Pebble Beach, Rockport, Mass., circa 1915


The caption calls this Long Beach in Rockport, but the beach shown here is more commonly called Pebble Beach (and sometimes Pebblestone Beach), presumably for the popplestones that often cover it. It is just northeast of Cape Hedge Beach, which, in turn, is just northeast of the actual Long Beach. This area is often called Land’s End. 


Townspeople turn out for the landing of the cable in 1884.

Pebble Beach’s place in history is secured by the landing of a transatlantic cable here in 1884. Up to then, a French company, the Atlantic Telegraph Company, was the sole provider of transatlantic telegraph cables. James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald, was dissatisfied was the 50 cents per word he had to pay for transatlantic telegraphs. Seeking to break ATC’s monopoly, he convinced millionaire John W. Mackay to create the Commercial Cable Company. That company put down two cables from Ireland to Nova Scotia, and two more from there, one to Rockaway Beach, Long Island, and the other to Rockport. 

The cable company office on Norwood Ave.

The cable company office on Norwood Ave.

The May 22, 1884, arrival of the cable ship SS Faraday to lay the end of the cable on Pebble Beach was a huge event in town. Townspeople swarmed to the beach in droves as church bells and cannons announced the vessel’s arrival. A formal dinner was held that night, with many dignitaries in attendance. However, the captain and crew of the Faraday declined the invitation to attend, because they had to immediately steam out and attend to another piece of the cable. 

The cable house on Pebble Beach.

The cable house on Pebble Beach.

Two buildings remain in Rockport as a legacy of this historic cable. At the Cape Hedge end of Pebble Beach is a house that has been built up from the original structure built to serve as the cable station. And on Norwood Avenue is the building that served as the office of the Commercial Cable Company, where it is now a private home. 

The cable house as it looks today.

The cable house as it looks today.

For a better view of the two houses shown here, see this 1910 real photo postcard. For a view of Henry’s Pond, which would be just to the left of the beach, out of sight on this postcard, see this 1910 postcard

This postcard was mailed in 1918. There is no publisher identified. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

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).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment