2015 Winter and Spring Speaker Series
The 300 Committee Land Trust
& Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, Inc.
Rhode Island-based science writer Todd McLeish has been writing about wildlife and environmental issues for more than 25 years. In more than 100 magazine articles, he has highlighted numerous threatened species, profiled biologists and wildlife artists and described encounters with a wide variety of animals. In this talk, he will introduce the remarkable lives of the rarest and most endangered wildlife in New England, from birds and beetles to whales and plants. Join him on an entertaining first-person journey as he tracks basking sharks, collects biopsy samples from humpback whales, investigates the nesting burrows of elusive seabirds and observes the metamorphosis of rare dragonflies. His talk is based on two books he has authored about imperiled species. These will be available for purchase and signing following his presentation.
The Red Chair is a great way to meet new people. I know, that sounds really strange but it’s so true!
My humble red chair (rescued from the Falmouth dump, more context here) is making a tour of all the best Inns and B&B’s in New England, and because of that, it was invited to meet the editors of Yankee Magazine. And I got to tag along.
Yankee Magazine is headquartered in the village of Dublin, New Hampshire. In the shadow of Mount Monadnock, this is a classic New England spot if ever I saw one with a white-spired church, petite village green, tiny sandwich shop and miniature rotary.
Blink and you will miss it.
We were ushered in the hallowed halls of this iconic spot, and amazingly enough, retired editor Judson Hale was there! What an incredibly warm and charming fellow he is — curious about the Red Chair and eager to show us his famous “Museum,” a collection of objects gathered over the 50 plus years he has worked at Yankee, many of them as it’s editor in chief.
Jud’s Museum is irreverent, historical and downright hilarious. He has a splinter of the sinking of the Maine (1898) which a man from Cuba claims to have rescued from Havana Harbor, a glove mold from the old runner factory next to “The Balsams” in Dixville Notch, NH and even a crows foot Jud says was stolen from the dead body of Sitting Bull. He asked for Einstein’s brain but never got it, and that kind of detail does not set Jud back — he has a fake.
You will enjoy his whimsy in this YouTube clip talking about the contents of his famous office. I did get the sense he had told the stories he shared with me and the Red Chair a few times before, but you too can experience it with the magic of the internet:)
Here are a few more images from this special visit, one that both the Red Chair and I will cherish forever:
Hanging out outside the building, waiting to meet the Editors.
Contents of Jud’s Museum, up close and personal.
Close up of the fragment of the “Maine” — “How do I know this is a splinter from the sunken ship?” Jud asked me, looking coy. “The man who gave it to me told me so.” he answers himself with a wry smile.
While the exact historical relevance of each the objects in Jud’s museum may be a bit suspicious, one thing is surely true — Jud has enjoyed collecting them, and there would be no better tour guide to this rare space than the inspired collector himself. You can read more about our visit in the Yankee Magazine blog written by Heather Atwell. Check it out!
The winter months pass faster than you might imagine, as you count the days for Cape Cod summer to return. The sunsets are glamorous and this winter has been unusually warm — a mixed blessing for those of us so close to sea level. If global warming is for real, then we are looking into the maw of the beast. The silver lining? The mild weather makes it easier to dash out at sunset and catch this kind of panorama.
Construction continues at the Woods Hole Inn. The second floor, where the new guest rooms are located, is almost done. This week they put the finish paint on, and next week will be consumed with refinishing the amazing original hardwood floors. Radiators went back in, the old school cast iron kind, and french doors were hung on the doors to the decks. Deck railing comes next week as well.
On the third floor, where the staff of the Inn will live soon enough, the drywall and plastering is complete and carpenters are putting the trim on the windows and molding along the floor boards. Sadly, the old wood floors up there were trashed, a cruel fate required for structural reasons by the Falmouth building department. In it’s place, the sustainable cork tiles will look modern and clean. The shapes of the rooms can finally be seen fully, and it’s odd to have such an intimate memory of the bones underneath the skin of the walls.
We are ordering a special wallpaper for the front hall, made from the piles of 1946-era check in cards we found stashed in the attic. I am confident that it will look graphic and interesting, and also delight those who want to reminisce about Mrs Josiah Smith of Vineyard Haven who stayed at the inn in 1946 for $3 per night. In addition, I found two incredible Russian ship lanterns, galvanized metal with red paint and old marine glass. I am having them made into lights for the front porch. You will tell me if you think they make the right “vintage restored” statement when they are finally hung in place.
I took my copy of building plans and wrote a love note to the person who will unearth all our work 50 years from now. I tried to express the joy I found in the doing, but I secretly hope they will know my passions from the lines of the house before they ever find my rushed scribbles.
A few images for you:
View from the top of the stairs looking down. The splattered wood you see in the middle will be removed so that you can experience three stories in the entrance. These are the walls that will be wall-papered with the check in cards from 1946.
Top floor, a lovely living room with private balcony and views to Martha’s Vineyard. Grey from the fresh plaster, this will be painted white and all trimmed out.
Another view of the same room, the light streaming in from the side of the building that faces the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.
New bathrooms with combo shower-tubs and the vintage floors brought back to their pre-paint glory.
Cast iron tubs came from the tub doctor in New Bedford. They look happy to be out of the showroom and back in the action.
Finally, the perfect image of the summer coming, from my friend Denise at the Sippewissett Campgrounds. This is what we are all waiting for. Thank you for sharing this, Denise — Nobska Lighthouse on an incredible summer day.
I can’t wait to be out on my boat looking up at that lighthouse, waiting for the fireflies to come out, basking in the last light of the day as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound. See you all this summer.
Figuring out how to restore stuff from a creaky old house is complicated. Who can bring these aging beauties back to life? Where do you have to go to find old-world craftsmen? Who cares about worn and antique stuff anymore?
I am headed down to New Bedford to the workshop of the “Tub Doctor” this week. For $500, the doctor will re-porcelain your worn cast iron tub, and sandblast the exterior to ready it for paint of any color. He is a colorful fellow, the Tub Doctor, and you will learn all about his life when you visit him. He prefers black feet on the tub to chrome, he wishes that women were more faithful, and he is looking for investors in a new business idea that will double your money in less than three months. I am resisting calling his eccentric conversation style over-sharing…. how about peppered with interesting and specific information.
Just finding the studio is intense. Imagine a series of abandoned brick factory buildings, sprawling over acres of empty asphalt behind chain link and razor wire with an old wooden door that might be in a travel blog about Moldova or Croatia.
The workshop is set in the middle of the largely-abandoned mill compound, and this section is littered with debris, broken tile, odd concrete. When they say New Bedford never recovered from the collapse of the Industrial Revolution, they are talking about places like this.
On the inside, vast chambers disappear as far as the eye can see and you can feel the spirit of the mill girls from the 1890’s, giggling and laughing at their sewing tables, even in today’s dank and empty silence.
Once you get into the Tub Doctor’s lair the heat is on, a radio plays and the smell of cigarettes mixed with paint fumes makes you feel like you are back in the 21st century. The Doctor is friendly and chatty, telling me about his baby, his son’s landlord and the price of the lunch he plans to eat later today.
We debate the cast iron tub feet and I defer to his taste about the chrome — never looks good, he tells me, chrome paint just looks like chrome paint. I like how the feet look like chess pieces, pawns clustered in a corner for safety. Maybe the ghostly mill girls play with them after dark, I think to myself.
I pay him cheerily, genuinely happy to have stumbled upon this odd corner of the world. I look forward to seeing him again when he delivers the final product to the Woods Hole Inn in a month or so. I drive out of the compound, back in the sharp winter sunshine, and smile.
You can find the old tubs plus the Tub Doctor yourself by calling New England Demo and Storage. Leave a little extra time for the stories, because let’s face it … the journey is half the fun.
Construction blogging is like high school dating. You flirt, you kiss for the first time, and then all of a sudden you have nothing to say to each other. Yes, hard to imagine but I have run out of clever things to say about wood framing, Marvin windows and drywall.
In truth, quite a bit of drama unfurled at the Woods Hole Inn as we hurdled towards 2012. But I can’t really go into it in any detail without hurting feelings or pissing people off. There was the fight over an 8 foot hole in the roof (abated), the struggles with NStar (we gave up), the drama of the chimney flues (unnecessary) and the saga of crumbling masonry (ongoing). There were highs and lows, and suffice it to say that so far, the highs have it. Could I really ask for more than that?
The sub trades came and went. I met with the contractor and architect weekly. The bills came monthly and I kept a difibrulator in the office in case of heart attack. (Wow, stuff is expensive on Cape Cod! ) The bank visited to be sure we are actually spending the money they lend us for the building. There are cautionary tales told, about borrowers who bough Ferrari’s instead (hmmm) and people over 90 days in default (oooh, that sounds uncomfortable).
But we plowed onward. The wind blew yesterday, too hard for the roofers which was a disappointment as it was otherwise fortuitous : clear, dry and not too cold. We are gunning for the “rough framing, plumbing and electric inspection,” the first big step toward completion. After we pass that, then we can insulate, sprinkler and drywall. It’s all downhill from there with finish carpentry, painting and decorating. Sounds easy, huh. And here is what you came for, the photos of progress and action as of late December 2012:
We struggled with Marvin Windows as their lead time is much longer than other companies, and they are pricey. But they look really nice once installed. If they last a nice long time in the salt spray, I will be happy. Call me in fifteen years.
And the views through those windows. Wow…
Thanks for following along and see you all this summer…
This week, construction began on the new rooms at the Woods Hole Inn. With a crew of five demolition experts, the walls came down on the top floor revealing the majesty of a high-ceilinged space with amazing light and great views…when you can see through the construction dust that is.
Franko and the boys arrived Tuesday with crowbars and mallets to pound it out. Electricians stripped back the wires and a plumber came in to unhook the old claw foot tub. We pulled as much moulding as we could so we can re-use it as we put the place back together again.
I snuck in the day before they arrived and took some “before” photos. Inn guests happily ensconced in the lap of luxury two stories below would be shocked by the state of affairs up here. The windows were blown out and boarded up after various storms years ago. There was a rabbit warren of tiny rooms, accessed by a barn-like stairway. One bath for maybe 10 cubby-sized spaces, some only big enough for a bed roll.
I have met a few people who lived up here summers in the 70s and earlier, but I don’t think it has been habitable for maybe thirty years now. One former waitress at the Landfall told me she paid $25 per week. Another former resident bragged that a lot of pot was smoked up here, back in the sixties when Woods Hole was a real hippie hang out.
The Woods Hole Inn was more flophouse than eco-destination at that point. Summer college kids slummed it with the former chauffeurs of Penzance Point estates and other retired alcoholics. One man told me his mother advised he run past the building, as there were often “unsavory characters” on the front stoop.
Here are a few photos of what it looked like just before the demo crew showed up:
It’s was really hard to photograph because the rooms were small and dark. We had already done some minor demo three years ago while renovating other parts of the building. On top of that, it appears that the piles of old air conditioners were mating with the dusty artificial Christmas trees, or something like that. That the debris was replicating in the dark is the only explanation I can come up for why the junk seemed to grow larger each time I ventured up.
But after three days with a sledgehammer, you could see the old lathe and look through walls to the windows beyond, Cape light streaming in and promising a better future. Franko told me they had found some really old work boots (see above) and other debris — fell down from the ceilings he said. A couple of really vintage brandy bottles, a pair of cotton spats with little hooks for covering the calves when riding (?), a tiny wooden sailboat-toy painted a matte blue, a dusty old stuffed kitty long forgotten by it’s childish master.
