stunning winter morning, February 1, 2022, about 7:30 am. Gloucester, Ma.
incl. snapshot motifs: backshore, Centennial & Stacy Boulevard, Stage Fort park, Good Harbor Beach
Jan. 31, 2022 – open with sidewalks and snowbank cuts ready for customers
stunning winter morning, February 1, 2022, about 7:30 am. Gloucester, Ma.
incl. snapshot motifs: backshore, Centennial & Stacy Boulevard, Stage Fort park, Good Harbor Beach
Jan. 31, 2022 – open with sidewalks and snowbank cuts ready for customers
January 30, 2022. Gloucester, Ma. 730am. Snapshots. C.Ryan: Long Beach, Cape Ann Motor Inn, Thacher Road, Brier Neck Good Harbor Beach, Salt Island Road, Great Marsh oxbow behind Good Harbor Beach , Centennial, Boulevard, Duncan, Fitz Henry Lane / Harbor Loop,
Everywhere city and residents digging out.
FHL sledding 😉
–More coming —
Gloucester, MA 10-11am white out walk. snapshots and video clips: Naomi Drive. Rockport Road. Salt Island Road. Brier Neck. Good Harbor Beach Inn. Good Harbor Beach. Thacher Road.
White out walk. Strong winds on the coast are keeping the snow inches down, and everywhere swaths of bare ground alternate with drifts ankle high to mid thigh. Snow walls are building at intersections as the busy plows stay ahead of this heavy winter battering.
Answer below break.
With thanks to Mike Hale, Dir. Public Works; Matt Coutu, Civil Engineer with New England Civil Engineering thru DPW; and Police Sergeant Conners.
At this time in July, Gloucester Public Works is generally midway into a construction season. Not this year. The rain has caused a “knotted web of deficiencies,” impacting routine work such as patching and pothole repair, outside painting, line & crosswalk painting, and summer paving which is “weeks and weeks behind”. Mowing wet grass or while it’s raining isn’t a good idea. And when the sun comes out the grass takes off. So that’s a visible delay. Still, DPW is plugging away at smaller projects around town, at the waste water plant, and pumping station projects. Most Utility work is on schedule.
Even before all this rain, the 2021 schedule demanded flexibility. DPW projects are unseen in the best of times, and can go unrecognized. Gloucester DPW worked through the pandemic. People forget that they were essential services. Prioritizing projects has been key (think critical events as in hazards or special events downtown). Also pacing and flexibility:
“The past 18 months have been taxing on these guys. Mistaken belief still out there that everyone had quarantine off. They need vacation this year. Didn’t get it last year. I’m mindful of burnout. So at times we’ll be short. Could be a specialty, supervisory, labor or machine operator job. They’re all important. The edges may be where you start assembling puzzle pieces, but you’re still going to need the outside and center pieces to be complete.”Mike Hale, Dir. Public Works, July 2021 addressing holes if any in DPW operation
Gas, sewer, and water lines have all been removed, redirected and replaced. Clay tile pipe (sewer) is notorious for ground water intrusion, and cast iron (water) for tuberculation*– New PVC will increase run time and water quality.
The former configuration ran beneath Rt. 128. Now that it’s been re-directed and running to a newer location off Poplar/DPW campus, there will be a significant savings both for the life of the pump and electricity.
“The Gloucester Ave. sewer pump station, during wet weather and high ground water, would run in excess of 12 hours per day, some days even longer. Running time for the newer one has been cut down to 6 hours a day.”Mike Hale
The Gloucester 2.5 mile highway construction was delayed “indefinitely”, because the bids for the approach (to a new bridge across Annisquam River) came in too high. The lowest bid was $1,285,776 and the cost was fixed at $300-$500,000.
“…Much to the joy of thousands of beleaguered year-round and Summer residents, it was announced that the gap in the new high level bridge over Annisquam River was closed at 9a.m. by Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
The great significance was that it meant that it will not be too long before auto traffic will be flowing over this this improved entrance and exit to Gloucester, eliminating the two mile long traffic jams that have brought despair to motorists caught in the frequent openings of the low level Richard Blynman Bridge over the same river.
