Old Mill Pond, Rockport, Mass., c. 1912

Old Mill Pond, Rockport, Mass.

This image of Mill Pond looks from the pond’s east side across to the west side and to houses on King Street. The dam is to the right. All of the houses you see here are still standing. The house in the background with the cupola on the roof is today the Linden Tree Inn.

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The same scene today. The mansard roof house now has a deck and a small white cottage now obscures the view of the house next to it.

Mill Pond was built in 1702 by John Pool, the second settler of Sandy Bay. In 1701, he acquired the rights to build a grist mill here. To power the mill, he constructed a dam across the stream, which was then called Davison’s Run and is now called Mill Brook. Most accounts say he also built a saw mill there, from which he supplied lumber used to build Long Wharf in Boston in 1710.

As I’ve noted here before, it is hard to imagine today that peaceful, bucolic Millbrook Meadow was long a center of industry in Rockport. In 1871, a large, steam-powered factory was built here. Originally it housed the American Hide Seat Company. In 1874, the factory was transferred to William N. Manning and became the Manning Organ Company, a manufacturer of “parlor cabinet, church cabinet, and parlor orchestral organs.” The organ company closed in 1876 and the factory went on to be occupied by a series of other businesses, including a glue company and the isinglass company owned by L.M. Haskins. The factory remained there until July 1, 1932, when it was destroyed by fire.


In this 1892 picture, the mansard-roofed house is to the left, an ice house is just to the right of center, and the factory can be seen behind the mansard.

From at least 1850 until as late as 1920, the pond was also used to harvest ice. For many years, two ice houses stood on opposite sides of the pond. In fact, one would have been at almost the exact spot from which the postcard picture was taken (on the east side of the pond, near Mill Lane).

The Rockport Millbrook Meadow Conservancy has a brief history of the pond and meadow. This 2010 civil engineering report provides a detailed history of the Millbrook Meadow area, including the pond and the various buildings constructed here over the years.

The postcard was mailed in 1913. It has no other information identifying its date or publisher.

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Gott House, Pigeon Cove, Mass., c. 1905


An 1873 view of the house, before the dormers were added.

An 1873 view of the house, before the dormers were added.

Samuel Gott, a weaver, was the first resident of the area of Pigeon Cove known today as Halibut Point. The postcard identifies his house as having been built in 1701, but most sources put it at a year later, 1702. A Massachusetts Historical Commission report says it could have been anytime between 1702 and 1730.

Whatever the exact date, there is no dispute that it was one of the earliest houses in Pigeon Cove and Sandy Bay. It still stands today and, although it directly borders Halibut Point State Park, it remains privately owned.

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has both its own Wikipedia listing and a dedicated (albeit inactive) Facebook page.

This 1985 photo shows the west wall of the original house.

This 1985 photo shows the west wall of the original house.

The Wikipedia entry says that its gambrel roof was not a typical feature of first-period houses. It says that the first part of the house was the right side and the central chimney and that the rooms to the left of the chimney were added later. A 1985 Massachusetts Historical Commission survey says they were added in the mid 18th Century. Wikipedia says the house has never been sold and has been handed down through the generations to its current owners.

The MHC survey says that many of the house’s original features can still be seen, including exposed framing, beams and braces throughout the original part of the structure.

Before it was settled, Halibut Point was used seasonally by Pawtucket Indians who came to harvest its wild fruits, fish and game.

One source I found said that Halibut Point got its name because sailing ships would tack or “haul about” off the point to round Cape Ann.

I am uncertain of the exact date of this postcard. However, I found the exact same image on a postcard from 1905. Thus, the image is from then or earlier.

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Then and Now: The Columbia and The Adventure


The original Columbia off Gloucester in 1926.

The Adventure racing off Gloucester in 1926.

The Adventure racing off Gloucester in 1926.


The new Columbia off Gloucester today.


The Adventure leaving Gloucester harbor today.

The Columbia and The Adventure.

The Columbia and The Adventure preparing to race today off Gloucester.

In 1926, The Columbia and The Adventure competed in the Gloucester schooner race. Today, they competed again. It was an historic match-up in that both boats were more or less resurrected this year.

The Columbia was originally built in 1923 by Arthur Dana Story at his shipyard in Essex, Mass. Famous for its speed, she was lost in a gale off Nova Scotia in 1927. Last year, a 141-foot replica was built at a shipyard in Panama City, Fla. This is her first appearance at the Gloucester race.

The 121.6 foot Adventure was built in 1926, also in Essex. She worked as a fishing schooner along the Grand Banks until 1953. From 1954 to 1988, she had a second life as a windjammer carrying passengers along the coast of Maine. In 1988, she was donated to the people of Gloucester to restore and preserve her. After many years of restoration work, The Adventure returned this year to active sailing.


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Best Wishes from Rockport Postmaster ‘Uncle Bill’, 1909


Here is a highly unusual postcard that was both printed for and sent by William E. Parsons, long known around Rockport as “Uncle Bill” or “Uncle Billy.” Parsons was postmaster of Rockport between 1898 and 1914 and also gained acclaim as half the theatrical team of Parsons & Pool, who traveled widely in the late 1800s putting on performances of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Most likely, Parsons had a number of these cards printed as his personal note cards. The left side of the card is printed. It shows a picture of Parsons, presumably at his desk in the Post Office. The words under the picture that look like handwriting are also printed on the card. They read:

Yours, Wm Parsons.
Better known by the Postmasters as Uncle Bill.
Rockport, Mass.

