The Paper House, Pigeon Cove, c. 1980-2006

In 1922, Elis F. Stenman, a mechanical engineer from Cambridge, and his wife Esther bought land in the Pigeon Cove section of Rockport to build a summer house. Fascinated by a trend to use newspaper for insulation and construction, they decided to try it themselves. In 1924, they started construction of what became known as The Paper House, now a popular tourist attraction in Rockport.

This shot of the interior of the Paper House in Pigeon Cove is by the photographer Carol M. Highsmith. It is dated as having been taken sometime between 1980 and 2006. Although it is of more-recent vintage than I typically post here, the lighting and colors are striking.

Highsmith specialized in taking pictures of landmark buildings and architectural renovation projects in Washington, D.C., and all 50 U.S. states. She has a particular fascination with documenting “disappearing America.”

She has donated many of her photos to the Library of Congress. This photo is from that collection.



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Presentation Tomorrow: Old Rockport in Vintage Postcards

I will be at the Rockport Public Library tomorrow, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m., to give a free presentation of images from my collection of over 1,000 early Rockport postcards.

From quaint street scenes and grand old hotels, to majestic granite schooners and menacing warships, it is all preserved in vintage postcards from the early 1900s.

The presentation is sponsored by the Sandy Bay Historical Society.

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Tomorrow at the Rockport Library: The Postcards of Charles Cleaves

Tomorrow, July 11, I will be presenting, “The Postcards of Charles Cleaves: Images of Rockport from 1907-1937,” a presentation highlighting some of the hundreds of Rockport postcards published by Charles Cleaves and his Rockport Photo Bureau, whose pictures capture a remarkable record of Rockport a century ago.

I will share a selection of Cleaves’ postcards, ranging from simple street scenes to majestic vistas. The free program is sponsored by the Sandy Bay Historical Society and begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Rockport Public Library.

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Sally Stockman Tarr, c. 1890

The origin of this real-photo postcard is a mystery, but the person it pictures is not. More about the mystery later, but first some information about the person.

According to the caption handwritten beneath the photo, this is Sally Stockman Tarr, born 1809. Based on the records I’ve found, Sally was actually born a year earlier, on Sept. 18, 1808, in Gloucester, according to state vital records. (Remember, Rockport did not exist as a separate town until 1840.)

Sally’s Parents

Sally Stockman Tarr was a descendant of Richard Tarr, Rockport’s first settler. She was the daughter of Sally Tarr and John Stockman. The elder Sally Tarr, born in 1788, was a fifth-generation descendant of Richard Tarr. The elder Sally was the daughter of Jabez Tarr, who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, and his second wife Peggy Somes.

John Stockman was originally a mariner and then a farmer. Sally and John married on Jan. 28, 1805. Sally died in 1844 and John later married Mary Parkhurst, the widow of John Wonson. John Stockman died on May 30, 1858. Both John’s gravestone and Sally’s gravestone can be seen in the Old First Parish Burying Ground.

Sally’s Husband and Children

Sally Stockman Tarr married Charles Tarr, who was also a fifth-generation descendent of Richard Tarr. Charles was born on Dec. 22, 1805, and died July 2, 1878. Sally and Charles were married on Dec. 23, 1830. Charles was the son of Benjamin Tarr (born 1767) and Lucy Pool.

Charles and Sally had eight children, five sons and three daughters:

  • Charles William Tarr, born September 29, 1831, in Rockport, and died November 13, 1895, in Gloucester.
  • Benjamin Tarr, born July 29, 1833, in Gloucester, and died November 30, 1895, Gloucester. Benjamin married Alice Whalen and was a carpenter.
  • Silas Stockman Tarr, , b. May 19, 1836, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts; d. April 08, 1922, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts.
  • Lucy Maria Tarr, b. March 30, 1840, Rockport, Essex, MA; d. May 19, 1924, Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts.
  • Mary Bartlet Tarr, born May 08, 1844, in Rockport, and died February 10, 1927. Mary married George Dorman, a railroad engineer.
  • Albert Bradford Tarr, born March 18, 1847, in Gloucester, and died March 21, 1853.
  • Sarah Sayward Tarr, born March 09, 1848, and died July 05, 1849, in Rockport.
  • Orren Somes Tarr, born February 24, 1855, in Gloucester, and died June 15, 1923.

Now About the Mystery

As mentioned, this is a real-photo postcard, meaning it was printed directly from a photographic negative, not through a commercial printing process. There were various brands of real-photo stock. The stock on which this particular postcard was printed was produced from 1906 to 1915.

