Town Memorials | Winthrop, Massachusetts
HOME Veterans Wars and Forts Civic Schools Street and Corners People
Storefronts Hotels Maps Books Search Sources
Digitized by the Internet Archive
https://archive.org/details/kingshandbookofb00swee

King's Handbook of Boston harbor
Winthrop Highlights

by Moses Foster Sweetser

Moses King Corporation, Publisher

1888

Moses King (1853 1909) was an American editor and publisher who produced guidebooks to travel destinations in the United States, including Massachusetts and New York. His other works on Massachusetts, also available online, include:
- Harvard & its surroundings. 1878, 1880.
- King's hand-book of Boston. 1878, 1889.
- The Back-Bay District and the Vendome. 1880
- King's handbook of Springfield, Massachusetts. 1884.
- King's handbook of Newton, Massachusetts. 1889.
- King's how to see Boston: a trustworthy guide-book. 1895.
- King's handbook of Harvard University. 1895, 1896.
(Wikipedia - Moses_King)


Starting on page 129

Rural and Puritan Winthrop
Sunnyside, Cottage Park, Crystal Bay, and Ocean Spray

Out from the main, east and south, and forming the northern shelter of Boston Harbor, runs the peninsular town of Winthrop. It is beautifully diversified with hills and meadows, isthmuses and coves; and, although but 989 acres in area, it has eight miles of beach. The thousand inhabitants of this sea-girt corporation are served by an odd little narrow-gauge railway, diverging from the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railway at Winthrop Junction, and running hourly trains down over the marshes to Great Head and Point Shirley, stopping at every street. A branch line leaves the Eastern Railroad, back of Revere Beach, and runs down into Winthrop, heading toward Point Shirley.

The chief village stands on the pleasant high ground nearly midway between the sea and the harbor, and commands fine views in either direction, on one side to Nahant and Marblehead, and over the open ocean; and on the other to the fortified islands and the Blue Hills of Milton. It is a pretty New England hamlet, without a touch of suburbanism, and as rural and simple as if it were inwalled by the distant hills of Berkshire or Aroostook. Two or three country stores, a bleak town-hall, two comfortable wooden churches, a few dignified and emparked mansions, half a dozen residences of village magnates, and several score of neat and embowered houses of the yeomanry, -- these elements compose the familiar picture, the same here as in hundreds of other places in these six Yankee sovereignties. Within short cannon-shot of the State House, and overlooking the great

Click to enlarge

(Illusration)
A Fisherman’s Home, Point Shirley

130

channel of commerce and its procession of ships, remains a village in which Judd's Margaret might find herself at home. The ghost of Gov. Winthrop, flying from Irish-Italian-Portuguese Boston, may rest here, on his son's summer farm, and say, "What! and grown so little in a quarter of a millennium! " It is still remarkably free from the foreign element, and consequently enjoys almost a complete immunity from pauperism and crime. Liquor is legally banished from its borders, a fact to which the delightful peacefulness and decorum of the beach villages may be attributed. Bibulous roisterers find a woefully dry country south-east of Revere Beach, and make no second visits there.

To the south of the village, overlooking the harbor, and surrounded by plantations of small trees, is the stately old mansion which was formerly occupied by Mr. C. L. Bartlett, the well-known shipping-merchant of Boston. Hence his chivalrous son rode lightly away to enter the Federal army in 1861; and hither he was brought back three years later, wounded almost to death, and with barely strength to write, as he felt the pure air of the Bay replace the malaria of Virginia, " This being at home is delicious; comfort and rest. "In 1853 the great Italian patriot, Garibaldi, who came to Boston in command of a ship from South America, was entertained for some time as a guest at this place; and thirteen years later, when Gen. W. F. Bartlett, the merchant's son, was in Italy, he received an invitation to Caprera, where he made a pleasant visit with the Garibaldi family. The lad, with whom the grand Latin patriot had rambled along the shores of Winthrop, had now become a veteran general officer, full of deep and terrible experiences. In four years the college-boy had risen from the ranks to the command of a division; had suffered several grievous wounds and gloomy captivity; and returned home, broken by hardship, and under the shadow of approaching death. These verses are from the poem which Whittier wrote, after the young hero's death: --

"Mourn, Essex, on thy sea-blown shore,
Thy beautiful and brave,
Whose failing hand the olive bore,
Whose dying lips forgave!

