happy to have the land off its hands and the city of Beverly had a splendid piece of land for everyone to enjoy.


Easter’s on its way!

Though it barely feels like spring, Easter is just a few days away!  Grab your best hat and celebrate the season with one of the many marvelous regional events hop-pening in the next week (we hear that the Easter Bunny himself will be making a few special appearances!).

downloadAndover Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday, March 28 | 10-11:30am

Children ages 2-10 will enjoy games, prizes, arts & crafts, pictures, with the Easter Bunny, and egg-decorating at the Andover Easter Egg hunt!  An egg hunt will conclude the festivities.  Pre-registration required at andoverdcs.com/events/egghunt.

egg-cellent adventursEgg-cellent Easter Adventure at Appleton Farms
Saturday, April 4 | 10am-12pm

Go on the “Egg-cellent” Quest around the farm and learn about the journey from egg to chicken, collecting Easter eggs at each station to complete the Quest! Enjoy homemade refreshments in our Carriage Barn, visit with the calves, and play games in the stone paddock!

EggHuntRockport Community Egg Hunt
Saturday, April 4 | 2pm

The Rockport Division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce sponsors an Annual Rockport Community Egg Hunt the Saturday before Easter for the children of the town each year. In addition to an appearance by the Easter Bunny, an assortment of candies and chocolates are distributed and the hunt also features a number of special eggs to be redeemed for prizes.

colorful easter eggs and branch with flowersEaster Brunch at the Salem Waterfront Hotel
Sunday, April 5 | 10am-3pm

Our entire staff invites you and your family to one of the most celebrated dining experiences on the North Shore – Easter Brunch at Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites! The Easter Bunny will be visiting all day for photos.  Complimentary dining for children 3 and under.
For reservations, call 978 619-1120.

Easter-Sunday-Grand-BuffetEaster Sunday Grand Buffet at the Hawthorne Hotel
Sunday, April 5 | 10:30am-7pm

Enjoy delicious food and meet the Easter bunny at Salem’s historic Hawthorne Hotel. For reservations, please call 978-825-4311.

anniversaries3Danversport Yacht Club’s Bountiful Easter Dinner Buffet
Sunday, April 5 | 12-5pm

Easter Dinner Buffet in the Garden Terrace-Featuring Carving Stations, Pasta Stations, Salad Stations and Delicious Desserts!

tEaster Brunch Jazz Cruise on the Beauport Princess
Sunday, April 5 | 1-4pm

Join us for live jazz, a gourmet buffet brunch, a cruise around our lovely harbor and even an appearance from the Easter Bunny himself! It’s a perfect way to enjoy Easter with your family!  Call early for reservations, this cruise always sells out – 978-865-3210

There was a paper house…

Rockport, Massachusetts is known for many things – its beautiful coastline, thriving arts scene, fishing industry, terrific seafood, and an isolated incident of hatchet-wielding. But did you know that Rockport is also home to a house made entirely of paper?


Photo: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/02/1e/ca/0f/the-paper-house.jpg

1922 was a good time for Elis F. Stenman.  The mechanical engineer from Cambridge was building a summer home in Rockport and wanted to use pressed paper as insulation.  The insulation, made of layers of newspapers stuck together with glue, was varnished on the outside and rather water-proof.  And then Stenman decided to take the paper a little further.


Does a paper piano need sheet music? (Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/Paper_House,_Pigeon_Cove,_MA_-_IMG_7042.JPG)

When completed, Elis Stenman was now the proud owner of a house made of paper. The outside of the house was sided with paper, the furniture made out of rolls of paper, the drapes were paper, and even the mantle on the fireplace was made of paper.  In fact, everything in the house was now paper, save the fireplace and piano (but those were covered with paper to match the rest of the paper-motif).

The funny thing is, no one knows why.  Stenman did design machines that manufactured paperclips, so perhaps he wanted to bring home a piece of his work.  Maybe he was curious and wanted to see how long a house of paper lasted.  Or, he was just cheap.  Whatever the reasoning, the Paper House still stands strong nearly 100 years later (and is fully-equipped with electricity!).

If you’re visiting Rockport, be sure to stop by the Paper House.  It’s a uniquely curious bit of history and creativity.  The house is open daily, 10am-5pm, from spring through fall.  Admission is a very fair $2.00 for adults ant $1.00 for children 6-14.

For more information, please visit paperhouserockport.com.  The website features some great pictures of the house and a fascinating interview with Stenman’s grandniece and Paper House caretaker, Edna Beaudoin that offers more insight into Elis Stenman and his house.



North of Boston Historical Figures – Hatchet Hannah and the Demon Rum

Between 1856 and 2005, Rockport was a dry town.  While its neighbor Gloucester, with its distilleries, breweries, and numerous restaurants, embraced libations, Rockport cast a fearful eye to the past and recalled memories of angry wives and hatchets,

Much as it is today, Rockport in 1856 was a quiet little town.  A fishing village, many of Rockport’s men were fisherman who were only able to work for part of the year.  So how did they spend their free time? Idling and drinking.  Rockport was pretty much isolated from the hustle and bustle of cities like Salem and Newburyport and there was not much else for the men to do with their free time.  Since this mandatory vacation occurred during the harsh New England winter, the men were stuck within the confines of their homes with their increasingly irritated wives who, we assume, didn’t particularly enjoy spending 3 months inside with a drunk fisherman retelling the same story about the fish *this big* they nearly caught 10 years ago.

The mid-1800s saw the rise of the temperance movement so instead of blaming the issue on boredom and lack of productivity, the women of Rockport pointed an angry finger at alcohol.  Meeting in secret, under the guise of dark, the women made plans to rid Rockport of the “demon rum” and marked the lawns of their targets with small, white crosses.


Beneath that snood and calm demeanor is probably a hatchet…

Most irritated and infuriated was Hannah Jumper, a 75 year old seamstress.  Jumper was skilled with a needle and had a talent for making medicines from her herb garden.  She was also enthusiastic, outspoken – a natural leader for Rockport’s prohibitionettes.

On the morning of July 8, 1856, Hannah and her Jumpettes unfurled their large banner decorated with a large black hatched painted on it and red tassels.  The “Hatchet Gang,” as they were known, marched down the streets, toward their targets (homes and businesses where, they suspected, liquor was stored, served, or sold).

The banner wasn’t all that threatening – no one was going to dump all of their liquor because a mild-mannered group of women led by an elderly seamstress said so.  The Hatchet Gang, though, was prepared for this and from beneath their delicate shawls came actual hatchets.

They destroyed every bottle, jug, keg, and cask they could find.

The women raided at least 13 different establishments to the angry threats of the owners.  Not one Jumpette, though, was arrested.  The people of Rockport stood in awe, mouth agape.  Shop owner Jim Brown did try to sue the women on three different occasions.  And three sympathetic juries ruled against him, only to have the verdict overruled twice by higher courts.  The third time, however, was the charm and the jury’s verdict stuck – the women were innocent and Jim Brown had to pay their court costs (which amounted to $346.25).

In 2005, Rockport’s prohibition ended.  The first business to receive a liquor license was, in a strange twist of fate,  the Emerson Inn by the Sea – a hotel that had started out as a tavern but was converted when alcohol was outlawed in town.

(On a side note, any North of Boston historical figure named “Hannah” should probably be avoided…she most likely wields a hatchet and an axe to grind…)

Photo: http://www.seecapeann.com/assets/images/hannah.jpg

Frozen in Salem

Seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d bring you a little something sweet to celebrate (we admit it – we’re notorious procrastinators when it comes to Valentine’s gifts).  Last year, we brought you on a delicious field trip to Harbor Sweets.  This year, we took another field trip to Salem to explore Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, an annual event that celebrates February’s defining characteristics: cold weather and chocolate.


