FAIRHAVEN – NEW BEDFORD – ROUND HILL, MASSACHUSETTS on the way home 28-29 April 2015

I get busy — and it has taken a week to get this post done, and posted on 7 May 2015 – sorry.

Plan on Tuesday (April 28th) was to spend more time in Oak Bluffs prior to queuing for the ferry at 11:30.  I followed the coast from Edgartown up, and first came to Ocean Park, and its surrounding homes on Ocean Avenue.  WOW. It was in the 40s, big wind off the ocean, and overcast. But, still images worth capturing, and by now you know what type of architecture and time period I enjoy.

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Architectural eye candy for sure, and I could not stop taking pictures. So, here is a gallery of them, and remember you can click on any of them to open up and see larger size.

And, then I got to see The Wesley Hotel built in 1879 – a “grand hotel” and my kind of establishment.

The Wesley Hotel, Oak Bluffs, Massachsetts

The Wesley Hotel, Oak Bluffs, Massachsetts

It was still closed for the season, but I was able to get some pictures through the windows. Then I saw a note on the door that said “office open in rear.” I walked around back, found a door unlocked and went in. Never found an office, but did get two interior shots from the inside. Here for my memory is what I saw (remember you can click to enlarge).

Upon arriving back on the mainland in Woods Hole, I toured through the small village and discovered that essentially every building is associated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, or the Marine Biological Laboratory – all impressive. Crossing the Bourne Bridge, and now really back on the mainland, I opted (of course) to travel on the old US 6 instead of I-195 to Fairhaven and New Bedford. Now you do not have to take that route because I have discovered for you that there is nothing to see. I did detour down to Marion which is a lovely little former artist’s colony on Buzzards Bay, and I am sure that there are many little roads to remote spots on the bay.

Fairhaven is on the east side of the Acushnet River which empties into Buzzards Bay, and New Bedford is on the west side. My first stop (as usual) was the visitor’s center, and my good fortune lead me to spending about an hour with the director of tourism, Chris Richard. He has been “on the job” 19 years and was so knowledgeable. I learned a great deal, and what I must see.

It seems like everywhere I go is full of “firsts” and home to “someone important.” Born in Fairhaven in 1840, Henry Huttleston Rogers became one of John D. Rockefeller’s top men in Standard Oil. Rogers became quite a benefactor of Fairhaven building a number of impressive buildings.

The Town Hall (1894), which Chris encouraged me to see inside, has a fantastic interior.

Fairhaven, Massachusetts Town Hall

Fairhaven, Massachusetts Town Hall

Mark Twain was a close friend of Rogers, and was the keynote speaker on this stage for the dedication on February 22, 1894.

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Following the dedication they went across the street to The Millicent Library (1893) also donated by Rogers’ in memory of his daughter who died in 1890 at age 17.

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I was overwhelmed with the interior, and need to redecorate my bookshop along these lines.

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There are wonderful things all around the reading rooms:

Twain’s letter reads, in part: “It is an ideal library, I think.”

Then I went to Fort Phoenix. In the waters off the fort the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War took place May 13-14, 1775. The break wall you see is new, to protect the river and towns from hurricane flooding.

Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven, MA. Looking north up Acushnet River and New Bedford.

Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven, MA. Looking north up Acushnet River and New Bedford.

Click below to enlarge.

My next recommended stop was Poverty Point on the river. Again, so much history. The first Japanese person to live in America, Manjiro Nakahama, was brought here by a whaler in 1843. Charlie M. had recently told me the story, so it was a treat to see the area. You should read about him – he helped open Japan when Commodore Perry visited in 1854. There too, Capt. Joshua Slocum rebuilt an old oyster boat, the Spray, in which he became the first person to sail around the world alone, completing his three year voyage in 1895. And settling here in 1652, John Cooke is supposedly buried here. Arriving on the Mayflower at age 14, he was supposedly at his death in 1695, the last surviving male passenger on the Mayflower.

Just up the road is the Riverside Cemetery. Yes,  Rogers is there, but also the Delano Family Tomb, built in 1859 by an uncle of FDR. Most all of the family is there except FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, who is with her son in Hyde Park.

But, it was time to cross the river and check into my B&B –  Captain Haskell’s Octagon House.

Captain Haskell's Octagon House, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Captain Haskell’s Octagon House, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

O. S. Fowler’s design for octagon houses were very popular in the 1850s. “An octagon house was cheaper to build, allowed for additional living space, received more natural light, was easier to heat, and remained cooler in the summer. These benefits all derive from the geometry of an octagon: the shape encloses space efficiently, minimizing external surface area and consequently heat loss and gain, building costs etc.” I have always been fascinated by this style of architecture too, thus had to stay here. (I last toured an Octagon House (below) in October at the  Genesee County Village and Museum in Mumford, NY.

I started at the Octagon House in the Victorian village area.

I started at the Octagon House in the Victorian village area.

My host, Chuck, was pleasant and informative. Modifications to his home have been made over the years obscuring some of the typical Octagon House features, but the ambience and decoration was wonderful. Why do I show you my rooms? Because of the uniqueness of B&Bs, and to encourage you to travel from one to another whenever possible.

I asked Chuck for dinner suggestions, and in the course of discussion learned that the majority of New Bedford’s population is Portuguese, and has been for centuries (more on that later). It made sense to go to a Portuguese restaurant, and his favorite was Inner Bay on Cove Road.

Soon I was off, but drove around town to get a feel for the next day’s trek. I stopped at Fort Taber, and then swung back up along Clarks Cove off Buzzards Bay to the northernmost part, and there was Inner Bay Cafe & Grill Restaurant. Situated since 1995 in an old brick coffee syrup factory, I entered and was seated. My server, Cathy, told me the specials – there were more specials than entrees on the menu – and most were a “fresh catch.”  I selected grilled tuna. She told me it came with a soup or salad, and a choose the kale soup – WOW.

My grilled tuna at INNER BAY in New Bedford, MA

My grilled tuna at INNER BAY in New Bedford, MA

When I was leaving, a gentleman asked me how I enjoyed my meal – I raved. Ended up he was the owner, Tony Soares. He toured me on the second floor where there was another dining room, party room, and roof top eating (closed that weeknight), and when we got downstairs he said, “join me for a drink.” We had some lovely port, and he introduced me to a number of patrons. I chatted and learned from them all. It could not have been a better more memorable experience. RAY RECOMMENDS: Get a local recommendation for a restaurant, and partake in the local nationality’s food; and, if you have a chance to visit with local strangers, do so and enjoy every moment. And, do take in the INNER BAY in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Visitor Center - New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

Visitor Center – New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

Wednesday, April 29th, I was at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park  when it opened. The whaling capital of the world in the mid-19th century, a number of blocks in New Bedford have been preserved close to what they would have been at that time. The whale oil brought back following 2-3 year voyages “lit the world” and made New Bedford one of the wealthiest of towns. It was the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 that lead to its demise as refined kerosine took the place of whale oil.

Around the corner is the renowned New Bedford Whaling Museum.

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RAY RECOMMENDS – Plan to spend a half a day at the museum. Its preeminent collection will give you an understanding of this bygone industry.

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I had the museum to myself, except for a few school groups. I will always “hang to the rear” of those groups to learn from the docents. I even asked this gentleman a few questions – think he appreciated it. When a whale is spotted, the crew heads off in the whale boat. The harpoon is not to kill the whale, but to “capture” the whale and stay “attached” until the whale begins to tire and the boat can get close to hurl additional projectiles (sorry, forget the terminology – I am good on concepts, not details) to puncture the whale’s lungs thus killing it.

Docent explaining how the whale boat is used.

Docent explaining how the whale boat is used.

One of the original galleries at the museum is the Bourne Building built in 1915-16, with funds donated by Emily Bourne in memory of her father, whaling merchant Jonathan Bourne, Jr. Inside is the LAGODA, an 89-foot, half-scale model of the original ship, and the largest ship model in existence.

The Bark Lagoda

The Bark Lagoda

Exact in every detail. Here are the “trying tanks” where the blubber was reduced to the oil then placed in barrels. Hard to believe the small size of these whaling ships – even in full size – circumnavigating the world.

Trying tanks on the half-scale Bark Lagoda

Trying tanks on the half-scale Bark Lagoda

I mentioned before that the majority of the population of New Bedford is Portuguese. This is because of the sailing route of the whaling ships. The currents would carry them into the Azores and Cape Verde islands. The ships would pick up supplies, and add to their crews. Those crew members would then settle in New Bedford, and later bring their families over on “packet ships.”  So much to learn, here is some information on the museum’s panels if you wish to click and open them up to learn more.

Next I walked around the historic area. This is the Double Bank Building – two banks, two entrances, one for rich, and the other for the not so rich.

Double Bank Building - New Bedford, Massachusetts

Double Bank Building – New Bedford, Massachusetts

The Seamen’s Bethel has served Mariners since 1832 as a house of worship. In 1841, Herman Melville worshipped here, and later mentioned the chapel’s memorials in MOBY DICK.

Seaman's Bethel - New Bedford, Massachusetts

Seaman’s Bethel – New Bedford, Massachusetts

I then had a late lunch in a little soup and sandwich place. Fantastic vegetarian chile, and I had some cucumber salad – now on my list to make.  Meal prices are what I consider a bargain in New Bedford, and worth a side-stop from I-195 if cruising by.

Built in 1836, this is the oldest continuously operating US Custom House.

US CUSTOM HOUSE - New Bedford, Massachusetts

US CUSTOM HOUSE – New Bedford, Massachusetts

You know me, I looked in the door, and it was dark – but the door was unlocked. In I go

Inside US Customs House, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Inside US Customs House, New Bedford, Massachusetts

down the marbled floor to read the history panels in the back. Soon I hear footsteps coming down the stairs, and it is a customs agent who heard the door. “Of course you can look around,” he told me. I later went upstairs to their offices and looked at the original measuring device for helping in describing sailors, and the fine woodwork mainly covered up. GSA has the building for sale. Hum?

 

There is still more to see and do in New Bedford, but I also wanted to see Round Hill in South Dartmouth. At the whaling museum I found, and purchased, a self-punished book on Colonel “Ned” Green’s mansion. His mother, Hetty Green, was known as the “wicked witch of Wall Street,” and when she died in 1916, Ned and his sister inherited somewhere between 100 and 200 million dollars. I recently read two books on Hetty Green that have been in my library over 15 years, and wrote an article on her connection (and burial) in Bellows Falls, across the river. At the museum I also found a wonderful Historical Map of Dartmouth, Massachusetts with details on all the little villages. Off I went.

Not quite a peninsula, but remote on Buzzards Bay, I recommend a drive through Padanaram down to the point, and back up through Russell’s Mill. I got to the gate of the estate, which is now condominiums with other homes on the grounds.  But the guard just refused to let me in, “but I am a historian writing on Hetty Green,” I told him. “But I will get in trouble,” he said. Sadly I headed down to the beach road and thence to the water’s edge on property that had originally been part of the estate. Very historical, and the property ownership goes back to the 1600s in Hetty’s family. Here is a view of the estate from the main road.

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Currently there is a two bedroom condo for sale in the mansion for only $899,000. But remember you get a diligent gate guard with it.

In Russell’s Mills I stumbled into Davoll’s General Store which has been there since 1793, and is currently for sale.

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And, then I shot home via Providence, Rhode Island.

If you survived to this point, THANK YOU. Not sure if I write too much, or do too much. There is so much history I stumble onto, I wish I could share more, but hopefully my words will entice you to do some further research and reading – or better yet ROAD TRIP!

And talking about road trips, may I suggest that you read my friends, Scott and Betty’s, wonderful travel blog for some fascinating history. Betty does a great job – AIRSTREAM TOURING WITH SCOTT AND BETTY

 

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2 Responses to FAIRHAVEN – NEW BEDFORD – ROUND HILL, MASSACHUSETTS on the way home 28-29 April 2015

  1. scotttho says:

    Great post Ray, so much history indeed. I really enjoyed the mention of Capt. Joshua Slocum, his book Sailing Alone Around the World has always been one of my favorites. Well written and understated, it’s a gem.

  2. Jim says:

    Wonderful post, Ray — with some mighty handsome pictures of some mighty handsome buildings.
    I have a particular yen for the beautiful theater inside of the Fairhaven Town Hall — that ceiling! I suspect — accoustically speaking — it isn’t a patch on our own, fair, Helen Miller Theater, but still…
    Also echo the previous chap’s posting re: Joshua Slocum’s book — something I first read when I was twelve and something that I have re-read many times since then. Who would imagine that a
    personal blog would collect two SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD fans leaving encomia in succession?! The Internet is indeed an undiscovered country…

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