" As Galahad pure, as Merlin sage.
What worthier knight was found
To grace in Arthur's golden age
The fabled Table Round? "

After the death of the gallant young general, the Bayard of the army, the estate passed into other hands. Farther toward the city, on a picturesque point projecting into the harbor, stands the fine old mansion occupied for so many years by the eminent educator, George B. Emerson, and often

131

visited by Agassiz and other scholars. The trees which shade the avenues and grounds were planted by his own hand, and greatly beautify the place.

The quaint old farmhouse which still stands on Shirley Street is said to have been the home of Deane Winthrop, the sixth son of Gov. Winthrop. It was built probably as early as 1649; and here the honorable governor and other colonial magnates, including also Chief-Justice Sewall, made many summer visits. Here Deane died, in the year 1704, having

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
The Old Deane Winthrop House, near Ocean Spray

lived hereabouts for forty years. He was the founder of the town of Groton, which he named for the home of his family in England. A little way beyond this ancient house, and over Ocean Spray, is the noble headland of Grover's Cliff, whose 180 acres of rolling pasture-land were for many years owned by the corporation of Boston. In 1867 the city council ordered the construction of a new and magnificent hospital for the insane, on this estate; but the major vetoed it, being opposed to such a large outlay of money, and also objecting to the establishment of a public institution on an exposed headland. The subsequent erection of the State Asylum at Danvers rendered it unnecessary; and the land staid in possession of the city until 1883, when it was sold at auction. It is now known as Winthrop Highlands, and has two summer-hotels, the Argyle and Aloha, and many cottages and villas. A noble seashore drive runs from Beachmont across the Highlands to Point Shirley.

Winthrop is rich in summer resorts, on her sea-swept shores. Ocean

132

Spray and Point Shirley are the chief ones, but Crystal Bay and Sunny Side and Harbor Avenue each has its advocates and habit-ices. Sunny Side is a little group of summer cottages, with boat-house, wharf, and still-water beach, fronting southward on the harbor, near Snake Island and its wide entourage of flats. This colony of sequestered houses is usually occupied of late years by the Vokes family, so famous in the annals of British and American comedy.

Cottage Park is another cluster of cottages fronting on the harbor, and mainly occupied by summer visitors from the city. It is on a bluff, just inshore from Apple Island, and sheltered from easterly storms by the trees of the old Bartlett estate. There is a small pier here, with bath-houses, arbors, and other appurtenances. The view across the harbor to the Blue Hills is full of impressive beauty; while on the right, three miles distant, appear the massed houses and many spires of Boston. In this prosperous little summer village stands the Cottage Park House, a large boarding - house, where the cottagers can get their meals. From this point, the view extends southward, over the graceful elms of Apple Island, and out through the opalescent air, by many a historic islet and promontory; and westward, to where the red sun sets behind Boston, --

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Ocean Spray

"Like eye of God aglare
O'er evening city with its boom of sin."

These pretty pleasure-houses are but the formal successors of the summer wigwams of the red men who were once lords of the soil, stalwart hunters and fishers, and gallant archers. The Indians who dwelt on this side of the harbor were of the Pawtucket tribe, whose domains reached as far as Concord and Portsmouth. The head of the clan at Chelsea (Winnisimmet) was Sagamore John, who died in 1633, with many of his people. The Winthrop peninsula, surrounded with fishing-grounds, appears to have been a favorite resort of the red men; and many remains of their wigwam villages have been found upon it. One of the first edicts published by the

133

Puritans at Boston established a game-preserve here, saying: "That noe pson w’soeuer shall shoote att fowle vpon Pullen Poynte or Noddles Island, but the sd places shalbe reserved for John Perkins to take fowle wth netts." In 1635 the peninsula became a common, for pasturage; and Boston caused a house and cattle-yard to be built at the Point. The territory appears to have been occupied subsequently by farms, owned by non-resident proprietors, who kept here servants and tenants. In the summer they sometimes came down from Boston, to enjoy the sea-air, and relief from the turmoil of the town, which then had four or five thousand inhabitants. Deane Winthrop had an estate of 120 acres at Pulling Point, and here "he was wont to set up a bush when he saw a ship coming in." Capt. Gibbons also had a place nearby; and once (in 1643) his wife and family, on their way down from Boston to the Point, were terribly frightened on meeting La Tour's French ship. Slavery flourished here in those ancient times; and