DSC_0472Every year, just as love starts to warm up the chilly February air, Salem shows off its sweet side.  Kicking off with a Chocolate & Wine Tasting event, Salem’s So Sweet brings 2 weeks of sweet, savory fun to help you fight off the harsh winter weather.  The Golden Ticket, available at many participating businesses, is your key to special discounts and offerings throughout Salem.  Receive 15% off your purchase at Harbor Sweets, fabulous discounts in the Salem Witch Museum’s gift shop, or try the delicious Salem’s So Sweet Special at Finz.  Don’t forget to have your ticket validated – you can enter to win the wonderful Salem’s So Sweet gift basket.  Could it get any sweeter than that?

Well, yes, it can!  As you walk around the city, enjoy the ice sculptures placed around downtown.  Sponsored by local businesses and attractions, these sculptures range from the whimsical to the humorous, thought-provoking, adorable, and fun.

Unfortunately for us, the frequent snowstorms this year had delayed our trip to the festival.  This cloud has a silver lining, however; thanks to the extremely cold weather, the ice sculptures have been wonderfully preserved throughout the event.  So, why not spend Valentine’s with your sweetheart and explore all that Salem has to offer this winter?  The Festival runs through this Sunday, February 15th.  For more information, please click here.


Massachusetts Must-Trys – Candlepin Bowling


This looks inherently wrong to us… (http://woodlandstringband.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/bowling-4.jpg)

The internet has introduced us to a world of unknowns – we’ve learned some great things and even more scary ones.  Most importantly, though, the internet has taught us that there is a big, wide world out there where people bowl rather strangely.  This is something we learned first-hand on our first trip to Kings in Lynnfield- alongside the fantastic food and fun atmosphere is a version of bowling not well-known in Massachusetts.

You see, bowling is a little different here…

In post-Civil War America, bowling became very popular  There were many different pin types and shapes to suit a bowler’s preferences.  Shockingly, most bowlers preferred the fatter, bottle-shaped pins which were easier to knock down.  Easier bowling meant that the game easily became boring, so around 1885 billiard room-owner Justin White (of Worcester, MA) sought to make the game a little more interesting by using thinner “candlestick” pins (pictured below) and a smaller, 4-inch ball.

Another Worcester man, John J. Monsey loved the idea and ran with it.  He upped the ball size to 4.5 inches (today’s standard ball size) and popularized the new “version” of bowling throughout the city.  Candlepin bowling quickly spread throughout New England.  According to one source, candlepin bowling tended to be confined to dark basements of buildings.  In the 1950s, a 12-lane alley (with a rollers skating rink) opened in Newburyport.  It was bright, fun, and utilized the new automated pin setting technology.  Other bowling proprietors saw this bowling alley and used it as a model for building similar establishments.  Today, candlepin is played throughout Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Canada’s Maritime Provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.  It’s a Northeast thing.




So what makes candlepin bowling different from “big ball” (as we call “tenpin”) bowling?  Well, for one, it’s harder. Much, much harder.  The game is played with a smaller, solid ball (a little larger than a softball) and the tall, thin pins are spaced farther apart.  “Wood,” or pins that have been knocked down during your frame, is not removed between each time you bowl (they’re quite helpful in knocking down more pins).  The player bowls 3 times per frame, not 2 as in tenpin, and the maximum score is 300.  The highest recorded score in candlepin bowling is 245 (set in 1984 and matched in 2011).  We average a 60. On a good day.

So, if you are visiting the North of Boston region and are up for a challenge, we highly recommend you try your hand at candlepin bowling. It’s a lot of fun and, in our opinion, one of those hidden gems in the treasure chest of Yankee tradition.



We all scream for…Ice?

When it comes to luxury goods, connoisseurs demand the best-of-the-best.  For the best watch, you buy a Rolex.  The best jewelry? Tiffany’s, Cartier, or Harry Winston. And for the best ice you go to…Wenham?

From circus queens to marketing mavens, deer informants, and the shady history of seafood, we consider ourselves fairly well-versed in the strange history of the North of Boston region.  But even this fun fact had us surprised.  Apparently, in the 19th century, Wenham Lake was the premier place to go for ice.

Mind you, these were the days before refrigeration.  One did not simply “make” ice as we do today – ice had to be “harvested” from, well, frozen water supplies.  Wenham Ice was the first transatlantic ice shipment to arrive in England, thanks to New England’s “Ice King,” Frederic Tudor.  According to one source, when the ice arrived in 1844, the customs crew was so perplexed by the shipment, that the ice completely melted while the crew stood around, most likely scratching their heads and wondering why the heck anyone would import ice.  By most other accounts, only around 75% of the ice was lost in shipment.


We find the similarities quite astounding (Photos: http://wenham.essexcountyma.net/images/wenham_ice_lake.jpg | http://addictionjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/icegame.gif)

Whatever the true story, Wenham Ice was a hit in the UK.  It was considered to be the “purest” as it was crystal clear – a feature taken full marketing advantage of when a block of it was placed in a window display with a newspaper behind it to show that the ice was so pure you could read through it (which a [very bored] group of people did).  Sir Charles Lyell, a noted geologist, upheld this claim of purity when he visited the lake and wrote in 1849 that “The water [of Wenham Lake] is always clear and pure,” he wrote, “and the bottom covered with white quartz-zose sand. It is fed by springs, and receives no mud from any spring flowing into it…”


Pictured: Subpar ice you can’t read through (http://publicbar.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/ice_cubes_openphoto.png)

And thus, due to its superior quality, Wenham Lake Ice was established as a luxury good.  In 1845, it was written in Wilmer and Smith’s European Times that “the Wenham Lake Ice [is] coming into vogue as a luxury among the aristocracy…”   It was even said that Wenham ice was the favorite ice of Queen Victoria herself.  In fact, Wenham Lake’s ice was so luxurious that in Norway, the name of Lake Oppegard was changed to “Lake Wenham” to cash in on the Wenham ice’s reputation (this was also the first, and we assume last, case of knock-off ice).  To take advantage of its status, the Wenham Lake Ice Company also:

“sold “American Refrigerators or miniature ice-houses” so that the ice might be better preserved by the purchasers. These refrigerators, so ran the advertisement in the Times, “by the aid of a half cwt. of ice weekly, furnishes a provision safe, under the same lock, and at the same temperature, as a wine cooler, where provisions may be preserved for a long time, and wine kept always ready for use, as, undergoing no change of temperature, it may be left for weeks in the refrigerator, without the slightest deterioration.”” (Source)


A futuristic concept for Victorians and the death of the lake ice trade. (http://www.rubbermaid.com/Assets/images/Product/2867-large.jpg)

So, what happened?  Why isn’t Wenham known as the booming ice capital of the world?  In 1873, a large fire burned down the ice houses of the Wenham Lake Ice Company.  The total loss estimated around $100,000 and the company wasn’t quite able to recover.  A second blow came with the advent of refrigeration in the late 1800’s, which made the entire ice-harvesting industry seem antiquated, time-consuming, and generally unnecessary (although a few people held on to the belief that lake ice lasted longer).  There was still some ice harvesting from Wenham Lake into the 20th century, but that died out around the 1940s.  And so came the end of the great ice empire of Wenham.

Life in the Victorian Kitchen… (by Karen Foy)
QI: Quite Interesting – Ice
Crystal Blocks of Yankee Coldness
Commercial use of ice – Fresh Pond
Historical Collections of the Essex Institute

The Show that Goes Like This

Village Theatre Spamalot Promo

Photo by ABB Photography

What do you get when you mix “Monty Python,” King Arthur, terrific music, and a tight-knit theater family? The Village Theatre Company’s side-splitting production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” (a 14-time Tony-nominated musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”).  We were recently saw a sneak preview of this new production and, without giving (many) spoilers, this may just be Village Theatre’s best production yet!