A sense of joy and relief was also experienced by the two Bethlehem officials in charge of the superstructure contract–Construction Engineers John P. McGonigle and Charles L. “Lonnie” Stroble. For as the 52-foot long, 44 ton piece of steel known as the central arch rib, south side, was lowered into place, their worry was whether or not it would fit. It did. 100 percent… The entire bridge is 860 feet long…
The superstructure contract, let by the State Department of Public Works to Bethlehem Steel is for $1,232,479.90.”Boston Globe, Aug. 1950
Boston Globe focus on Rt. 128 by K. S. Bartlett features Gloucester, Ma.
“Approximately $1 million a mile for 65 miles of the great three-quarter circle from Gloucester on the North Shore to the high speed interchange in Braintree where it will meet the Southeast Expressway coming south from Boston. Cost of the 65 miles, all competed or now under construction, is a bit less than $65 million. That covers land damages, engineering, planning and construction costs since Route 128’s start back in 1936.”“Rt. 128 has earned name, “Avenue of Modern Industry”: Million Dollar a Mile Gold Road” by K.S. Bartlett, Boston Globe
“Contractors building the 1.7 miles of the Gloucester extension found huge rocks dropped by visiting glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. More than half a million tons of rock (many kinds and varieties of hardness and weight) plus earth and plain dirt have been taken out to make your driving easier. Her you’re looking at one of the tough spots during the last weeks of construction.”
“Want a bit of New England’s famed chowder? You’re at the right place. The Gloucester extension of Route 128 ends at Eastern Avenue in Gloucester and just around the corner is Fish-Pier at the head of the Inner Harbor.”
The approach to the bridge they dubbed “Rail Cut Hill”.
Some of the homes date from this time. Department of Public Works, Gloucester, MA. Higher resolution PDF here – or lower resolution images below
Approximately 3 months project nearing completion (thanks to digging into standard clay rather than granite ledge). This week, the crews have reached the storm water drain reconfiguration stage.
In contrast, Salt Island Road, Brier/Briar Neck neighborhood took six months for similar work because of granite ledge and compact density.
Nice! Foot wash and outdoor shower rinse station added to Witham St. is a great add. This public beach amenity bookends the one installed by the footbridge on Nautilus Road summer 2017.
Happy New Year’s day! While thinking about 2021, I was looking back. 1900 seemed as good as any to share a fresh new chapter “then” story.
Let’s just say fasten your seat belts; reading about Mayor Merchant’s term is a bumpy ride for the entire year as reported in the Boston Globe. Heated exchanges dominate. Smaller items about conservation and deed issues related to Dogtown, Good Harbor Beach, and Briar Neck real estate development are detailed. I knew some details about Mayor French’s terms but did not run into Mayor Merchant before. I recognize the surname Merchant/Marchant as Gloucester history. Prior to this post I mostly associated Merchant with the street that was one of so many in Gloucester to inspire work by American artist, Edward Hopper.
On some lists of Gloucester Mayors, he’s (conspicuously) not there. (Biographical details unroll at the end. Also, photographs of all the Mayor portraits.)
All heads south immediately following the swearing in, and I mean immediately. The Mayor address advanced to the paper is standard, rosy and prickly, not uncommon.
New Year’s Day, 1900 – Mayor Merchant of Gloucester
Gloucester, Jan. 1- Establishment of a City Workhouse, and Investigation of Assessing and Fire Alarm Systems Urged
The inauguration exercises of the city government for 1900 took place this morning in city hall. As usual, a large number were in attendance, the especial point of interest being the reading of the inaugural. Those who expected to hear a plain and straightforward statement of certain facts were not disappointed, as the inaugural certainly treated certain matters in a trenchant manner.
The chapters in relation to the administration of highways, the debt of the city, revaluation, the need of better discipline in the police force, recommendations in regard to an equitable reduction of water rates were received with especial favor. The inaugural made a distinctly favorable impression.
