Everyone in Rockport knows the iconic statue of a baby riding a frog that stands adjacent to the Rockport Art Association on Main Street. The sculptor and portrait artist who created that piece, Richard H. Recchia, and his wife, the writer and artist Kitty Parsons Recchia, lived in this home at 6 Summer St., where they also built a studio. The Recchias called the house “Hardscrabble.” Both the home and the studio are still there.
Recchia’s “Baby and Frog” is outside the Rockport Art Association. Another version is in Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The house was built in 1837, according to online real estate records. Parsons, who was born in 1889 in Stratford, Conn., first lived here with her family before she met Recchia. Her family summered in Gloucester before they moved to this house. They probably already lived here when this photograph was taken. In fact, the postcard is signed, “Kitty,” and could have come from her.
It was in Rockport that Parsons met her future husband. Recchia was born in 1885 in Quincy, Mass. His father, a marble carver from Verona, Italy, taught the young Recchia to sculpt. From 1904 to 1907, Recchia attended the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and continued to work there until 1912 as an assistant to the sculptor Bela L. Pratt. It appears that he moved to Rockport sometime around 1926 and married Kitty in 1927.
(Before he came to Rockport, he was married to another woman, Anita, who he met while living in Paris, and with whom he had two children. In this oral history recording from 1978, he said that he was married to Anita until 1926, when she died. However, his recollection of some dates does not always comport with other records.)
Recchia’s diver is behind the Rockport Art Association
One of his best-known works is the mammoth statue of Revolutionary War hero General John Stark that stands near his grave in Manchester, N.H. His statue “Mother Goose” stood in the children’s room of the old Carnegie Library until it closed in 1993. (I can find no record of where the statue went after that.) His bronze statue of a woman about to dive stands behind the Rockport Art Association. For many years, it was in his studio and then in his yard.
Kitty Parsons was a founding member of the Rockport Art Association in 1920 and editor of Artists of the Rockport Art Association published in 1940. Other books she wrote include Dogtown Commons (1936), Buccaneer Ballads and Legends of Cape Ann and Essex County (1944), Gloucester Sea Ballads: True Tales of Fishermen (1948), and Christmas Offering (1956).
Kitty Parsons died in 1975. Recchia continued to live in the house until his death in 1983. He is buried at Rockport’s Beech Grove Cemetary, under a tombstone he carved for himself before his death.
For an in-depth article about this house and its famous occupants, see the post about it at The Landmark Files. To hear Recchia talk about his life, listen to these oral history recordings.
As to the postcard, it was a real-photo postcard made from an actual photo negative. As I noted above, it was signed by someone named “Kitty,” quite possibly Kitty Parsons herself. It was postmarked on Feb. 10, 1906, when Kitty would have been around 17.