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Great Head, Winthrop.

the negro burying-ground in the north part of the town had many quaint monuments. Connected with the Bill mansion, on Lincoln Street (now over two centuries old), were several sable slaves; and their bills of sale are still preserved. There is a legend that one of these negroes buried his acquisitions, -- a tea-kettle overflowing with silver coin, — and died without revealing its whereabouts. This is the Captain Kidd's treasure of Winthrop, and has stimulated no end of delving on its pleasant headlands.

Very slender are the threads of history and tradition which connect the green hills of this country town with the outer world. She rests quietly on the shores, watching the grand promenade of the commercial fleets, the dainty quadrilles of the yachts, and the Terpsichorean achievements of the breathless steam-tugs, which, with their iron hands clasped upon those of the Mary Jane of Liverpool, or the Gypsy Maid of Baltimore, guide her, in a stately gliding minuet, down the mazy channels, to the outer sea;

134

and return, up the blue floor of waves, leading some other thousand-ton beauty, the Empress of the Seas perchance, or the Saucy Sally of Kennebunk, or La Reina Margherita of Genoa. Meanwhile Winthrop placidly observes the scene, the fair wall-flower of the harbor.

One of the most attractive summer villages on the Massachusetts coast is this prettily-named district of Ocean Spray, in the town of Winthrop, with its beach gently curving between two high cliffs, the bright wide sea in front and the level salt-marshes behind. The line of beach rests at one end on Great Head, and at the other on Grover's Cliff and the unbroken green slopes of the city estate. The view includes the aristocratic peninsula of Nahant, with its villas and cliffs, about four miles distant across the Bay, and reaching far out into the water; and on the right front are the ragged and picturesque Brewster islands, off the mouth of Boston Harbor. The surf is usually light, and bathing is quite safe; but during easterly and northerly gales there is a tremendous pounding along the entire line of beach, and the waves leap fifty feet high over the adjacent bars of Great Head and the sea-walls of Deer Island. There are usually a few yachts anchored off the beach, in which the Spray villagers cruise through the narrow seas toward the North Shore.

Up to the year 1875 the site of this village was a barren waste of gravel and coast grass, whose only product was the seaweed washed up on the beach, and whose value did not exceed $40 an acre. In 1875 Dr. Samuel Ingalls bought forty acres of the Wheeler heirs; laid it out in building-lots and avenues; and sold many of the former at auction, at li to 2 cents a foot. During a single year these prices were quadrupled; and then the fourteen acres bordering on Capt. John Tewksbury's beach, adjacent, were put upon the market. There are now several scores of cottages at Ocean Spray, mostly of a more attractive order of architecture than is usually found in beach-houses; and in some cases, they are spacious and substantial villas, occupied throughout most of the year. The arid gravel which surrounds them has been covered with loam, and laborious attempts at gardening have been rewarded with some measure of success. The local summer society is peculiarly homogeneous and mildly evangelical, with every evening devoted to some form of associated pleasure, musicales, square dances, or chapel-going, and ending early, so that by ten o'clock nearly all the house-lamps are out, and the resonant music of the low surf breaking on the beach is almost the only sound that is heard. Ocean Spray, and particularly the part outside the hotels, is a place for rational enjoyment and plenty of rest. The spirit of Winthrop, the first lord of the manor, seems to brood over it still.

It seems somewhat enigmatical that this should be a favorite summer-house for actors: yet such is the case, and the merry pranks of the Vokeses,

135

Nat. C. Goodwin, and other stage celebrities, are often rehearsed among these beauties of nature. At the north end of the beach is The Shirley, a comfortable summer-hotel of modern construction and accommodations, and very close to the edge of the surf. Near the Shirley is the pretty little building of the Casino, adapted and used for dancing and amateur theatricals, and the scene of temperate gayeties throughout the livelong summer. The Winthrop-Beach House is another hotel at this point. Near the southern end is the Great-Head Hotel, an airy and well-built structure, close alongside the railway.