In considering the finances, he said that the city’s liabilities were $829,243.72. The net debt is $368,211.04, an increase of $77,713.72. The reserve amount which the city now can borrow is $22,496.78.
The following recommendations were made: The appointment of a special committee to investigate and report to the city council as to the present system of valuation of the city by the assessors, and what action, if any, is needed to secure more equitable taxation; an investigation and report by the committee on fire department as to the needs of an improved fire alarm service and the probable cost; the abolishment of the public library fund, a special committee to consider carefully the question of the scale of the poor farm property, and what may be done toward the establishment of a city workhouse, which would be such in fact as well as in name; the appointment of a joint special committee upon water, to act with the water commissioners upon all matters relating to the purchase of the work, the improvement of sources of supply, and to suggest in what manner an equitable adjustment of the rates may be made; that no claim made against the city be paid without first having had a reference to the proper department and report thereon in accordance with the advice of the law department, and the appointment of a special committee of the city council to investigate all matters relating to the collection of taxes, and to suggest how best a way may be found for better service in this connection.
The mayor advocated a gradual revaluation of the city, saying he believed it to be the duties of the assessors to look carefully into the matter. Under the subject of highways, the mayor took occasion to criticize adversely those having them in charge the past year, while those officials who were brought in close contact with the work performed were roundly scored. The schools, fire department and trust funds were kindly criticized in the interest of advanced ideas and business judgement. Regarding the police and the matter of license, the mayor emphasized the statement that while not looking for any difficulty in this line the police must do as they were bidden and observe discipline.
City clerk Somes administered the oath to the Mayor elect Merchant, after which the keys of office were delivered to him by Mayor French. Mayor Merchant administered the oath to the following aldermen: Ward 1 Alphonso Davis; ward 2 Osborne Knowles; ward 3 Levi J. Hotchkiss; ward 4 Edward H. Quigley; ward 5 Albert H. McKenzie; ward 6, William J. Sleep; ward 7, William L. Allen; ward 8, James W. Ingersoll.
The following members of the common council were also sworn in: Ward 1, Austin F. Coombs, Addison W. Bailey, John W. Gaskell; ward 2, John F. Riley, Samuel J. Somers, Melvin Parsons; ward 3, John J. Cunningham, Frank W. Lothrop, John A. Stoddart; ward 4, Ernest S. Parsons, John J. Sullivan, Ray S. Friend; ward 5, James E. Tolman, Samuel W. McQuinn, Thomas Hodge; ward 6, Addison G. Stanwood, Samuel P. Favor, James A. Lawrence; ward 7, William Stephens, Charles C. Smith, Thomas F. Wherty; ward 8, Ephraim R. Andrews, James M. Chadbourne, Howard T. Bray.
After the reading of the inaugural the boards proceeded to their respective chambers for organization.”– From “For Year 1900: Recommendations Made by Bay State Mayors. How Government of Cities Can Be Improved. Necessity of Practicing Economy Where It Can be Done Without Detriment to the Public Good. Questions of Finances, Schools, Water. Lighting and Sewage in Various Municipalities of the Commonwealth.” , Boston Globe, New Year’s Day, 1900
MUNICIPALITIES INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE: SOMERVILLE. HAVERHILL. LAWRENCE. EVERETT. MEDFORD. SALEM. GLOUCESTER. FITCHBURG. BROCKTON. LYNN. BEVERLY. MARLBORO. WOBURN. NORTHAMPTON. SPRINGFIELD. NORTH ADAMS. NEW BEDFORD. QUINCY. WALTHAM. HOLYOKE. PITTSFIELD. TAUNTON. MALDEN. WORCESTER. BEVERLY CITY FATHERS. FOR THE SECOND TIME.
This was uncommon.
Jan 1 Day one whiplash- Council upends Mayor’s first day.
At the organization of the government today there were two unusual incidents.
“Mayor Merchant read a communication from ——-, protesting against administering the oath of office to Councilman elect Thomas Whearty, announcing that Chairman should contest the election. Mayor Merchant decided that there was nothing for him to do but take the returns of the election as they were rendered to him, and accordingly swore Mr. Whearty in.