Featuring hilariously catchy songs such as “I’m Not Dead Yet,” “The Song That Goes Like This,” and the show-stopping “Find Your Grail,” “Spamalot” tells the story of King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail. And by “tells the story,” we mean “hilariously parodies the story of…in the silly, irreverent way that only Monty Python can.).

Musical Python humor aside, what makes “Spamalot” such a fun show is the environment of the Village Theatre’s home, the Laurel Grange in West Newbury, MA.  The intimate theater puts the audience close to the show; it’s almost as if the audience becomes part of the show and “in” on the joke (rather than being a distant observer separated by the invisible 4th wall).  The show is fun, the cast is having fun, so the audience has a lot of fun as well.

Part of what sets the Village Theatre Company apart is the fun that the cast has.  It’s infectious and is obvious the cast loves performing, loves show they’re putting on, and, most importantly, loves being together.  During the preview, we were treated to asides from the cast in between scenes – information on the Village Theatre, some background information on the show, and personal anecdotes.  The one theme that wove all of these asides together was “family.”  Everyone involved in the Village Theatre – from the board of directors to the actors, director, and light tech – is tied together by this familial bond.  Every show is put on by a group of people who genuinely enjoy working, playing, being together and, during each performance, the audience is invited into this crazy, fun, talented family. And who doesn’t want to be a part of a British-accented family of killer rabbits, knights who say “Ni,” and coconut horses?


Photo by ABB Photography


Photo by ABB Photography

“Spamalot” runs January 23-25, January 30-February 1 at the Laurel Grange (21 Garden Street, West Newbury).  Be ready for an evening of belly laughs, giggles, and general merriment – this is one show you do not want to miss! For more information on the show, please visit http://www.villagetheatrecompany.org/Spamalot.html.

Photos courtesy of Amy Brogna Baione, ABB Photography – http://www.amybrognabaione.com/

Starting off a fun New Year

January can be a difficult month.  After the fun and excitement of Halloween, Thanksgiving, December’s madcap holiday season, and the New Year, January, with its bitter cold and snow flurries, can feel like a letdown.  Fortunately, the North of Boston region offers lots of great events to help you beat the January doldrums.  Instead of huddling around the space heater and counting down the days until spring, why not enjoy…

Gould 4In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould
On view through March 29 at the Peabody Essex Museum

Once an obscure figure in American furniture history, Nathaniel Gould is now recognized as Salem’s premier 18th-century cabinetmaker. New scholarship, based on the recent discovery of his detailed account ledgers and daybooks, has led to the identification and re-attribution of many pieces of furniture, including monumental desks and bookcases, bombé chests and scalloped top tea tables carved from the finest imported mahogany. In Plain Sight presents 20 exemplary works of Gould’s furniture alongside paintings, archival materials, decorative arts and digital media elements that provide insight into the makers and consumers of 18th-century American design and culture.

(Photo: Chest of Drawers, 1858-66, attributed to Nathaniel Gould. Marblehead Historical Society and Museum. Photographed in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion (ca. 1766-68), 170 Washington Street, Marblehead. © 2014 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Dennis Helmar Photography)

EventPhotoFull_compass roseWinter Brunch Cooking Class
Saturday, January 17th, 5:30pm, at the Compass Rose Inn

Join us n the kitchen of the Compass Rose for a wonderful evening of fine food and fun. These intimate 2 1/2 to 3 hour classes include a hands-on cooking experience while learning creative recipes, professional tips, cooking techniques, and methods. The class begins at 5:30 pm and ends in an evening of laughing and enjoying a wonderful meal that’s been prepared by all, in the warmth of the Compass Rose dining room.

10_200742373_LGLight/Dark, White/Black
On view January 17-July 31 at the Addison Gallery of American Art

Beyond their effectiveness in depicting three-dimensionality and conveying light and shade to construct the illusion of space, black and white have long fascinated artists, as they are rich with symbolism, metaphor, and association. Comprised of challenging juxtapositions, harmonious ensembles, and unexpected pairings, this exhibition explores how artists use different formal elements and mediums to exploit the associative character of black and white and visually render conceptual themes.

(Photo: Carroll Dunham, Shadow in a Corner III, 2004, stainless steel, water-jet cut, painted black urethane, gift of the artist [PA 1967], 2007.42.37.3, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA)

productimage-picture-cooking-demo-modern-southern-food-95_jpg_280x280_q85Cooking Demo – Modern Southern Food
January 21, 6-9pm, The Essex Room at Woodman’s of Essex

A great gift idea for the cook in your family, for that person who has everything, or for a fun Girls’ Night Out! Enjoy a delicious Modern Southern Food cooking demonstration by the Essex Room’s award-winning Chef, Ned Grieg, followed by a tasting.

b5a797bc946a1e8927750ad5b4d2b57a_l5i4_6kxuVillage Theatre Company presents Monty Python’s Spamalot
January 23-February 1

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, SPAMALOT retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people. Did we mention the bevy of beautiful show girls?  The 2005 Broadway production won three Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” and received 14 Tony Award nominations.

The Phillips HousePhillips Favorites: Winter Wonderland Walking Tour
Saturday, January 24, 2-3pm, at the Phillips House

Chestnut Street is even more beautiful with a coat of snow. Bundle up and join us for an architectural walking tour, ending at the Phillips House with a cup of cocoa.  Registration is required. Special pricing for tickets for the entire series is available. Please call 978-744-0440 for more information.

IMG_2670Ward Reservation Winter Fun Day
Sunday, January 25th, 12-3pm

Winter is a delightful season to experience Ward Reservation.
Enjoy an afternoon of winter fun complete with guided hikes, hot chocolate &
refreshments and a toasty warming fire! Cross-country skiing – Snowshoeing – Sledding, all day! (Please bring your own snowshoes, skis, and sleds). There will also be guided adventures through the reservation starting at 12:30. Hope to see you all there!


CapeAnnWinterBirdingWeekend2015B_737525511Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend
January 30-February 1

Birdwatchers from New England and beyond flock to Cape Ann to participate in the Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend every year. Cape Ann is known worldwide for its exciting concentrations of winter seabirds, and the Cape AnnChamber of Commerce, working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, plans a weekend full of events for all levels of birders. Expert speakers offer presentations, exhibitors showcase their programs and products, and artists display their art and give demonstrations at the event headquarters at the Elks at Bass Rocks and at other venues in Gloucester.

For more great events in January (and throughout the year!), check out our calendar of events.

Walking through a Christmas wonderland


Salem is a city filled with beautiful historic homes.  Some, like the House of the 7 Gables or the Phillips House, are open to the public as museums.  But do you ever wonder what architectural treasures are contained within Salem’s numerous Victorian, Colonial, and Federal-style private residences?

Luckily for us, the Christmas season offers something more than holiday cheer, gifts, and gatherings with family and friends – it also gives us, through the annual Christmas in Salem tour, a rare glimpse into some of these wonderful private homes. decorated for the holiday season.  We were excited to go on this tour for the first time this year and even happier that it surpassed all of our expectations.  Touring through the homes was akin to walking through a high-end magazine – each house was exquisitely decorated with floral arrangements, whimsical trees, stockings hung by the chimney with care, and much more.


This year’s Christmas in Salem tour focused on the beautiful homes of South Salem in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Great Salem Fire of 1914.  In June of 1914, a fire started on Boston Street and, over two days, spread across the city.  Over 1,000 buildings (including private homes) were destroyed and 18,000 people were left homeless (For more information, Destination Salem offers a wonderful map and overview of the Great Salem Fire).  The homes featured on the tour either miraculously (and often times, narrowly) escaped the fire or were rebuilt in the Colonial Revival style.

DSC_0478Christmas in Salem doesn’t just stop with the house tour, however – there are many additional walking tours, wine tastings, discounts, and deals available for ticket holders. Proceeds from this tour help support Historic Salem, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the city’s historic resources.