On Main Street is the seat of one of Boston's fairest charities, the Seashore Home for sick and destitute children, transferred here from Plymouth, in

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Boston, from Winthrop Great Head

1878; and every season taking two or three hundred poor children from the hot and unhealthy streets of Boston, and placing them in pure air and good influences. It is a very noble and satisfactory work, and the only regret is that the resources of the institution are not sufficient to care for a vastly greater number of these innocents. The seventh chapter of Book IV. of Michelet's "The Sea" (La Mer) should be read as a preliminary to visiting this beautiful charity; for it describes the foundation of the first seaside hospital for children, which was done by the majestic old city of Florence, but little more than twenty years ago.

Great Head, or Green Hill, about half a mile south of Ocean Spray, is a symmetrical curving eminence, 100 feet high, from whose summit very extensive views are given over the adjacent bays and shores, and out on the

136

open sea. The railroad passes around one side of it, over the beach; and on the other is the fine carriage-road to Point Shirley, following the curves of the harbor. Within five years a pretty summer village has grown up around Great Head, and a planked walk projects into Crystal Bay, for the convenience of the mariners of the new local yacht-club. The new construction is securely enrailed, and is the Brighton Pier of this quiet resort, where the transient citizens may "loaf, and invite their souls," and feel the sea all around and beneath them, without fear of 7nal die mer. This placid sea off Winthrop is indeed capable of profound agitations, and many a ship has been dashed in pieces against the heads hereaway. In the great March storm of 1878 four vessels were driven ashore at Ocean Spray and Great Head; one of them being the brig Katahdin, bound from Portland to Matanzas, and wrecked while trying to make Boston Harbor. Many people came down from the neighboring cities to see these helpless victims of the gale, beaten by the foaming sea.

Winthrop may be likened in its outline to a rose, rising from the blue sea, and opening toward Middlesex County. Curving gracefully from south-east to south, over a mile long, and generally but a few score feet in width, the stem of this fair Puritan rose of Winthrop ends in the nodulous expansion of Point Shirley, with its tombs of dead enterprises, and the long level of Gut Plain. The locality was relatively much more important in ancient times than now, and is often mentioned in the chronicles of the fathers. One of the first appearances of the name was in September, 1631, when "Willm Bateman was left on shore of Pullen Poynte, being very sicke and weake," Those with him were forced to return home to Plymouth, leaving him what provisions they had. On returning two days later they found him dead, about a stone's-throw from where they left him, at about high-water mark. "Soe the jury psents that he dyed by God's visitagon." In 1634 William Wood thus described the region: "The opposite shore is called Pullin-point, because that is the usuall Channel. Boats used to passe thorow into the Bay; and the Tyde being very strong, they are constrayned to goe ashore and hale their Boats by the sealing, or roades, whereupon it was called Pullen-point."

In the diary of the Rev. Noadiah Russell we find this entry, in September, 1682: "Being on Tuesday at night a snowy stormy night Mr. Horton master of a ship was coming up to Boston but by reason of ye violence of ye storm and ye boysterousness of ye sea was forct to run on shore at Pullens Poynt where ye ship was staved to peices 3 men drowned ye rest got on shore on an Island but by reason of ye coldness of ye weather and their want of clothing, 3 or 4 more of them died so that 6 or 7 lost their lives, after break of ye day they knew where they were and went to a house yt was on the Island."

137

The Boston News-Letter oi Sept. 13, 1753, thus announced how the new fishing-station here, founded by capitalists in the town, was opened: "On Saturday last His Excellency the Governour [Shirley] did the Proprietors of Ptilling-Pomt the Honour of dining with them at said Point, where a very elegant Entertainment was prepar'd for him; he was attended thither by the Proprietors, and a Number of Gentlemen of Distinction from the Town; he was saluted with fifteen Guns from Castle William as he went down, and the same Number when he return'd; and was receiv'd at the Point with all the Demonstrations of Joy that so new a settlement was capable of. His Excellency express'd great Satisfaction on finding so considerable an Addition to that valuable Branch of Trade, the Cod-Fishery,