“This had an important bearing on the contest of the presidency of the common council. When that body proceeded to elect as president James E. Tolman, who was a candidate for re-election offered an order that Mr. Whearty be not allowed to take part in the deliberations of the board until his case was finally settled. After several points of order had been made it was decided, to sustain chairman Lawrence, in adding Mr. Tolman’s order out of order. Councilman William Stephens was elected president of the council…In the afternoon Mayor Merchant announced his committees…
“Immediately on their announcement Alderman Sleep moved that the communication of the mayor be laid on the table. Mayor Merchant made no reply. Alderman Sleep insisted that his motion be put. Mayor Merchant contended that the committed announcement was simply a communication from the Mayor.
“Alderman Sleep produced the rules that urged that the aldermen by the rules could elect their own committees. Alderman Hotchkiss offered and order, if the mayor would entertain it, that the whole matter be referred to the city solicitor for his opinion as to the right of the aldermen to appoint the committees.
“Alderman McKenzie said there were committees to which he was appointed on which he did not care to serve.
“Mayor Merchant, after asking for further business, stated that he did not care to appear in the light of bulldozing the aldermen and should give them every opportunity to act except in the illegal expenditure of money, and then he should interfere. He therefore withdrew his nominations, and an order previously introduced by Alderman Hotchkiss that the aldermen reassemble at 7:30 in the evening and ballot for committees was passed.
“The mayor stated that the appointment of the committees had always been a prerogative of the mayor and he had proceeded in the matter as did former mayors.
“This is the first time in the history of the city that a mayor’s committee appointments have been protested or withdrawn. The incident caused somewhat of a sensation, and resulted in some animated conversation after the board adjourned.
“At 7:30 all the aldermen but Allen were in their seats. Mayor Merchant not putting in an appearance, President Sleep presided.
After the adjournment a conference was held, and a committee list satisfactory to the aldermen was arranged. The aldermen then, for the first time in the history of the city, proceeded to elect their own committees…Alderman Knowles offered an order that the city solicitor give his opinion in regard to the legality of the action of the aldermen in electing committees after the mayor had announced the appointment of committees. This was not seconded.”Boston Globe, 2nd article of the day Jan 1, 1900
Apparently this balking at Mayoral appointments was trending as Haverhill was in the same boat. Unsurprisingly, by the ides of March the Mayor and council are
Gloucester Aldermen on their Mettle. Render Useless Several Vetoes of Mayor Merchant. Mr. Sleep Proves a Sharp Critic of His Honor.
“The session of the board of aldermen this evening was one of the most sensational for some time. The old feud between Mayor Merchant and Alderman Sleep again broke out.
The mayor when “communications from the mayor” was reached, resigned the position of presiding officer to chairman Sleep and departed from the chamber. The chairman then proceeded to read the three vetoes to the aldermen and two presented in the council, which came up for action.”Boston Globe March 17, 1900 excerpt
“The order adopted in relation to the payment to Sleep Bros. for certain services on Beacon Street was vetoed by the mayor on the ground of illegality and that it was work done on private land…Mr .Sleep said that despite the veto, the mayor had paid the bill of W.R. Cheves for stone and E.H. Griffin for cement, but objected to that of Sleep Bros. for labor ($97.50) on the same job because the members of the firm were unfortunate enough to bear the same name as the speaker…the action of the mayor was simply a matter of spite against him for certain matters which had occurred on inauguration day…The order to pay the money was carried…”Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
“Some sharpshooting occurred on the veto of the mayor of the order that signs be placed at Good Harbor Beach by the committee on police and that all persons be prohibited from taking sand and ballast from the beach. The mayor informed the board that the proper way to proceed in this matter was for the committee on public property…Sleep denied there was any politics in this measure, and said the committee on public property attended to its work, but as it received no pay it was not its duty to lay around Good Harbor beach all the time and protect the property.”Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
The order that the mayor and city register the land known as Dogtown commons, under the provision s of the Torrens law, was vetoed by the mayor on the ground that it was not the duty of the mayor but of the committee on public property.Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
“…The mayor vetoed the order for an increase in the salaries of firemen because he said that the city was not in a financial condition to make the raise…Sleep stated that some of the business men are raising money to put through the defeated charter which the mayor favors and which provides for salaried commissioners and clerks. Money for their friends was all right, but when it came down to the firemen it was a decidedly different matter…”Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
Governor Crane named ex-Mayor French to Gloucester Police Court
And the Mayor is in the story.