Christmas in Salem is a unique opportunity to see a side of Salem that is usually not made available to the everyday visitor.  This window of opportunity, though, is a small one – as Christmas only comes but once a year, Christmas in Salem arrives only for the first week of December.  Don’t miss out on next year’s tour, December 4-6, 2015.

For more information, visit christmasinsalem.org.

How lovely are your branches

Think holiday trees can’t grow by the ocean?  Think again.  For the second year, the  Sea Festival of Trees at the Blue Ocean Music Hall has brought whimsical holiday cheer to Salisbury Beach.  The Festival features two floors of bright, colorful, and creative trees dressed to the nines for the holiday season by local businesses, families, schools, individuals, and groups.


Our offices are still filled with glitter. 🙂

Did we mention that you can enter a raffle to bring home one of the trees?  Along with the tree and wonderful decorations, many of the trees come with additional gifts such as a bicycle, toys, scratch tickets, and gift cards.

When you’re done navigating and marveling at the trees, you are invited to enjoy music, stage performances, indoor ice skating, and maybe even a visit with the big man himself – Santa!  Don’t miss the Giant Gingerbread House display!

The festival runs through Saturday, December 6th.  For more information on the Sea Festival of Trees, visit  www.seafestivaloftrees.com.  We visited the festival earlier this week and had a ball (and are keeping our fingers crossed that we win a tree!).  We won’t spoil the fun, but check out some of our photos from the festival below.


DSC_0416 DSC_0422 DSC_0461

Thanksgiving miscellany: The Whipple Pin-up

As we’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, the North of Boston region has a very rich history.  From great literature, to visits from George Washington and military firsts, it’s no wonder that in the 1940s, Life Magazine photographer Walter Sanders was inspired to capture the region’s historical significance.  In summer 1944, Sanders (and model Rose-Ellen Cameron) staged a historic-inspired photo shoot at the Whipple House in Ipswich.  This was the result:

Photo by Walter Sanders

We can only assume that 1944 was a very different time.

According to the article published in the October 2, 1944 issue of Life:

“During the late summer heat wave in Massachusetts LIFE Photographer Walter Sanders took pictures of the Whipple House, historic landmark in Ipswich.  Powers Model Rose-Ellen Cameron, posing as a young Purtain, sweltered under a very modest and heavy dress.  The low, antique ceilings and white-hot floodlights made matters worse.  When the ordeal was finally over, Rose-Ellen was delighted.  “I’m so happy I could jump out that window and kick sky-high,” she remarked.  She did and the pictures below are the result.”

We won’t post the aforementioned pictures below as it becomes painfully obvious that Miss Cameron, well, didn’t have much else on under her “modest and heavy dress.”

We’re still not entirely sure what the purpose of this photo shoot was or whatever happened to the “serious” photos of a demure Puritan girl modeling in a historic home, but we like think that this bit of Thanksgiving “cheesecake” boosted the morale of a soldier or two stationed abroad fighting World War II.  Who needs Betty Grable when you can have Pilgrim Girl?


Looks like we spoke too soon about Walter Sanders and Betty Grable… Photo: http://jnpickens.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/cold-cream-betty-walter-sanders.jpg

You can check out the full Life article here – http://books.google.com/books?id=CkIEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA122&dq=whipple+house&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dxt2VLnnJLGZsQTDuoGQCQ&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=whipple%20house&f=false

Taking home a piece of the beach…

Now that we’re moving into the colder fall and winter months, a trip to the beach seems out of the question. But why not bring the beach home to you?  The Lynn Museum is making this possible at the Artists at the Atlantic Auction this Saturday, November 15th!

Lynn Beach by G. H. Gay

“Lynn Beach” by G. H. Gay

Artists at the Atlantic is the newest exhibition at the Lynn Museum, a thriving time capsule at the heart of Lynn’s Cultural District that collects, preserves, and celebrates the city’s unique and fascinating history.  The exhibit features work by the Lynn Beach Painters of the past and present.  The Painters were inspired by the scenic Lynn coastline and Atlantic Ocean and the exhibit focuses on and explores their individual techniques, views, and interpretation of the coast.

You are able to take home a piece of Artists at the Atlantic at the auction this weekend.  Contemporary pieces from the exhibit will be available alongside museum memberships, tickets and gift certificates from local businesses, and so much more.  So why not brighten up your home this winter with a beautiful piece of Lynn Beach?

Lynn Museum & Historical Society, Lynn_credit ESSEX HERITAGE

Another one of our favorite pieces – the giant boot! (Photo courtesy of Essex Heritage)

Can’t make it to Lynn in time for the auction?  You can still enjoy Artists at the Atlantic through December and check out the museum’s other fantastic exhibits.  Learn about Lynn’s history as shoe-making hub and enjoy a wonderful array of textiles and vintage-shoe fashion in Shoes: A Step Back in Time or get to know some of Lynn’s notable historic residents such as Lydia Pinkham, Mary Baker Eddy, and Frederick Douglass in Lynn Legends.  The Lynn Museum has an outstanding collection that includes one of our favorite local historic pieces – a poster from an ill-fated Rolling Stones concert in the late 60’s (ecstatic fans, unable to control their excitement to see the band, rioted, causing the police to shut the concert down.  Did we mention that this was to be the Stones’ first stop on a huge American tour?  Not a great way to begin a tour…).

To learn more about the Lynn Museum and to find out more about their fantastic year-round programs and exhibits, visit their website – http://lynnmuseum.org/.



A bit of North of Boston Military History Part III

As we’ve discovered in past blog entries, the North of Boston region has a rich military history dating back to the early settlement days.  But did you know that this history continues on even today?  In honor of Veteran’s Day, we’re bringing you a bit of modern military history intertwined with a beautiful patch of land in Hamilton – Green Meadows Farm.   And where better to get this story than straight from the horse’s mouth?  A very special thank-you to this week’s guest blogger, Green Meadows Farm.  

1The property known as Green Meadows dates back to the 1700’s. The country-style Homestead, just down the street from today’s existing farm, was purchased by Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and his wife Beatrice in 1928 and served as a family vacation spot for many years.  With the start of World War II, Beatrice moved to the Homestead permanently while her husband led his troops across North Africa and later commanded the Third Army to victory across the European Theater. Gen. Patton’s untimely death from an auto accident in 1945 put an end to his plans to retire to Green Meadows after the war. Beatrice continued to live at Green Meadows until her death.

In 1980 Major General George S. Patton, son of World War II’s Patton, his wife Joanne and their five children moved to the Homestead permanently.  Major General Patton had followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from West Point and then going on to his own distinguished 34 year career in the US Army before retiring to Green Meadows. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor. His combat service included commands in Korea and Vietnam.

George and Joanne, the daughter of a career Army Officer herself, looked forward to putting down roots. Once settled Gen. Patton decided that the land should no longer be used strictly for leisure. He wanted it to be a community asset for everyone.   Green Meadows Farm was born.

The fact that Gen. Patton knew nothing about farming was not seen as an obstacle by Patton.  He sought out experts, and was eager to learn. While still considered an “amateur” farmer, Patton took his first crop (blueberries) on the road and sold them from the back of a truck at the Topsfield Fair grounds. He hired a farm manager, added crops and started selling from his farm property. This very modest beginning grew over the years to the bountiful Farmstand and CSA you see today at 656 Asbury Street in Hamilton, on the Topsfield/Hamilton line.

More crops were planted, greenhouses added and new fields were plowed. Gen. Patton named each of his fields for fallen heroes with whom he had served in Vietnam – men he never forgot. Beginning with Yano Field in 1984, honoring Sgt. R.J.T. Yano of the Air Cavalry, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, seven fields now honor fellow veterans.

Blackhorse Field is named for the 11th US Cavalry – Maj. Gen. Patton’s Regiment. Wickham Plot honors Corporal Jerry Wickham, killed in Vietnam in 1968, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in action. Hays Field honors Capt. John Hays, killed in action in 1968.  Hays was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for “exceptional valor.”

