NEHS Spotlight Series
What better New England place to spend Memorial Day than the Irish Riviera? Wollastan, Nantasket and Hough’s Neck beaches have been popular vacation spots for Irish immigrants since the 19th century.
But South Shore beaches weren’t only for swimming. In Scituate, the most Irish town in America, immigrants used to harvest red algae – a practice known as mossing. There is actually a Maritime and Mossing Museum run by the Scituate Historical Society. Open Sunday afternoons, it is set in the 1739 residence of Capt. Benjamin James on the Driftway. Exhibits describe the Portland Gale, Scituate’s many shipwrecks, Thomas W. Lawson’s seven-masted schooner and Irish mossing.
Memorial Day is also the start of boating season and the opening of the New Hampshire Boat Museum in Wolfeboro near Lake Winnipesaukee. The museum features a glorious new display of vintage boats, art from Motor Boating Magazine covers and an exhibit on locally made McDuff engines. For more information click here.
Last week the Full Flower Moon appeared. It’s what the Abenaki Indians called the ‘moonesquam nimockkesos’, or ‘when women weed their corn.’ William Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, Mass., recorded the Abenaki names for the full moons in 1645. Pynchon built a warehouse in what was once Springfield, but is present-day East Windsor, Conn. The area is still known as Warehouse Point. There’s a lot of history nearby, including the Connecticut Trolley Museum, open on weekends this time of year. St. John’s Episcopal Church at Warehouse Point is on the National Register of Historic Places. In nearby Scantic is the Scantic Academy, a historic Federal Style school building that serves as a museum and as the headquarters for the East Windsor Historical Society.
You can learn more about the Wabanaki tribes at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. The museum has two locations: one at 26 Mount Desert Street in the center of Bar Harbor, and a second at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park. Its full name is the Robert Abbe Museum of Stone Antiquities, which gives you the idea that its collection includes Native American artifacts from prehistoric and historic times. The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, opened May 1 with a new core exhibit, People of the First Light, which introduces the visitor to Wabanaki culture and history. Four Directions of Wabanaki Basketry features a basket from each of the Wabanaki tribal communities. At the just-opened Sieur de Monts branch, an exhibit presents Abenaki perspectives on St Sauveur, the first French Jesuit settlement on Mount Desert Island.
Barefoot in New Hampshire
Capt. Walter Barefoot was a litigious rogue who spent a great deal of time in courthouses from Boston to York, Maine, during the 1660s and 1670s. He actually lived in Dover, N.H., where he owned a saw mill along the Lamprey River. The William Damm Garrison house in Dover would have been standing when Barefoot was in and out of court. It’s part of a history museum called the Woodman Institute, which was founded in 1916 and includes exhibits on local history and natural history. The museum’s campus has three brick houses of Federal style architecture, including the former home of abolitionist Senator John P. Hale. Among its art and antiques are a saddle in which President Abraham Lincoln rode to review troops shortly before his assassination, a set of samurai armor that belonged to a Japanese delegate to the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Conference and examples of textiles made in Dover.
Rose Wilder Lane, the only daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, kept her contribution to the Little House books secret. There’s little trace of Rose in Danbury, Conn., her home for 25 years. But not far away in Kent you can visit a pioneer cabin, part of the Eric Sloane Museum, which opened May 13. The museum by the artist of the same name is open Friday through Sunday. Sloan’s collection of early American tools is on display, as is his studio and some of his artwork. The museum also includes an heirloom apple orchard and the remains of an iron furnace.
Like Sloan, N.C. Wyeth illustrated books about America’s past. Wyeth’s son Andrew and grandson Jamie also explored early American themes. In Vermont, Shelburne Museum director Thomas Denenberg on Wednesday discusses the Wyeths—N. C. (1882–1945), Andrew (1917–2009), and Jamie (b. 1946)—and offers new perspectives on these three painters who have shaped the way Americans view their world. For more information, click here.
Mark Your Calendar
This year the Providence Preservation Society’s annual Festival of Historic Houses features modern living spaces in the city’s prized historic homes and gardens. The 2016 Festival takes place on June 11 beginning at 10 a.m., on the north end of Benefit Street, known as Providence’s “Mile of History.” The Preservation Society was formed on that mile 60 years ago to save the architecturally significant neighborhood from demolition—a major milestone in our America’s preservation history.
New this year, visitors can go to other neighboring cultural organizations as part of Explore Historic Providence day. They can also celebrate PPS’s 60th Anniversary at Cheers to 60 Years, a free open house from 4-6 p.m. following the Festival. Click here for more information.