“Gloucester has had a little Oklahoma boom. The place in question where this excitement has occurred is at Briar neck. The strip of land has for many years been vacant, with the exception of one (shack)…although it is claimed by two capitalists, who assert that they have deeds…
“Early in the season an attorney inserted a small item in a local paper to the effect that there was no valid title, and that anyone who settled down on the property could hold it. Mayor Merchant was the first one to squat down on the property and his example was followed by others, and there was a veritable rush for the place for several days. All the available sites were staked out and the names of those who had located claims were written on the stakes. There was a rumor circulated that the mere staking of the land was unavailing and that nothing less than the erection of a building of some sort would hold the land. A nondescript settlement immediately sprung up, and the sound of the hammer and saw was loud for several days…”Seashore Boomers“
“There has been a great hunting up of old deeds and a revamping of family genealogies, …The Parsons of Joppa do not believe that the present squatters can hold the land, but eventually will be ousted. Mayor Merchant, by the way, claims descent from the Parsons.” Two capitalists of the city, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr assert ownership of the tract, and have taken measures to protect their property…”-excerpts from wild story about Briar Neck origins in the Boston Globe (Thacher is spelled Thatcher’s Island in this one)
Assuming its veracity, how did this Briar Neck business sort out? Two years earlier, a Boston Globe report stated Mayor Davis had plans for Briar:
Long standing Briar Neck controversy –
The controversy as to the ownership of Briar Neck property, between the street railway company and Mayor Davis, resulting in the company acknowledging the city’s rights in an old road there, has become further complicated. Today two of Gloucester’s wealthiest capitalists, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr, entered the fight, and served papers on the street railway company. The plaintiffs claim that they own 36 acres of land at Briar Neck, which extends from the stone wall to the beach, including the fresh water pond, lowlands and uplands traversed by the street railway company. Meanwhile Mayor Davis has something up his sleeve in regard to ownership of the property which will be developed later.August 1898 Boston Globe
The Mayor was limiting the amount of the council’s loan request.
“A long and tedious period of silence, lasting over 40 minutes, followed. Mayor Marchant holding his chair through fear that his seat might be usurped by Alderman Sleep, who is president of the board. In the meantime two of the aldermen had gone out in search of legal advice…”
“…Alderman McKenzie: “Since the mayor refuses to entertain my appeal, I appeal to you.” Mr. Sleep put the motion and Mr. McKenzie was sustained by the unanimous vote of the board…the portion of the loan not approved by the mayor was then passed over his veto by a unanimous vote…Having accomplished their purpose the board adjourned.”Boston Globe October 24, 1900
Mayor French is back in the saddle. (The prior November, ex-Mayors Cook and French, Alderman Hotchkiss and ex-Alderman Barrett vied for the nomination.)
1899 New Year’s message for the Boston Globe by Mayor William French — who was back in as Mayor for 1901.
and his 1902 address published in the Gloucester Daily Times. I had read about French before.
photo caption: Gloucester Daily Times archives retrieved at Sawyer Free November 2018. Read more about 1902 and Haskell Dam in my prior post here on GMG, .