However, Sally Stockman Tarr died on Feb. 10, 1892. Thus, this postcard was produced at least 14 years after her death, possibly even more.

It would therefore seem that someone created this postcard several years after Sally’s death using a negative of a photograph taken while she was still alive. Perhaps the postcard was made as part of a memorial service for her or simply as a family remembrance.

Sally’s Siblings

If you are at all interested in the Tarr family history, there is a website that traces the Tarr family genealogy in detail. Information about Sally Stockman Tarr can be found starting on this page.

That genealogy shows that Sally had 11 siblings, five brothers and six sisters, all by her parents Sally Tarr and John Stockman. They were:

  • John Stockman, b. September 07, 1805.
  • James Stockman, born September 20, 1807. James died on October 21, 1826, when he was drowned at sea.
  • Lucy Pool Stockman,  born March 10, 1812, and died October 26, 1826.
  • Anna Maria Stockman, born October 22, 1814, and died September 02, 1848, in Hamilton.
  • Silas Stockman, born November 09, 1817. He later married Martha Maria on October 23, 1841.
  • Margaret S. Stockman, born September 09, 1820, and died October 11, 1842. She married John James Giles on April 11, 1840, in Ipswich.
  • Marinda Stockman, born January 24, 1823.
  • Mary Stockman, born June 27, 1825, and died February 16, 1853.
  • James Stockman, born August 31, 1828, and died November 27, 1858.
  • Lyman Beecher Stockman, born November 13, 1831.
  • Lucy Pool Stockman, born November 24, 1834, and died April 30, 1839.


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An Outing to Thacher Island, 1906

Hard to say whether this serious-looking group is enjoying what must have been a day trip to Thacher Island. It looks like they might have just finished lunch, as there seems to be some sort of pot on the ground and two boys in the background are swigging something from bottles. The man on the left is leaning against the base of one of Thacher’s twin lighthouses, and it looks like there is an umbrella or two also leaning against the base.

This is a real-photo postcard, meaning that it was printed on postcard stock directly from a negative and not through a commercial printing process. Real-photo postcards can be one of a kind or one of several printed from the same negative.

The inscription on the left tells us that this photograph was taken on Aug. 7, 1906, and notes that Thacher’s lighthouses were first lighted in December 1771 (although the present-day granite towers were not completed until 1861).

The card was mailed from Boston, Mass., to Geneva, N.Y., on Jan. 3, 1907.

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Famous Twin Lights, Thatcher’s Island, 1905


This beautiful image of the Twin Lights on Thachers Island bears the inscription, “Copyright 1905, Martha H. Harvey, Annisquam.” I have another of Harvey’s images in a postcard from 1897 showing the Annisquam River. Note that the postcard also references the Turk’s Head Inn, so perhaps it was produced for the inn.

Harvey, who lived from 1862 to 1949, was an artist and naturalistic photographer. She and her husband, the artist George Wainwright Harvey, lived on River Road in Annisquam and had side-by-side studios there.

Harvey made her living primarily as a photographer, using an 8-x-10-inch camera to produce hundreds of large-format photographs of Gloucester and Cape Ann.

The majority of Harvey’s glass-plate negatives were acquired by Yankee magazine. In 1994, the magazine donated them to the organization Historic New England as part of a collection of more than 2,000 negatives showing New England from the 1890s to the 1930s.

In a reader’s comment to my prior post about Harvey, Chris Shattuck tells a story from the 1960s about how his Annisquam neighbor, Elliot C. Rogers, had come into possession of Harvey’s negatives and of how he convinced Yankee magazine to purchase them.

George Wainwright Harvey, who lived from 1855 to 1930, is described on Cape Ann Museum’s website as one of Cape Ann’s most skilled native artists. According to an 1883 newspaper article about an exhibition of his watercolors, he was “a young Gloucester fisherman whose only instruction in art was gained by watching the artists whom he took out in his boat.” In 1886, George and Martha traveled to Holland so that he could study painting.


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Ketchopulos Meat Market, circa 1950


Until the early 1970s, Ketchopulos Meat Market occupied the space at 19 Broadway that is now the location of Rockport House of Pizza. By all accounts, the market was a favorite of locals and tourists alike. But it was the flowers that made it so memorably picturesque.