GMF Fall

Pilot Field pays tribute to Maj. Gen. Patton’s heroes: the helicopter pilots of the Air Cavalry Troop of the Blackhorse Regiment – men who were key to rescue operations in Nam. The General named his favorite Labrador retriever “Pilot.”

Michelin Field is named after the rubber plantation in Vietnam that was the site of many significant battles involving the Blackhorse Regiment.

After her husband’s death Joanne Patton named a new Green Meadows Field for Operation Troop Support, the Danver’s-based nonprofit that provides care packages, cards and holiday gifts to US troops serving in war zones and across the country.  OTS also conducts a monthly family support group.

The large outdoor display at the Farmstand lets you read about the heroes and see where their fields are located.

2Sadly, Major Gen. George S. Patton passed away in 2004. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His partner and widow, Joanne Holbrook Patton, keeps his memory alive by her continued stewardship of Green Meadows Farm, his beloved second career.

In 2002 Green Meadows Farm became a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offering members (shareholders) access to locally-grown organic produce, heritage meat, eggs and flowers direct from the farm in a new way. Members pay for a share of the anticipated harvest. The general public is also welcomed to buy a wide array of produce at the Farmstand. Drop in to see the chickens or try some of the delicious organic soup.

Thirty years after those first blueberry bushes Green Meadows Farm stands alone as the oldest, family-owned certified organic farm, farmstand and education program in the region. We invite you to join us at the Farmstand, in the fields, and at GMF festivals and special events.  Bring the kids for craft time or bring your whole classroom for an educational farm tour; inquire about our Farm Apprentice Program; dine on gourmet organic food thoughtfully prepared at one of GMF’s Farm to Table dinners; join an Elder Hostel eco-tour or book us for an unusual wedding venue and reception. With the holidays fast approaching wreaths, all natural pies, gift baskets will be featured.

Green Meadows Farm salutes Veteran’s and their families on Veteran’s Day and throughout the year.

GMFarm LogoGreen Meadows Farm
656 Asbury Street, Hamilton 01982

flag at farm

Quoth the Raven “Salem, MA”

SalemMA_Graveyard Fall Foliage_credit Teresa Nevic Stavner

Setting a spooky scene – Salem graveyard. Photo by Teresa Nevic Stavner (courtesy of Destination Salem)

Salem, Massachusetts and Halloween go together like chocolate and peanut butter – both are terrific alone and irresistible when they come together.  So, it’s only fitting that we reach into Salem’s rich history for this spooky Fun Fact Friday.

When we think about literature and Salem, Nathaniel Hawthorne usually comes to mind.  But did you know that the master of horror himself, Edgar Allan Poe, was inspired by the seaside city?

In 1830, the grisly murder of the prominent Captain Joseph White swept the nation.  As the trial progressed, it was revealed that  John Francis Knapp had hired Danvers residents Richard and George Crowninshield  to kill White.  John and Joe Knapp (because, it apparently takes 2 sets of brothers to commit a horrible crime), believed that if the immensely rich Captain White died without a will, his money would be thus left to his relatives – most importantly, a Mary Beckford who also happened to be Joe Knapp’s mother-in-law. The idea was that when Mrs. Beckford died, her daughter, Mrs. Joe Knapp would come into the money and the Knapp brothers would be living on Easy Street.

But why bother to kill White?  Wouldn’t his fortune be left to his family anyway?  Well, it wasn’t that simple.  White’s will favored his nephew Stephen.  Were White to die of old age, the bulk of his fortune would be Stephen’s and Mary Beckford’s cut would be much, much smaller.  On a side note, can’t help but wonder how poor Mrs. Beckford felt about all of this.  What was to stop her son-in-law from killing her once she inherited a fortune from her relative’s estate?

Anyhow, to make sure that the will was never found, Joe Knapp stole it from Captain White’s chest…and didn’t realize that people don’t tend to keep very important legal documents just lying around their homes.  The real will was locked away in White’s lawyer’s office.  And Stephen got his money a little sooner than expected.

Ravaged by guilt for what he and his brother had set forth, Joe Knapp wrote a long confession.  Richard Crowninshield (who by now probably realized that $1,000 wasn’t worth killing someone) committed suicide, which authorities took as sign of a confession.  The Knapp brothers and George Crowninshield were brought to trial where they were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.


Webster was a…serious man. (Photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Daniel_Webster_-_circa_1847.jpg)

During the trial, the nouveau riche Stephen White asked close friend and legal bigwig Daniel Webster to aid in the prosecution.  And by “asked,” we mean he paid Webster $1,000.  He could afford it now.

Webster was a sort of 19th century Johnny Cochran.  He was a passionate showman and a great legal mind.  His dramatic orations and recreations of the crime captivated the courtroom audience and, when published in newspapers, readers from around the country.  One of his more popular orations went a little something like…

“Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim . . . A healthful old man . . . The assassin enters . . . With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall . . . and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this, he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him . . . The face of the innocent sleeper . . . show[s] him where to strike. The fated blow is given! . . . It is the assassin’s purpose to make sure work . . . To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for the pulse! He feels for it and ascertains that it beats no longer! The deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to the window . . . and escapes. He has done the murder. No eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, and it is safe!  Ah! Gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a secret can be safe nowhere . . . True it is, generally speaking, that “murder will out” . . . the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret.”

Sound familiar? The sleeping victim, the madman assassin who would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for his meddling conscience.  We know we’ve heard this story before…

Poe was a little less serious, anyway... (Photo: https://www.poemuseum.org/images/bruckmann-poe-portrait.jpg)

Poe was a little less serious, anyway…
(Photo: https://www.poemuseum.org/images/bruckmann-poe-portrait.jpg)

And it was called “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Scholars now note the similarities between case and fictional story and cite that Webster’s oration was a big influence on “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  The crime and story both center on a sleeping old man murdered in the night by a cool, calm, confident assassin.  Both Knapp and the unnamed narrator were also compelled to clear their consciences and admit to the crime due to their weighing guilt and the belief that others could see the wrongdoings even in just their demeanor.

During his oration, Webster also dared “painters and poets” to “Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon; a picture in repose, rather than in action; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity.”  After reading over the widespread and frequently republished speech, Poe could very well have accepted this challenge and met it with his own story that portrays the murderer as a passive narrator who is clearly mad, but not a depraved and inhuman caricature.

The White case also intrigued and inspired Salem resident Nathaniel Hawthorne who closely followed the grisly case that shook his hometown.  Tiptoeing around a big spoiler, one of Hawthorne’s novels features a person normally viewed as pure in thought and deed (a “smooth-faced…picture in repose”) who is consumed with guilt over something they had done and ultimately feels the need to purge him/herself to absolve their conscience.  Reverend Dimmsdale in “The Scarlet Letter.” *Phew* sometimes it feels better to confess and be honest…. (Congrats on finding this Easter Egg, by the way!) 

For more information on the White Trial, check out this article from the Smithsonian Magazine“A Murder in Salem.”  It gives an in-depth overview of the trial and how both Hawthorne and Poe were influenced by it in their writings.  And, for some fun, quick Halloween reading, a copy of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”


But do they have moats? Part 2

We recently delved into the history behind one of the North of Boston’s 4 castlesHerreshoff Castle in Marblehead – an imposing structure inspired by Erik the Red’s Greenland castle and built in the 1920s.  Did you know, though, that nearly 40 years earlier another castle was built on the opposite side of the region in Haverhill? 



Winnekenni Park sits atop a hill off of Kenoza Ave in Haverhill which looks over the scenic Kenoza Lake  and Basin.  The winding road leading to the park will bring you to a strange sight indeed – a medieval castle.  In 1861, chemist, agriculturist, and future-castle enthusiast Dr. James Nichols purchased the Darling Farm (now known as Winnekenni Park).  After an 1870s visit to England, Nichols (much like Waldo Ballard a few decades later) became enamored of the country’s large stone castles and was determined to build on of his own. He wanted to use the many boulders and rocks native to Haverhill and, in 1873, construction of his castle began.

