Sunday, July 22, 2007

Phillips House Museum

In August 2006 I wrote about the Phillips House Museum in Salem, Ma, which was run by an independent not-for-profit. It was in transition to becoming owned and operated by Historic New England . The latter owns a large number of properties. With today's visit I wanted to see what had changed. On previous tours we had peeked into most rooms from behind ropes or ventured in only on the runners. Although the tours were very good, I always wanted to see more.

Today we wore shoe coverings, as are required in most Historic New England properties, and were allowed into the rooms to get a better look. Our guide was excellent. He spoke in small segments rather than lecturing us.

There is now a $5 admission charge, which is very reasonable. The store offers the usual Historic New England mugs, tote bags, books, videos, and postcards. The reception was very gracious and it was a highly enjoyable experience.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tourism in Gloucester

As soon as I got off the commuter rail in Gloucester I asked the first person that I saw for directions. To my surprise it was an old friend who had never been to Gloucester before either. After chatting for a few minutes I went in the wrong direction for the Cape Ann Historical Museum but was there in a few minutes anyways. What a great collection! The Fitz Henry Lane Gallery has so many oils by this artist as well as decorative arts and a nice ambiance. On the top floor there was a special exhibition of Fitz Henry Lane and Mary Blood Mellen. She was a very talented pupil of his. Lots of oils of ships, waves, harbors, sunsets etc. It is pretty grand and there through September 16, 2007.

I had a good tour of the Sargent House Museum and it would certainly fascinate anybody interested in early American feminist authors. Judith Sargent Murray, for whom the house was built, self published under a pseudonym in the late eighteenth century. Of particular interest to me were oils and watercolors by John Singer Sargent and some drawings of his from as young as five years old. That was worth the trip alone. John Singer Sargent and his relatives had contributed items when they heard of the establishment of the Museum.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Visit to Spectacle Island

Some of the Boston Harbor Islands are easily reached by ferry from Long Wharf near the New England Aquarium . The Harbor Islands are managed by a consortium of the National, State, and City agencies as well as by private entities. A visit to the Islands can make for an enjoyable, safe, and relatively inexpensive daytrip from Boston. The Islands are usually less crowded Monday- Wednesday and the boat ride to them is slightly cheaper. Once on one of the Islands, ferry service to another is free. But if you want to visit more than one Island in the same day, you will want to catch a boat from Boston at noon or even earlier.

I wrote about a visit to Spectacle Island in June 2006 of this blog. One year later the trip was even better than the last. The Harbor Express boats were on time and not too crowded. The Island was very clean with full amenities and the signage was clear and informative. My friend and I climbed to the top of the little knoll ( which is about 130 feet above sea level ) and had a beautiful 360 degree view of the harbor and the Boston skyline. The water was a little chilly for swimming at 61 degrees, but there were lifeguards and bathers in their suits wading into the water. Three and one half hours on Spectacle Island was just the right amount of time. It was really a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The John Cabot House

Stephen Hall, the director of the Beverly Historical Society and Museum ,provided me with excellent advice for daytrips to admire the historical houses and to learn about local history. Today I was very fortunate to receive a lengthy, detailed, and very informative tour from the curator of their history museum and archives located in the handsome John Cabot House. The Museum has some temporary exhibition spaces and some longer term exhibitions such as Beverly Bank: An Early American Bank, that includes; a real vault, real and counterfeit paper money, and a balance for weighing gold.

John Cabot was an ancestor of the famous Cabot-Lodge political family and while no Cabots remain in Beverly there are some Lodges. Beverly was once a thriving port and then went through an agricultural phase. Later it became the world headquarters of The United Shoe where 95% of the shoemaking machines for the world were manufactured. The giant factory closed twenty years ago and now high tech firms have moved in near route 128. Stephen Hall wrote that "Henry Clay Frick summered in Beverly at the turn of the 20th century, as did, Oliver Wendell Holmes (both the poet and the jurist) as did President William Howard Taft."

Beverly has so much history that it would definitely be worth another visit. I wonder if walking tours are offered. On Wednesdays from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. there are meetings of transportation enthusiasts in the John Cabot House. The Historical Society has a nice store and also owns two other historic houses.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kimball Farm

To celebrate the Fourth of July a friend took me out for a ride in the country. Our final destination was Kimball Farm in Westford, MA. We ate giant homemade ice creams for $ 3.40 each and looked at some goats and a hen. We also watched bumper boats, the driving range, mini golf, and looked in the country store. It was so fun to get far out of Boston and see some countryside along the way.