Welcome to the website for our trip
in August 2009 to
We were traveling to West
Brookfield for Brian's father's eightieth birthday.
Before our visit there, we spent a few days in the northeast part of the state.
We stayed in Essex,
in a rustic motel alongside the Essex River as it reached the Atlantic coast.
The photo below on the left shows the town, and the photo below on the right shows the mouth
of the river, both taken from the grounds of our motel. The town of Essex is known for its many
antique stores, but many of these were closed, probably victims of the economic recession.
One day we drove around picturesque
Cape Ann. There is an interesting state park at
the far end of the cape,
called Halibut Point State Park, that contains on its grounds an old rock quarry, now filled with water.
The photo below on the left shows the rugged coast, and the photo below on the right the quarry.
Our favorite stop of the day was
in the village of Rockport, that has an appealing waterfront harbor.
The boat shed painted bright red attracted our attention, too, especially with the buoys hanging from it.
Also along the coast here were a
number of old mansions. We toured two of them.
The first is called the Sleeper-McAnn House. It was begun in 1907, commissioned by an
interior decorator named Henry Davis Sleeper. He was a fan of colonial art and often
designed in the house to compliment his collections. He also enjoyed throwing colonial theme
parties in his home and hosted celebrities of his day. Work continued for twenty-seven years,
until his death, when the house was bought by the McAnn family. It is now a private museum.
The grounds around the house are beautifully landscaped and overlook the coast.
The second mansion we visited is
the Hammond Castle. It was built between 1926 and 1929
by the inventor John Jay Hammond, Jr. It was pretty cheesy looking overall, built to look
like a medieval castle in part, in part like a medieval cathedral or monastery, and filled with
even cheesier "medieval" bits and pieces. There was even an imitation medieval village in one
of the interior courtyards of the place. Still, there were great views of the coast from here, too.
The town hall of Gloucester, also on Cape Ann, is a great example of the Beaux Arts period in architecture.
Another day we visited the city
of Salem. Salem is famous, of course, for its witch
trials of the
seventeenth century. Unfortunately, this history means that it has become the Halloween capital
of the United States, and you can see "museums" dedicated not only to witches but also to vampires,
werewolves, Count Drakula, and even Frankenstein. And that obscures what would otherwise be
a very attractive old town, dating back to the American colonial era. So after touring the "House
of the Seven Gables," made famous from a Nathanial Hawthorne story, we left the downtown
souvenir shops and wandered around the residential streets, admiring the old architecture.
Below left, Salem's colonial era cemetery. Below right, Salem's former harborfront and dock.
Below, the House of the Seven Gables, that was haunted, in Hawthorne's 1851 novel.
Below, two examples of colonial era homes in Salem.
Below, a nineteenth-century mansion in Salem, with beautiful landscaped grounds.
Another attractive town in the region
is Ipswich, which has the most colonial era homes
of any town in New England.
An appealing walking tour takes you around the town and along its riverfront, shown in the photo below.
Our drive from the northeast to
central Massachusetts took us along the northern border of the state.
We stopped at the Fruitlands Museum, a collection of buildings that includes an art museum and historic homes.
The name comes from a utopian communal settlement founded there in 1843 by Transcendentalists, who
wanted to establish a self-sufficient community, but had to abandon it during the first harsh winter.
The house below on the left was
inhabited by the Alcott family (the daughter, Louisa May, went on to write the
Little Women). The house below on the right was a Shaker house from the area, brought to the site of the museum.
During our days in West Brookfield,
we had the opportunity to explore some of the sights of central Massachusetts.
Among them is Northampton, a nice town that is home to Smith College. The college includes a great botanical garden.
Farther north is Historic Deerfield,
founded in 1673 as the northwestern frontier of the New England colonies.
In 1704, during Queen Anne's War and after several decades of worsening relations and small-scale attacks, the
settlement was attacked by joint Native Indian and French forces, and its population was either killed or taken
away to be enslaved. It was eventually rebuilt, and remained a sleepy village until modern advocates for historical
preservation and restoration managed to buy up most of the oldest buildings in town and open them to the public.
It was a very hot day but great fun to explore the old homes and shops and hear about their histories from guides.
We hope you've enjoyed some of the
photos from our trip!
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