Winnekenni Castle - Haverhill

Winnekenni Castle in the winter

Upon completion in 1875, Nichols christened his summer home “Winnekenni Castle” (after the Algonquin word meaning “beautiful”).  The castle was, and still is, beautiful and is complemented by its lush surroundings.  On a clear day, one is even able to see 17 towns, 3 counties, 3 states, 2 mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean from the rooftop.  Not bad for a simple English-inspired summer home.

Nichols lived in the castle for 10 years before selling the castle and its 27 acres of land to a cousin.  Nichols was in poor health and, we assume, unable to look after such a large property.  The castle and land were then sold to its current owner, the city of Haverhill, in 1895 when it became Haverhill’s first public park  Today, Winnekenni Castle is a popular destination for photographers and castle buffs.  Throughout the year, many concerts, fairs, parties, fundraisers, and other such events are held at the castle.  The castle is also available for private events such as meetings, family gatherings, and weddings. The trails throughout the property are fantastic for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing around Kenoza Lake.



Ol’ Sam Appleton had a farm…

DSC_0415The oldest continuously-operating farm in the United States, Appleton Farms was established in 1636 by Samuel Appleton.  Nearly 400 years (and many generations of Appletons) later, the farm stands as both an Ipswich landmark and a wonderful CSA providing shares to more than 800 families and donating more than 10,000 pounds of food annually to local food pantries.  But, as we learned on our field trip last week, Appleton Farms is so much more than the 200 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers grown and produced.

Perhaps the not-so-hidden gem of Appleton Farms is the Old House.  The oldest part of the house dates back to the late-18th century (there were some later additions in the mid-19th century) but, unfortunately, the house had fallen into disrepair when the farm was gifted to the Trustees of the Reservation.  The house has undergone many renovations and, using many of the Appleton family’s photographs (on view in the exhibition Of Farm & Family: Generations of Appleton Family Portraits), was restored to resemble how it looked when the Appleton family lived there.  Perhaps most exciting is the latest renovation.  In October 2009, the Trustees set out on a “green” renovation and update which included a biomass boiler, 2 solar panels on the roof, and much, much more.  Typically, we associate “going green” with stark, “modern” design.  The Old House renovation has defied this notion by “going green” but retaining the look and character of the original homestead.  Today, the house is LEED Gold-Certified.


The Old House is not the only “green” thing at Appleton Farms.  The farm utilizes organic farming methods, grass-based livestock production, renewable energy production, composting, and so much more.

Appleton Farms also offers 5+ miles of trails known as the Appleton Farms Grass Rides.  From fun summer hikes to winter snowshoeing, the Grass Rides are a wonderful way to explore the natural beauty of Ipswich and Hamilton.  This network of trails consists of forest, wetlands, and open fields.  Horses are welcome on designated trails as is mountain biking.  Dogs are also welcome (but a Green Dogs permit is required to walk dogs).


The cows alone are worth a visit!

There’s so much more we could write about Appleton Farms (from cheese-making to visits with the friendly cows),  but experiencing something is so much better than reading about it (in our opinion).  Now through April 30th, their Visitor Center is open on weekends from 11am-3pm.  The Center is handicapped-accessible and is a great starting point o learning more about the farm through their classroom, research library, and family museum.  While you’re there, do not miss out on a trip to the Farm Store (open Monday-Friday, 11am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm) to pick up some of Appleton Farms’ milk, cheese, and beef as well as other locally-produced foodstuffs, art, and crafts.


Did we mention how delicious the cheese (seen here being made on-site) is?


   This learning space is a fun, educational environment for little farmers

We regret to say that our time at Appleton Farms was not nearly long enough – it would take at least a weekend to fully explore and enjoy all that the farm has to offer.  Even that weekend would not be enough as each season brings with it new crops, events, scenery, and activities.  Whatever time of year you plan to visit (and we highly recommend that you do!) be sure to check out their event calendar for great activities for all ages.

DSC_0475Upcoming events include:

Farmstead & Old House Tour – October 19, 11am-12:30pm

Mini Moos – October 25, 10-11am

Pasture to Plate: Cheese Making Tour – October 26, 2:30-4:30pm

Be sure not to miss their Appleton Cooks program!  They offer everything from cooking classes and workshops, to harvest-to-table dinners in the field, Friday night farm dinners, and other (incredibly delicious) events throughout the year!

(Did we mention that Appleton Farms is one of the best spots in the area for fall foliage?  A mid-October visit will  reveal a terrific landscape of yellows, reds, and oranges).


But do they have moats?

The word “castle” evokes many images.  Daring knights courting fair maidens.  Faraway enchanted lands of fairy tales.  Kitschy centerpieces for theme parks.  But did you know that there are 4 (yes, 4!) castles in the North of Boston region?  Nestled among the First Period (1625-1725), Colonial, and “Cape” architecture are stately (and, at time, imposing) reminders of a bygone era.  One such structure is the Herreshoff Castle in Marblehead.



Originally known as “Castle Barttahlid,” Herreshoff Castle was the pet project and brainchild of Marblehead artist Waldo Ballard.  Inspired to build his own castle in the seaside town of Marblehead, Ballard traveled to Europe to study the design and architecture of castles across the pond.  While reading up on Norse history, Ballard came across a detailed account of Erik the Red’s castle in Greenland and decided to base his own castle on Erik’s. A bit of a gamble seeing as the original castle had long since been knocked down.  Luckily the details in the book were minute and meticulous enough to become the basis for Ballard’s castle, Castle Brattahlid, which was completed in the 1920’s.  We’re hoping that Ballard was happy with the results, seeing as he had no visual aid to help him image what his own castle-home would look like.

Now, castles aren’t really known for making cozy homesteads.  So, with his new home built, Ballard started to make the castle “his own,” so to speak.  He painted original medieval-inspired designs and accents throughout the castle walls.  Not satisfied with the paintings of knights and crests, he sought to create a more “homey” feel by installing a carpet in the Great Room.  And by “install,” we mean “paint” because who has time for vacuuming anyway?  For the carpet, Ballard lovingly copied one of the Oriental rugs from the nearby Jeremiah Lee Mansion.  Because nothing matches a medieval castle like a rug from a Federal/Georgian mansion.



Alas, in 1945, Ballard sold the castle to L. Francis Herreshoff, a local antique dealer and writer  In our research on the castle, we couldn’t find any specific reasons, but we can’t help but wonder if it was due to the fact that actually living in a castle is less fun than it originally seems.  Herreshoff changed the castle’s name from “Castle Brattahlid” to the current name, “Hershoff Castle.”  

When Herreshoff died in 1972, he left the castle to his longtime assistant. Upon her death in 1990, the castle was sold to its current owner Michael Rubino and his wife Chris.   After purchasing the castle, the Rubinos started a large restoration which included putting running water in the kitchen and installing a refrigerator (apparently, Herreshoff would buy fresh food every day to curtail the lack of food-preserving appliances).  The Rubinos converted the castle’s carriage house into a bed & breakfast and, today, still live in the main castle.  


George Washington Slept Here, Too (Yes, really!)

As we explored in an earlier blog post, George Washington really got around.  1789 saw him on a good will tour of New England and, more specifically, the North of Boston region.  After making his way up through Salem, Lynn, and Beverly, Washington paused in Newburyport for a sleepover at the Tracy House (known today as “the Newburyport Public Library”).  So, what happened next?

From Newburyport, Washington trekked over the border into New Hampshire (ot to take advantage of some tax-free shopping, we assume).  After visits to Portsmouth and Exeter, the President made his way back to Massachusetts, pausing to wrtte “a jealousy subsists between this Town [Exeter] and Portsmouth” (luckily Washington didn’t bring up the Phillips vs. Phillips rivalry of Andover, MA and Exeter, NH!). 

Fall2.Haverhill 2013.Alison Colby-Campbell of The Heartbeat of Haverhill

A “pleasant village” indeed! Photo by Alison Colby-Campbell

Once over the boarder and in the Bay State, Washington also made his return to the North of Boston region.  Washington’s first stop was to be in Haverhill but rumor had it that the President would just skip over the Merrimack Valley cities on his way to Concord.  Haverhill residents were pleased to hear a popular townsman speeding through town on his horse yelling “Washington is coming, Washington is coming!”  Townspeople, thrilled that it wasn’t the British coming this time, flooded the streets, eager to welcome the visiting President.  George Washington finally arrived in Haverhill around 2:30pm (just in time for…well, we’re not sure. But all of our sources thought this fact imperative, so we’ll include it too). 

Upon his arrival, Washington took some time to explore Haverhill, remarking “Haverhill is the pleasantest village I have passed through.”  He spent the night at Harrods Tavern (now the site of the Pentucket Bank).  The next morning, Washington departed Haverhill and headed across the Merrimack River to Andover where he visited the home of Massaschusetts Senate President Samuel Phillips, father of Samuel Phillips Jr. who founded Phillips Andover Academy (we hope that Washington had the good taste not to mention his earlier visit to Exeter, where Phillips Sr.’s brother/family rival founded his own Phillips Academy).  

Harold Parker in North Andover - Jeff Folger

Some of the cultivated land between Haverhill and Andover – aka, North Andover. Photo by Jeff Folger

Andover marked the end of George Washington’s visit to the North of Boston region.  Of his visit to the Haverhill/Andover area, he wrote  “The Country from Haverhill to Andover is good, and well cultivated. In and about the latter (which stands high) it is beautiful. A Mile or two from it you descend into a pine level pretty Sandy, and mixed with Swamps…”

After leaving our region, George Washington then went on to Lexington, Billerica, Watertown, Needham, and other towns before ending his Massachusetts trek.  While he did have only good things to say about Newburyport, Haverhill, and Andover, his impression of the state was…well, less than enthusiastic.  “The Roads in every part of this State are amazingly crooked, to suit the convenience of every Mans fields; & the directions you receive from the People equally blind & ignorant.”  Well, at least we know Massachusetts roads aren’t a modern problem…



(A very special “thank you” to Hub Trotter for compilinh such a detailed and thorough account of Washington’s trip) http://hubtrotter.blogspot.com/2009/11/george-washington-really-did-sleep-here_04.html

Finding Rockport


Photo:bhttp://cdnvideo.dolimg.com/cdn_assets/dfd54a6e6 c3e428ef1773b070e211dee34ebcb36.jpg

We have seen “Finding Nemo” more times than we care to admit.  We can tell you that the scuba mask belonged to one “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney,” turtles can live to be over 100 years old, and we’re pretty sure that we speak whale at a conversational level (fluency is not terribly far off).  However, we recently learned that everyone’s beloved little clown fish from the Great Barrier Reef is actually a lot closer than we thought – just a hop, skip, and jump away in Cape Ann.

Let us jump back a bit and explain.  Pixar filmmaker, and “Nemo” director and co-writer, Andrew Stanton is a Rockport native.  There must be something in the air in the North of Boston region as another famous film figure, Louis B. Mayer, also has roots in the area (having started in the film business by operating a chain of theaters in Haverhill).  If you take another, closer, look at “Nemo” you realize that Stanton hid quite a few nods to his Cape Ann hometown in the film.  Pixarpost.com does a fantastic job of pointing out all of these little tidbits – check out their website for even more awesome “Finding Nemo” factoids.

Take the dentist’s office, for example. The fish tank in the office was inspired by a similar fish tank Andrew Stanton saw at his own dentist’s office in Rockport as a child.  In one scene, from within the tank, you can even see that there is a photo of famous Rockport landmark Motif #1 on the wall.


Also visible in the waiting room is a lamp that looks suspiciously like one of the Thacher Island twin lighthouses.


One final nod is in the scene where all of the fish are recounting Marlin’s journey to find Nemo.  In that scene, there is a group of lobsters recalling how at one point in the journey, everything was “wicked dahk.”  You’d be hard-pressed to find lobsters with Massachusetts accents in Sydney Harbor (or talking lobsters in general, but that’s beside the point).


We may have met one of these guys at a lobster bake at the Gloucester House…

Next time you’re watching “Finding Nemo,” see if you can spot any of these Rockport shoutouts

A very special thank you to Discover Gloucester for their help in getting us started on this blog!




Row, row, row your boat (or kayak)

DSC_0353If there’s one thing we all seem to love most about summer, it’s being on the water.  In the North of Boston region, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy a myriad of aquatic adventures from good ole’ swimming to whale watches, schooner sails, and dinner cruises.  And, of course, kayaking.

For all of the kayak enthusiasts, both experts and novices alike, Marblehead MA, known for its maritime contributions and endeavors, is home to an aquatic gem – the Little Harbor Boathouse. If you’re out and about on the North Shore, taking in the last days of summer, we recommend you head out there immediately!

Little Harbor Boathouse is open 7 days a week through Labor Day (Thursdays through Sundays in September; including single & tandem Kayak & Standup Paddle Board Rentals) and they welcome paddlers of all levels of experience.  If you are looking to enjoy anywhere from an hour to a day on the water, their rental prices are considerably fair and staff are extremely helpful.  For beginners, Little Harbor Boathouse’s kayak, stand-up paddle board, and rowing coaches are fantastic and will create a program around your ability level, goals, and personal schedule.

They also offer rentals for groups with up to 40 people and see many corporate outings throughout the summer months (we are going to start making unsubtle hints around the CVB offices in regards to Summer 2015).

DSC_0361The Boathouse’s Water Sports Store is open year-round and is the Boston/North Shore authorized Hobie Kayak and Standup Paddle Board Dealer.  They offer many different types of quality boards and boats that look great out of the water and work great while in.  We were especially impressed with the extremely versatile Hobie Mirage Sport, a bit of a kayak/paddle boat hybrid (that will give your legs the best workout of your life!).  For a bit of relaxation and fishing, the Mirage Sport also has a sail package that lets you take advantage of a breezy day and transform the kayak into a sort of a sailboat.

The Water Sports Store is currently offering their Annual Blow-Out Sale now through Labor Day. Don’t miss on big savings and the best prices of the year right now on limited stock of Hobie pedal and paddle kayaks & stand-up paddle boards! Their Annual YMCA Consignment Benefit Sale is also coming up on August 31st!


Perhaps most exciting at Little Harbor Boathouse are their guided kayak fishing excursions which run through September.  These ~2 hour guided excursions of the “best fishing town in New England” are held on Thursday-Sunday mornings from 7-9am for groups of 3 (minimum).  Little Harbor’s guides will introduce you to the versatile, hands-free Hobie Mirage as you enjoy a wonderful morning of fishing for striped bass, blue fish, and anything else that happens to come along!

DSC_0352“This all sounds great,” you must be thinking.  “But what about those of us who are easily seasick?”  Well, Little Harbor Boathouse let us in onto a Little Harbor Secret – ginger.  If that does not work for you, then they also recommend a motion-sickness bracelet.  No one should have to miss out on a terrific kayak excursion because of a little seasickness!

Whether you live on the North Shore or are just here for a visit, we encourage you to stop by Little Harbor Boathouse.  Don’t forget to check out their website to keep up with their many programs, sales, rental information, and their fabulous blog (with great tips on kayaking spots, care, water fitness, and more!).  While you’re online, check out their awesome Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram pages.