The right side of the card contains a handwritten note from Parsons dated Nov. 18, 1909. It says:

Rockport. Nov. 18 – 09
Best Wishes
from your old
Uncle Bill

The card has an undivided back. That tells us that it was printed before 1907, when postal regulations first allowed divided backs.

The card is addressed to Dana L. Brooks in Worcester. Brooks was born in Rockport in 1857 and lived here at least until 1881, when he married Geneva Hooper from Gloucester. At some point he moved to Worcester and then to Millbury, where he worked as a farmer and also as warden of an almshouse.

Parsons & Pool

As noted above, Parsons traveled the country as part of the theatrical team Parsons & Pool putting on stage productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Pool of the team was F.E. Pool, but I do not know more about him (or her). They may have started doing this as early as 1880 and continued through at least 1990. Below is a slideshow of some of their posters.

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The novel, of course, is the famous anti-slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel was originally published in serial form in The National Era, an abolitionist newspaper, from June 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852. It was then published as a book in 1852 and was the best-selling novel of the 19th Century.

After the Civil War, stage productions based on the novel — known as “Tom shows” –became wildly popular, although they were not authorized by Stowe. In his 2012 book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen, author John W. Frick wrote that, by 1902, the play had more than a quarter-million presentations, and the total audience during the half century of its existence equaled the total population of the United States.

There were hundreds of Tom companies, Frick wrote, but it appears that the Parsons & Pool company was among the more popular. They toured with the Tennessee Jubilee Singers (originally known as the Fisk Jubilee Singers), a nationally known group in the 1890s who sang early black spirituals. One of the posters above claims that their production had been presented “2300 times to nearly 2,000,000 delighted people.”


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The Road to Bearskin Neck, Rockport, Mass., c. 1934


In this view looking down Bearskin Neck, we can see three reminders of Rockport’s bygone days. The first can be found on the building that is slightly to the left of the picture’s center. Today, this building houses The Pewter Shop. According to the shop’s website, it was founded in 1935. I estimate this photo to be from about 1934, so the shop may have opened within a year or so of this photo.

On the facade of that building is a large sign advertising the Artists Ball. In the 1920s and 1930s, the ball was an annual event organized by the artists of Rockport. It was held in the old town hall, and when I enlarge this photo, I can make out the words “Town Hall” on the sign. As I wrote in a prior post, this event was so “spirited” that in 1932 town officials called in state troopers to help keep the party in check. One news report from 1926 described the dancing as continuing until 5 a.m., after which breakfast was served.

The second reminder of bygone days is the sign on the right for the Yellow Bowl. This was a tea room on Bearskin Neck in the 1920s and 1930s. I had another picture of it in this post. Over at the GoodMorning Gloucester blog, Fred Bodin posted a great photo of the Yellow Bowl in 1925, with Waddell’s shipyard in the background.

The third reminder is the white sign further down the road, just above the parked car. You probably can’t read it, but when I enlarge it, it says “Bowling” — an ad for the bowling alley that once stood on Bradley Wharf.

The postcard was published by Rockport Photo Bureau. It is not dated. I estimate it to be from around 1934, based in part on the clues I’ve already described, as well as on the cars that can be seen and the markings on the reverse.

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Two Views Of Artists On The Headlands, c. 1930 and 1945



As evidence that some things never change, here are two postcards, roughly 15 years apart, showing artists painting Rockport’s picturesque harbor from above it on The Headlands. One is just as likely to encounter the same scene today (in warmer weather, that is).

The top postcard bears the caption, “Rockport, Massachusetts, One of the Art Towns of America.” It was published by the Rockport Photo Bureau. There is no date, but markings on the reverse and the people who are pictured lead me to estimate that the picture was taken around 1930.

The bottom postcard is by Virginia Cleaves Little, who was the daughter of Charles Cleaves, the founder of the Rockport Photo Bureau. This image is marked with a 1945 copyright, so we know its date for certain.

The name of The Headlands is attributed to explorer John Smith, who was commissioned by King James I of England in 1614 to chart the coast of Maine and Massachusetts. He gave it the name “Ye Faire Headlands.”

In 1772, Caleb Norwood bought the land and it was often thereafter referred to as Norwood’s Head.

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Thatchers Twin Lights, From Turks Head Inn, c. 1910


This undated postcard shows a view of the Twin Lights of Thacher Island as seen from the Turk’s Head Inn, which formerly stood at the location of the present-day Cape Hedge Inn. The inn was originally constructed in 1888 or 1889 and operated until 1963. Fires in 1968 and 1969 severely damaged the old hotel and a 1970 fire destroyed what remained.

Compare the view above to this circa 1918 postcard, also showing the Twin Lights as seen from Turk’s Head Inn.

My dating of this card as circa 1910 is largely a guess. You can see the tall brick chimney of the whistle house on Thacher Island, which was build in 1900, according to Paul St. Germain’s book, Twin Lights of Thacher Island, Cape Ann, so we know the image is from after 1900. Closer to the center of the photo, there appears to be little or no development along what would be a portion of Eden Road, even though cottages began to appear there by at least 1906, if not earlier. That would suggest the photo is from roughly that period.

The back of the card provides no further clues as to its date and does not identify a publisher.

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