He was described as a modest man from a well known and well regarded “old Cape Ann family”, and endearing accounts about his enthusiasm at reaching his 50th wedding anniversary milestone suggest a loving one, too. (Gloucester Daily Times obit)
Prior to serving as Mayor, he served a term as an alderman 1886-87 (and many appointments/commissions before. Waterways after Mayor).
|Occupation||Adult – Printer/printing since 1870 when he began his career at John S.E. Rogers, owner and printer Gloucester Telegraph, various newspaper jobs. And printing press from his home at advanced age after retirement.|
Boyhood 1870 census- 16 years old, working as a fisherman (family lore he was the cook on father’s boat; father in business with his sons) giving it a go for 8 years like generations of his family. Education unknown, presumed self-taught. Prior to Mayor-1886-87 served as city councilor (overlapping with his father) and more since 1870s. After Mayor, appointments, too. Master gardener. Family historian-writer. Photography.
Master mariner, fisherman, owner; founded seine net repair business 1873; fisheries advisor; served years as city councilor Ward 1
Affinity & skill for art- studied painting with FH Lane; fisheries display models, etc. (And his father was an incredible violinist.) Full & busy life, family man. 31 Main Street family residence
See Shute & Merchant
|Mother||Mary Douglass Merchant (1832-1923) |
Oak Grove Cemetery
Parents had 9 kids
|Mary Jane 1851 – 1944|
George Edward 1853 – 1929
Orlando 1856 – 1930
Flora Estelle died at 2 1858 – 1860
Eugene Howard died at 2 1861 – 1863
Robert Clifford 1864 – 1936
Joseph Carleton 1867 – 1961
unnamed son 1870 – 1870
|Wife||Charlotte E. Lufkin (1857-1945)|
|Children||twins died at 8 days and 9 days |
Ernest H (16 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS 1904)
–buried in Santa Barbara–
George E. Jr. (14 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS)
|Residences||1900 33 Eastern Avenue|
family compounded variously split up before/after
eventually 31 Eastern Ave where Charlotte remains
see 50th wedding anniversary
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery
|Obit both “well known member of old Cape Ann family”|
George E. Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
George Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
Such creative, multi-talented family members! George E.’s photograph and family historian piece on the occasion of his grandfather’s 90th birthday was published in the Boston Globe
Portraits of many Gloucester Mayors are exhibited in Gloucester City Hall. These are photographs of (most of the) Mayor portraits I took back in 2017, after another inauguration. Paintings, photographs and drawings of Mayors have been commissioned or gifted then installed after the term(s) years of service.
Many thanks to Martin Del Vecchio for sharing his video and still images (see photos here) of the spectacularly beautiful pod of North American Right Whales feeding off of Cape Ann shores yesterday, May 4, 2018.
Martin writes, “The North Atlantic Right Whales that have been spotted around Gloucester spent the morning feeding just off Long Beach. And I mean just off; in some cases, within 20 feet of the rocks.
Salt Island, Good Harbor Beach and Brier Neck are naturally connected. The five acre Salt Island is about 1000 feet from Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A sandbar links the island and beach at low tide. I’ve culled a few milestones in its history. Scroll down to 2017 to find the links for the Cape Ann Beacon and today’s Boston Globe.
History of the Town of Gloucester: Cape Ann, John Jame Babson’s published history includes a shipwreck of the vessel, Industry, at Little Good Harbor Beach near Salt Island in 1796
Joseph Parsons’ family operated a lobster business from Salt Island
silent movies were filmed on location
Parts of the Fox Film Corporation movie, Bride Number 13, were shot on location at Good Harbor Beach and Salt Island. The 15 part serial silent film –“the most costly pictures ever made…would consume expenditures of at least one million dollars.” It was conceived and written by Edward Sedgwick, directed by Richard Stanton aka “Salt Island’s Mighty Emperor”, and starred Marguerite Clayton, Jack O’Brien, and Ed Rossman. The script was inspired by Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Here are a few fun excerpts from 1919 correspondence published in the book, “My father, a silent films pioneer,” by George E. Mcavoy:
“Again the picturesque Gloucester shores have been sought by a motion picture corporation for scenery and the noted Fox Film Company of New York, with its prominent director, Richard Stanton, has arrived at Hotel Harbor View, East Gloucester, to start immediately on the work of filming “Bride Number 13” at Salt Island off Brier Neck.