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Old Mansion, Point Shirley

and hoped the Gentlemen concern'd would meet with such success as to make them ample Amends for so noble an Undertaking. The Proprietors, after having leave from his Excellency, gave it the name of Point Shirley.'' The events connected with its christening made this an aristocratic summer resort, where several of the best families of Boston had villas. Among these was Governor John Hancock's summer home; and there is still preserved a letter of Edmund Quincy, sent by Mr. Otis to Mrs. Hancock, and conveying friendly messages to other families. This letter was sent "via Apple Island;" most of the peninsula being then covered with forests, except at the Point, where there were 25 or 30 houses, several stores, and a church. The proprietors spent so much on their villas, that they could not properly equip the fisheries; and so their hopes of erecting a new Gloucester here

138

were disappointed. But the place made a good camp-ground in 1759, when Bagley's Massachusetts regiment lay here nine days before embarking for Louisburg. In 1764, when small-pox was devastating the Province, an inoculating hospital was opened at Point Shirley by the Boston doctors, aided by Dr. Barnett of New Jersey. It was given out that the locality then had many comfortable and decent houses to accommodate patients. The Point saw a gloomy sight in November, 1775, when British boats landed here with 300 aged persons, women, and children, sent out of the besieged town of Boston.

In May, 1776, when the Continental privateers Franklin and Lady Washington were stealing out of Boston, through Shirley Gut, the former grounded, and could not be moved. Here the two vessels were attacked by a flotilla of boats from the British fleet outside, and a furious battle was fought amid the whirling eddies of the strait. The man-of-war barges fired grape and langrage, and were answered by the cannon of the Franklin, loaded with musket-balls, and the swivels of the Lady. Pikemen defended the decks, from behind high boarding nettings, and upset two of the barges with boat-hooks. After a half-hour of very close and deadly work, the attacking party retreated, and the saucy little cruisers were left free to make sail and escape to sea. The next morning two children, playing on the Winthrop shore, found there an overturned British barge, and the dead body of a royal marine, with a spear-wound in his side. He was buried just to the eastward of the old Bartlett mansion; and Captain Mugford, the commander of the Franklin, who was slain during the fight, received a stately military funeral at Marblehead.

He had richly earned it; for, without what he had given to the American army, Gen. Gage could have driven Washington's half-armed militiamen into the Berkshire Hills. While the frigate Lively lay in Marblehead harbor, some months before, Mugford was impressed as one of her crew, and remained on board until released in answer to the supplications of his wife. During his service on the Lively, he heard the sailors talking of a great powder-ship soon expected from England; and so, without waiting for a commission, he put to sea in a fishing-smack, and cruised up and down the bay in search of her. At last the coveted vessel hove in sight, and the innocent-looking fisherman sailed up alongside. Suddenly the scene changed, when Mugford made fast to the towering British ship, released his gallant comrades from their hiding-place in the cabin, boarded the hostile deck with a rush, and carried her away as a prize, within sight of His Majesty's fleet off the light-house. She was called the Hope, and her cargo of powder and arms became more than a hope for the Continental army.

A rude fortification was erected on the hill, during the Revolution, to

139

defend the entrance by Shirley Gut. During the War of 1812 the frigate Constitution once stole out to sea through this narrow strait, escaping the British blockaders that were hovering off the harbor.
About the year 1830 Sturgis & Parker established the salt-business here, and erected several large buildings. To this the contemporary poet-laureate of the lower harbor thus delicately alludes: --

"Point Shirley, to forget, oh muse,
Indeed would be a fault,
Which Sturgis never would excuse,
Who manufactures salt."

In subsequent years the Point was the seat of the extensive works of the Revere Copper Company, whose abandoned buildings still remain, with their tall brick chimneys. On the little mound above are queer old houses, rickety and spider-haunted, but with evident remains of old-time dignity. Perhaps these were the villas of the Provincial era, of the Hancocks and their friends, where the fair Puritan ladies discussed the fashions of the time of King George II., and watched the Provincial fleets sailing out against Louisburg, or Quebec, or the Spanish Main, with their husbands and sweethearts on board. The poor old houses are disconsolate enough now, looking down on the industrial Pompeii of the copper-works, and out on the calm blue waters beyond, monuments of pathetic dilapidation.