From at least the 1920s, the market, run by George and Mary Ketchopulos, had pots of flowers decorating its front from spring through fall. But around 1940, Mary added to the display by hanging a trailing purple lantana beneath one of the decorate arches. She received so many compliments that, when the next summer came around, she added nine more lantanas with blue tubs of hydrangeas at the base of each post.

An undated picture of the market.

An undated picture of the market from the Outdoor Gardening book.

The 1962 book, Outdoor Gardening in Pots and Boxes, gives the full details:

Familiar to visitors to picturesque Rockport, Massachusetts, in the summer are the trailing purple lantanas along the front of Ketchopulos Market. Thirty-three years ago, Mrs. Mary Ketchopulos hung a single specimen in one of the arches of the facade which faces northwest. She received so many compliments that the next summer, she added nine more with blue tubs of blue hydrangeas at the base of each post. Here, everything is regularly watered twice a day and three times in very hot weather. Once a week, plants are fed a liquid fertilizer. Over the years, visitors from many states have stopped to admire these container plants.

The market’s floral displays were so popular that, in 1950, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society awarded the market its Bronze Medal. In the society’s annual report, it gave this account:

From the arches of the colonnaded front which abuts the sidewalk, suspended lantanas drip down between tubs of hydrangeas, framing the display of fruits and vegetables whose vivid harvest colors are multiplied by an overhead mirror. Its gayety and beauty delight the flower lover and invite the gourmet.


The market as depicted in a 1925 painting.

Artist Viola Anderson depicted the market in a 1925 painting. As you can see from the picture to the right, there were flowers on display even then, before the arched overhang was added to the building.

As best as I can determine, the market opened in the early 1920s and remained in business until the early 1970s. Just to the right of it was a Jenny service station, the roof of which you can see in this postcard.

The Good Morning Gloucester blog has a picture of the market as it appeared in 1931.

Mary Ketchopulos died in 1964. She was born in Tripolis, Greece, and came to the United States around 1912. George and Mary had two sons and a daughter. I believe that George predeceased Mary.

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Surf on Beach Street Near Fo’Penny Knoll, Big Storm of March 4, 1931


As this postcard documents, a major nor’easter hit the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coasts on Wednesday, March 4, 1931, bringing snow, howling winds and the highest tide in 21 years.

The Boston Globe called it the most destructive storm since 1898, reporting that hundreds were made homeless, scores were rescued on the North and South Shores and at Hampton Beach, N.H., and nearly $1 million in damage was caused.

The Boston Globe report did not specifically mention Rockport, but it said that damage was extensive all along the North Shore, with Nahant a virtual island, Salem’s streets flooded, and surf having reached a hotel’s second floor in York Beach, Me.

A New Hampshire newspaper reported:

Never has New Hampshire’s seacoast been so devastated as by the storm and terrific tide of Wednesday morning when mountain-high surf literally lifted cottages into the air, throwing them aside like a bunch of kindling, nothing left worth salvaging.

Remarkably, just four days later, on March 8, a second nor’easter again battered New England. This second storm, the Boston Globe reported, “did little damage other than spread the debris” of the March 4 storm, but it nevertheless created such a “pounding, roaring sea” that roads were clogged with “surf-gazers” all along the North Shore.

This postcard, from Rockport Photo Bureau, shows the surf from the storm hitting against the seawall at Front Beach. It was postmarked on June 24, 1931, indicating that Charles Cleaves, the owner of Rockport Photo Bureau, wasted no time in getting this card printed and in stores.

The caption of the postcard says the picture is on Beach Street near F0’Penny Knoll. That name refers to the rocky outcropping at the north end of Front Beach where the gazebo is located.

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Come See Vintage Rockport Tuesday at Rockport Public Library

Vintage postcards poster rev.1 8-9-16

Join us this Tuesday evening, Aug. 9, for a slideshow presentation of postcards from this blog and from my collection. The presentation will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Rockport Public Library on Broadway. The event is sponsored by the Sandy Bay Historical Society.

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A Foggy Day At Loblolly, Rockport, Mass., c. 1920


Thacher Island and its Twin Lights are dimly visible through the fog in this postcard. The view over Loblolly Cove is from somewhere above Eden Road near where it intersects with Penzance Road.

On several older maps of the area, Loblolly Cove was called Lamorna Cove and Eden Road was called Tintagel Road.

The postcard is from the Rockport Photo Bureau. It was never used or postmarked. By comparing the printing on the reverse to other postcards from the Rockport Photo Bureau, I estimate it to have been published around 1920.

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