“It was decided that Salt Island in Gloucester, Mass., would be the setting of the silent film thriller, “Bride Number 13.” This island was an island at high tide and part of the mainland at low tide. Fox film Co. was building a wooden castle on the island, which was about one hundred feet high and hosted the actions of this silent film…”
“(This was five days before the real tornado blew the wooden castle out to sea.)”
Oct 24, 1919“Dear Mother: I left Mary and the babies in Gloucester. I am on my way through New Hampshire and Maine for a lumber camp location. I expect to be back in Gloucester Monday night…
the time for the blowing up of the castle on Salt Island and the rescue of the brides from the pirate band is rapidly approaching…
Billy Carr of Gloucester, Chief Gunner’s Mate on the Navy submarine R-1 that was assigned to the picture, was to play the hero who rescues one of the brides, slashes through the nest of cutthroats, leaps into the basket with her and off. It was now November 10th. A throng of 3,000 was at Good Harbor and all over Brier Neck to watch…On the fourth day Bill Carr was called away on duty and his place was taken by Tom Corbiey…”
“Mr. Sedgwick has achieved something heretofore unknown in moving picture production. He conceived the idea of the story, witnessed and helped direct the scenes, acted in them, had a hand in the grinding of the film, and in fact had a part in every process of the film production…”
“While all bid good-bye to Gloucester last night, there was a general expression of a desire to return and several of the company said that they intended to return here next summer for the vacation period if not in picture work.”
“The explosion was a heavy one and its shock was felt in all parts of the city. It shook the windows of houses on Mt. Vernon Street and vicinity, also at East Gloucester and as far as Rockport. It occurred at 4:20 o’clock and people who felt the shock readily attributed it to the blow-up of Salt Island.”
Then and now: filmmakers love Gloucester.
Fox Film Corporation returned to film the patriotic silent era Navy spy film, THE SILENT COMMAND on Good Harbor Beach, again on the Briar/Brier neck side.
1923 was a busy year for Gloucester, MA. In addition to the municipality managing the bustling tercentenary, Gloucester welcomed another major Fox movie production to shoot on location at Good Harbor Beach. The film was made in cooperation with the Navy. It was directed by J Gordon Edwards, and starred Edmund Lowe and Bela Lugosi in his first American film. It’s essentially a spy thriller with a honeypot formula: foreign power attempts to secure plans to the Panama Canal and blow it up. The villains are thwarted by the US Navy. The production required assistance from the city’s fire department and city electrician. The film crew stayed in Gloucester at the Harbor View Hotel and the Savoy. Local people were cast and spectators lined the beach to watch the thrilling production.
I love this excerpt from the Gloucester Daily Times describing the staged wreck and tremendous waves washing the crew (stuntmen and Gloucester locals) overboard:
“A crowd of several hundred thronged the (Good Harbor) beach for the picture taking and enjoyed the proceedings, which were interesting, and at times thrilling…The Good Harbor beach setting is a clever contrivance, and constructed to produce a natural rocking motion of a steamer in a heavy sea. The rocking is produced by four winches operated by a crew of 10 men…Storm scenes were filmed yesterday afternoon with local actors, Stuart Cooney, son of Marion J. Cooney, taking the part of the hero and making a thrilling climb into the rigging to the crow’s nest during the height of the storm. Fred Kolstee, a rigger, commanded the crew of the steamer. The crew were (locals) Alfred Marshall, Tony Amero, Tom Bess, Peter Rice, James Francis, James Whittle and William Byers. Rain was produced from lines of hose, and a most realistic effect was produced by two aeroplanes, the wind from the speeding propellors driving the water about, and rushing through the rattlings and rigging with all the vengeance of a real gale at sea. Three times the big tank of water was released and the thousands of gallons broke over the deck in a most thrilling manner. There was some concern among the movie men before the water was released that some of the men might get buffeted about and get hurt, and they were cautioned to hold on tight.
It was best expressed by Alfred Marshall when he stepped toward the ladder to leave the craft after the picture taking was done. Alfred was quite vexed. “Blankety, blankety, blank___, is this the best you can do? Blank, I’ve bailed bigger seas than that out of a dory. And he sung it right out so all could hear, too.”