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
A Lobsterman's Cabin, Point Shirley.

Harborward from the gloomy and silent buildings of the Revere Copper Company is a rude colony of fishermen, most of whom, as the numerous nets bear witness, are engaged in the pursuit of lobsters. In and about their cabins are many very quaint and interesting scenes, connected with the lives and avocations of the toilers of the sea. Several of their homes and out-buildings are the cabins and upper works of defunct steamships which have been burnt on Apple Island; and the state-room which sheltered a Knicker-

140

bocker princess or a Beacon-Hill Hypatia may now give protection to the domestic animals or the dripping nets of a Point-Shirley lobsterman.

Occasionally a premonitory flutter of activity animates the Point. Someone is going to make it a freighting-point for ocean-steamships, with a standard-gauge track connecting it to the Eastern Railroad; someone else is going to start the wheels of industry in the half-dismantled copper-works; or a great company will run fast excursion-steamers a dozen times daily from Boston to this wharf, to rival the glories of Nantasket. But these halcyon days never come, and again the amphibious residents resume their lives of calm serenity.

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Tafts

Taft's Hotel, or the Point Shirley House, close to the strait which separates Deer Island from the Point, has been conducted by the famous caterer Taft for more than a quarter of a century, and is the most celebrated resort for gourmets in all New England, if not in America. Through all these passing decades, thousands of the most prominent men of Eastern Massachusetts, with their guests, and bon-vivants

141

Click to enlarge

(illustration)
Fort Winthrop from Winthop Beach
Sunnyside
Boat House at Sunnyside
Old Lobster House, Winthrop

142

from all parts of the Union have enjoyed the delights of this wonderful and inexhaustible larder. Oftentimes as many as threescore distinct species of fish and game are kept here in stock at once, the birds being numbered by thousands. It is au regle for the Boston gentleman to drive, with his visitor from the South or West, over the short and pleasant road to Point Shirley, and there, with great pride, to test the bewildering variety of dainty dishes which Taft has on his menu, from the rich turbot and Spanish mackerel, the mullet and Mexican bonetta, to the paper-shell clams, grass frogs, and soft-shell crabs -- from Illinois grouse and Erie ducks to Delaware rail and reed-birds, Jersey willets, a great variety of snipe and plover, and humming-birds served in nut-shells. Many cosmopolitan and globe-trotting gentlemen have stated their conviction, that, while Delmonico's may justly claim the palm of excellence in other respects, there is no place in the world where a fish and game dinner is served so successfully as at Taft's. Here the famous Atlantic Club used to meet, with Holmes and Lowell, Emerson and Longfellow, and other choice spirits, at its board; and the chiefs of the literary Boston of to-day are familiar with this favored locality. Many another group of hungering (and thirsting) patricians has found happiness here, -- conclaves of financiers, re-unions of veteran officers, detachments from the city clubs, and political councils often seeking, for the time, no more formidable task than the time-honored (and difficult) one of throwing stones from the Point on to Deer Island.

We have followed the coast of Boston Harbor, from the finger-tip of Hull, along wave-swept Nantasket, past quaint old Hingham and Weymouth, and historic Quincy and Dorchester, by the eastern wards of Boston, and down to the northern peninsula, gathering here and there a bit of picturesque history, a half-forgotten legend, a gem from the rich treasures of Motley or Everett or Thoreau or Longfellow. It now remains to sail down among and through the islands, and so on out to sea: --

"When the pink sails at sunset faded out,
Far, far, north-east, when, outward-bound, the fleet
Left home and love behind, and steered away."

 

 

Click for PDF

34

Pauline Street School House - 36
Apple Island and Cottage Park Landing - 38
Cottage Park Hotel - 40
Crest Hall Hotel - 46
Court Park Hotel - 42
Young's Hotel - 45
New Winthrop Hotel - 44

Top

HOME | Veterans | Wars and Forts | Civic | Schools | Streets and Corners | People |
Storefronts | Hotels | Maps | Books | Search | Sources |
Additions, Corrections, Comments? Please email contact@winthropmemorials.org