A bit of North of Boston Military History Part II

Last month, we delved into the North of Boston’s historical contributions to the US military.  As we wrote, Salem is the birthplace of the National Guard while Newburyport is officially designated as a “Coast Guard City” (and has a signed proclamation from 1965 by then-President Johnson declaring it the official birthplace).  But what about the US Navy?  5 (yes, 5) cities/towns across the East Coast claim to be the Navy birthplace – two of them, Beverly and Marblehead, are right within our region (the other 3 cities are Whitehall, NY, Providence, RI, and Philadelphia, PA).  So, who’s correct?

Let us first look into each city’s claims.  Providence, RI asserts its title as the site of the first call for the establishment of a Navy.” In other words, Providence was the first to say “Hey. We should probably have some sort of amphibious military branch.”  Not to discredit our smallest state, but after reading into the history of the Navy, Providence’s claim appears to be the weakest. 


HMS Hannah. Photo credit.

In September 1775, George Washington ordered the HMS Hannah to be outfitted as a war ship.  The Hannah was built, outfitted in, and sailed out of Beverly.  However, it was built by a contractor from Marblehead and manned by a Marblehead crew.  In our opinion, the two coastal towns worked together to send out the Hannah under Washington’s command.  There’s just one slight hitch – George Washington was commander of the Continental Army.

Around the same time, another section of the Continental Army, under the soon-to-be-strongly-disliked Benedict Arnold, undertook some maritime endeavors on Lake Champlain in Whitehall, NY, the basis for Whitehall’s claim to the birthplace title.  Both military groups, as we have mentioned, were under the Continental Army.  There was a Continental Navy established in October 1775 in Philadelphia, PA.  The first ships were bought and outfitted in Philadelphia.  This leads many to cite Philadelphia as the birthplace of the US Navy.

So, who gets to claim the title?  The city who had the idea first?  The city who first established a military branch with the word “navy” in the title?  Or the cities who first brought their military efforts to the sea? When discussing the origins of the Navy, it’s not as simple as just saying “this city is the birthplace.”  From our research, the official origins of the Navy seem to be a hot button issue and the Navy itself does not claim any one city as its birthplace.  According to a US Navy website, “Unquestionably the contributions of all of these as well as of other towns to the commencement of naval operations in the American Revolution deserve recognition in any naval history of our country.  Perhaps it would be historically accurate to say that America’s Navy had many “birthplaces.”  In the end, it’s fair to say that each city played an important role in American naval history and all contributed something to the creation of the US Navy.  That being said, in our (biased) opinion, Beverly and Marblehead share the honor of being the Navy cities.  Under the command of George Washington, they made the first aquatic military endeavors in US history. 


Birthplace of the US Navy

Navy birthplace in dispute; 5 towns lay claim

Beverly or Marblehead? Birthplace of American Navy still up for debate

The Birthplace of the American Navy

Is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy in upstate New York?

Trains, dolls, and toys – Oh my!

Every year, thousands of elementary school students flock to Wenham for an exciting field trip.  Unlike other field trips full of “No touching” rules, buddy systems, soggy boxed lunches, and the dreaded trip-related homework assignment, this trip is one to look forward to.  It’s to the Wenham Museum, a North Shore gem whose amazing collection features an array of toys, dolls, games, and so much more.

DSC_0357This week, we made our own field trip to the Wenham Museum.  The museum strives to “protect, preserve and interpret the artifacts of childhood, domestic life, and the history and culture of Boston’s North Shore” and does so in a way that’s interactive and fun for kids of all ages.  The museum fosters and encourages every child’s desire to touch and play with their surroundings while managing to protect their priceless collection.  The museum’s current exhibit, The Art of the Artifact: Art Inspired by the Wenham Museum Collection (on view through August 24th), which features art by local artists inspired by the museum’s collections, features fun games for kids to play.  Families are also encouraged to make their own art inspired by the exhibit right in the gallery! 

Another exhibit, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days: Summer Fashions (on view through September 14th), features a costume trunk full of dress-up clothes for children to make their own crazy summer fashions.


DSC_0368The Museum’s gallery space also features a world-renown doll collection featuring fashion, baby, and mechanical dolls from around the world.  At the center of the doll displays is the International Doll Collection, home to a collection donated by Elizabeth Richards Horton in 1922.  A former resident of the Museum’s Claflin-Richards House, Mrs. Horton would write to various celebrities, heads of state, and officials for donations to her growing doll collection.  Mrs. Horton’s dolls traveled around the world as a traveling exhibition (proceeds from which were donated to charity).  The collection, on permanent view in the Museum’s Osgood Gallery, features dolls from Queen Victoria, Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra, and many more notables from the 19th/20th centuries.  

DSC_0384The biggest piece in the Museum’s historical collection is the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House, one of the earliest-built homes on the North Shore and the former home of Mrs. Horton.  The house features 4 rooms decorated to showcase how families lived from the First Period (1625-1725) to the Victorian Era.  We took a tour of the house and it was fascinating to see how family life changed throughout America’s early history as well as see the centuries-old architectural details.  Guided  tours of the Claflin-Gerrish-Richards House are available weekdays at 11am and 2pm and weekends at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm.  The House is also open for 17th Century Saturdays (the first Saturday of the month, June through October).

DSC_0375  DSC_0379

wefrgPerhaps most exciting at the Museum is the train room.  Located downstairs, the Bennett E. Merry Train Gallery features numerous miniature towns – all with trains that run through the towns at the push of a button.  The detail put into these model towns is astounding.  Every time we visit the Wenham Museum, we find a new little scene that we had never seen before: house fires, weddings, a little movie theater showing the Bogart/Hepburn classic “The African Queen.”  What scenes will you find when you visit?

Also located downstairs at the Museum is the Family Discovery Gallery, another interactive space for families.  Currently, the gallery features the exhibit Our Amazing Brains: How We Learn Our Whole Lives Through (on view through September 28th) which explores the different parts of the brain and how our brains develop through various games, puzzles, and activities.

A day at the Wenham Museum is not a day of looking at untouchables behind glass – it’s a day of adventure and play.  This play teaches children in a fun and interactive way while fostering a future interest in museums and history.  So what are you waiting for?  The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm* (6pm on Thursdays) through September 16th.  Be sure to check out their event calendar to learn more about the Museum’s fantastic events and programs.


Cooking with Woodman’s

cooking_collageWoodman’s of Essex is known for a lot of things – being the birthplace of the fried clam, their delicious menu, beautiful wedding venue, and their numerous accolades.  But did you know that Woodman’s also offers an ongoing series of cooking demonstrations at the Essex Room?  Every month, you can enjoy a demonstration by Woodmans’ award-winning chef, Ned Grieg, followed by a tasting.  From sophisticated French dinners to Woodman family recipes to holiday treats, there’s something for everyone at Woodman’s Cooking Series.

August 6th – An Ode to Julia
Bring out your inner French Chef with a classic French dinner in honor of Julia Child’s birthday!  Don’t forget your pearls (and your best Julia impression!).

September 10th – A Seafood Selection
Woodman’s is known for their unparalleled seafood – now you can enjoy a seafood selection from the Woodman’s Family Cookbook: Five Generations of Stories, 100 Years of Recipes. 

October 15th – Soups & Stews
What better way to warm up this fall than with a nice cup of soup? Watch as Chef Ned creates scrumptious seasonal soups and stews.

November 5th – Family Cookbook
What are some of the Woodman family’s favorite recipes? Come try out some more family recipes with elections from the Woodman’s Family Cookbook!

December 13th – Santa’s Bake Shop
Big and small elves alike will delight in these holiday treats! Bring along your little helper for some holiday baking fun!

productimage-picture-100-years-of-recipes-87_jpg_280x280_q85Classes fill up quickly – be sure to sign up today!  Questions? Call 978-768-7335 or e-mail yankeetradition@woodmans.com.

Can’t make it to Essex for the classes? No problem!  In honor of their centennial anniversary, Woodman’s has published a fantastic book featuring 5 generations of family stories and 100 years of delicious recipes.


cooking class poster