Stuart Cooney ensured that the movie was a success from a technical perspective and “purchased the outfit and (took) it over” after the filming finished. He was a Gloucester pioneer in the film industry that’s still going strong. Film Cape Ann facilitates bringing local productions here, like the award winning Manchester by the Sea. The Wikipedia page doesn’t have any mention of Gloucester, but it helped me with an illustration for The Silent Command lobby poster.
See for yourself; here’s a link to the complete movie. A few of the Gloucester scenes (not all) 1:03:44, 1:08:54, 1:09:54 (some coast), 1:10:21, 1:10:52 (dory lowered from navy ship), 1:11:12 (beach island)
AFI for TCM brief synopsis: “This is one of those ‘Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean’ pictures. Full of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,’ patriotic to the nth degree with the navy floating all over the screen. A real hero, a vamp, and a flock of thrills.” (from Var review.) Foreign agents, determined to destroy the United States Navy’s Atlantic Fleet and the Panama Canal, after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain from Capt. Richard Decatur information regarding mine positions in the Canal Zone, hire adventuress Peg Williams to vamp Captain Decatur, thereby putting him at their mercy. Decatur, advised by the Chief of Naval Intelligence, plays along with the spies to gain their confidence. He leaves his wife and is dismissed from the Navy as a result of his association with Miss Williams. Finally, he goes to Panama, thwarts the saboteurs, saves the fleet and the canal, and gains honorable reinstatement and the gratitude of his country for his heroism.”
Guy Parsons used one of the old family fishing shacks as a summer place
By now the fishing shacks were no longer visible
Parson family sold Salt Island
James Kimball purchased Salt Island for $2000
Yankee Magazine article about Bride Number 13 Lights! Camera! Disaster! by Joseph E. Garland
Gloucester Daily Times article mentions that James Kimball “has no plans for the island, although in the past he has thought of building a summer home on the island. When I was young my family spent their summers on Brier Neck…So when the island became available I jumped at the chance.”
One of the designated “Special places in Gloucester”
“Special places in Gloucester” appendix list for the MA Heritage Landscape Inventory Program, MA Dept of Conservation and Recreation Essex National Heritage
GMG abou the Filming of Bride 13 on Salt Island by Fred Bodin
“Where is this film? I’d love to know. All sources indicate that Bride 13 was either lost or destroyed, as happened with many silent films. The reference used for this post was the May 1972 Yankee Magazine article, Lights! Camera! Disaster!, authored by the late Joseph E. Garland of Gloucester.”
and September 9, 2011 GMG Filming of Bride 13 on Salt Island Fred Buck Cape Ann Museum adds photos from the location filming
Salt Island listed for sale $300,000 plus beach parking passes for the family
Salt Island listed For Sale $750,000
“If somebody buys it and builds, it’s because these guys didn’t step up to the plate and protect it the way my father did when I was a little girl, ” said Maslow, who pointed out that she and her siblings are not rich people with big summer houses. “I can’t help it if someone buys it and paints it purple and puts pigs on it.” – Karen Maslow
“…this island has been available for public use informally for generations thanks to the goodwill of that family. That point should not be lost.” — Chris LaPointe, Essex County Greenbelt
There are more than 110 portraits of the City of Gloucester by the American artist Edward Hopper. There are a few 1923 Good Harbor Beach scenes including one with Jo Nivison seated sketching, and in the distance Bass Rocks and a ‘Hopper’ house. That vista was already a Gloucester motif.
Eleven years before the image of Jo sketching, Hopper painted the other side of Good Harbor (Brier Neck) when he first came to New England. Leon Kroll painted two pedestrian bridges on the Bass Rocks side of the beach that same year.
Leon Kroll, 1912, oil on canvas, (Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester) 26 x 32
Knoll also painted Niles and Pavilion. He kept returning to Gloucester; eventually his family purchased a home in Folly Cove in 1932. Learn more at Cape Ann Museum and see Kroll works of art on display.