Rockport Granite Eagle for Boston’s Custom House Tower, c. 1914


In 1908, planning began to expand the Custom House on State Street in Boston, originally built in 1837. The preeminent architecture firm Peabody and Stearns won the commission for the design. When expanding horizontally proved unfeasible, the idea was hatched for a tower. Construction began in 1913. When it was completed in 1915, the 500-foot tower was Boston’s first “skyscraper.” It remained Boston’s tallest building until 1964, when the Prudential Center was built.

Custom House EaglesThe tower was constructed entirely of Rockport granite supplied by the Rockport Granite Company. A crowning achievement was the sculpting and placement of four stone eagles on each corner of the 30-story tower’s 20th floor ledge.

The 16-foot tall eagles were sculpted in Rockport Granite Company’s Bay View plant, transported to Boston, raised to the 20th floor, and mounted, where they remain today. The first of the eagles was installed in 1914.

CustomHouseTower2In this real photo postcard, you see one of the eagles (and possibly another behind it) at the Bay View plant. A man, a young girl and a young boy pose proudly atop it. On the bottom of the card, barely legible is written, “On (sic) of eagles on Custom House Boston.”

According to Barbara Erkkila’s book about the Cape Ann granite industry, Hammers on Stone: A History of Cape Ann Granite, it took 11 pieces of granite to make each eagle, and 15 men working for a month to cut the stone for just one of them.

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Rockport Granite Photos: Granite Pier or Bay View?



These are two prints of photographs taken by Herman W. Spooner of workers at the Rockport Granite Co. The photographs are undated but were most likely taken between 1900 and 1910. The question is where they were taken — Granite Pier or Bay View. If you can help answer that, let me know.


The building at Granite Pier.

Rockport Granite had piers in Rockport, at what is today known as Granite Pier, and in Gloucester, at Bay View. Both piers had buildings that looked just like this. For a view of the building on Granite Pier, see this. For a view of the building at Bay View, see this.

If it was Granite Pier, the perspective would have to be from the other end of the building than you see in the picture at right. The houses in the background don’t seem to match any you see from there today, but there is a lot of new construction and tree growth, so it is hard to say.

The photographer, Spooner, lived from 1870-1941. His day job was as a civil engineer in Gloucester. But he was also a member of the turn-of-the-century Cape Ann Camera Club and a prolific photographer of Cape Ann scenes, vessels and people. Some of his photos are at the Cape Ann Museum and others can be found in Joseph E. Garland’s 1983 book, Down to the Sea: The Fishing Schooners of Gloucester.

Possibly one of Spooner’s most recognizable photographs is his 1900 portrait of fisherman Oliver Emerton. You can see more about it at the Cape Ann Museum. As best as I can determine, Emerton was close to 90 when this photo was taken (he was born in 1814 and died in 1908). His father, also named Oliver Emerton, was also a seaman and was lost at sea during a voyage in 1815, when Oliver was just a year old.

As an engineer, Spooner in 1904 designed a tunnel to run under the Blynman Canal in order to supply fresh water to the city of Gloucester. For 100 years, the Spooner Tunnel supplied water to over 70 percent of Gloucester. It was finally replaced in 2013.

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Walter Julian’s Barbershop, Main St., Rockport, 1973

Walter Julians Barbershop 1973

Is there a man in Rockport who has not had his hair cut by Walter Julian at some point in his life? His Main Street barbershop is a local institution. Can anyone name the young boy getting a trim?

The photo above comes from the Deborah Parks series taken for the U.S. government in February 1973. Parks, a Rockport resident who died in 2010, was a photographer herself and also the wife of well-known National Geographic photographer Winfield Parks.

For more images from the Parks series, click here.

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Two Identical Views of Whale’s Jaw, 1908 and 1920



These two cards are different in their printing and quality, but both show the same scene of the Whale’s Jaw in Dogtown and both came from the same printer, Edwin C. McIntire of Gloucester. The top card is postmarked Sept. 10, 1920, and the bottom July 18, 1908.

Whale’s Jaw got its name for its resemblance to the open-mouthed head of a breaching whale. Unfortunately, in 1989, a campfire left burning under the rock heated it so much that the left portion cracked and broke off.

Also different for visitors today is that the area around Whale’s Jaw is now overgrown with trees and brush (although still reachable thanks to well-maintained trails).

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Children’s Day, Long Beach, Cape Ann, Mass., c. 1907

Back in the days when electric trolleys ran from Gloucester to Long Beach, the trolley company built this pavilion there. It housed a restaurant, dance hall, bowling alley and vaudeville theater.

The pavilion was built in 1895. According to comments posted to another postcard of the pavilion, the building later served as a hotel. It stood until the late 1950s or early 1960s, when it burned down.

In this image, scores of children appear to have just stepped off the trolley (or are waiting to reboard). The caption suggest that this was a special day for children at Long Beach.

The postcard does not identify a publisher. It has a postmark of Aug. 7, 1908. It was probably printed in 1907.

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Granite Delivery and Wharf, Rockport, Mass., c. 1909


This postcard shows two separate wharves where granite was loaded onto schooners for shipment to places near and far. In the foreground is the present-day Granite Pier, then the wharf of the Rockport Granite Co. Behind it is the wharf used by the Pigeon Hill Granite Company. Known as Colburn’s Point, it is now the location of private homes.

For other views of the Rockport Granite Co. wharf, see:

For other views of the Pigeon Hill Granite wharf, see:

This postcard was published by Souther-Mears Co., a Boston publisher in business only from 1908-1910, and distributed by A.M. Simon, a New York City postcard publisher. It was postmarked in June 1913. The same publisher also produced this view of the wharf.

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Main Street, Rockport, Mass., circa 1907


This view shows Main Street in Rockport around 1907. The card was postmarked in Gloucester on July 23, 1907. It is a divided-back postcard, a type of postcard that was first produced in 1907.

MainStreetViewTodayTo the right is a screen capture from Google Streetview showing the same scene today. The larger building to the left, originally built in the 1860s as the Haskins Building, appears to be the same today. In fact, however, it has been replaced by the all-new Shalin Liu Performance Center, completed in 2010 and designed to resemble the former building as closely as possible.

The building in the foreground to the left, which now houses Butler’s Haberdashery, was then the location of Smith’s Hardware, I believe. The building across the street, to the right of the picture, housed the Post Office and the Granite Shore Hotel. Note the trolley tracks running along the road.

For other views of Main St., see the posts here.

This postcard was printed by The Robbins Bros. Co, Boston, and distributed through the Metropolitan News Company, a larger Boston postcard publisher. Robbins was in business from 1907 to 1912.

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