I am working on an exhibit of artifacts to trace the history of the inn. Any input from people who know more than I do would be greatly appreciated. The final will be on display in the lobby next summer so come take a look. And come back to this blog for more posts about our progress. The expected completion is spring 2012 when the Inn will re-open with 14 new rooms and suites. See you then!
WOODS HOLE – by Patricia Borns for the BOSTON GLOBE
To understand this village in Falmouth, you have to think beyond the parking lots overflowing with ferry passengers bound for Martha’s Vineyard. Park at the Falmouth Mall, hop the WHOOSH trolley, and you can spend a day on beaches laced with salt ponds and pink rosa ragosa.
From its main drag Water Street to the channel between Penzance Point and Nonamesset Island for which it was named, Woods Hole is synonymous with ocean. You can smell it in the air, see it from almost every restaurant, appreciate it in the seascapes at Edie Bruce’s art gallery on School Street, and learn about it from some of the world’s premier marine research institutions, starting with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).
You might start by admiring the new drawbridge on Water Street as it opens and closes on a pageant of boat traffic in and out of Eel Pond. Then, follow Woods Hole Road to Church Street where Nobska Point Light overlooks one of the best views on Cape Cod.
See white sails tacking toward the purple outline of Martha’s Vineyard on the Vineyard Sound chop, and the mostly Forbes family-owned Elizabeth Islands tapering to a southwest vanishing point facing Buzzards Bay. A day could start and end on this spot, as it often has for artist Doug Rugh, whose career began as an illustrator at the MBL, where his grandparents did research. Rugh and his wife, artist Hillary Osborne, have created an oeuvre of Woods Hole scenes. To locate these in physical reality, link to the Google map on their website, osbornandrughgallery.com.
Spread your blanket on Nobska Beach below the lighthouse on Church Street, or on Stoney Beach beside Gosnold Road, where “you can hear children calling the shells by their [scientific] names,” Rugh says. That’s because scientists by the hundreds flock to the Buzzards Bay-side beach during the season.
“I love the summer. It’s great to be around so many new and different people,” says Cliff Pontbriand, a junior engineer working on oceanographic instrumentation at WHOI. For a peek at the marine scientists’ inner sanctums, he suggests one of the WHOI or MBL tours. The WHOI tour includes a view of the institution’s dock where recently sub-sea robot Nereus was being tested before shipping out to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of Earth’s oceans.
Along with a library of scientific journals dating from the 17th century, the MBL tour visits the Marine Resources Center on MBL Street, where Ed Enos presides over tanks filled with sea creatures used in research.
“What does this remind you of?” says Enos, handing around a mass of gelatinous, fingerlike squid eggs to some shy youngsters. “Gummy bears!” He likens a sea urchin to “mom’s pin cushion” and presses a finger to a toad fish’s soft abdomen so that it grunts “like a frog.”
Pontbriand suggests that if you want to experience what scientists do, get out on the water with OceanQuest. Located next to the WHOI docks on Great Harbor, OceanQuest’s 63-foot, three-station research vessel is the brainchild of Kathy Mullin, a math and science teacher who moved to Cape Cod with her husband but couldn’t find a teaching job. The 90-minute cruise starts on the bow, introducing the atmospheric and ocean dynamics that make our planet viable. There you’ll take a water sample, and in the cabin, analyze it under a scope. On the stern, you might trawl and handle crabs, lightning fish, or any of 200 species found in just a 10-mile radius.
“In the fall we even see trigger fish, usually found in the tropics. The confluence of currents gives Cape Cod waters incredible diversity,” Mullin says.
Science is present even in the spiritual quiet of the Garden of Our Lady, located on Millfield Street across from St. Joseph Church. Created by Frances Lillie, who came in 1894 to study at the MBL, the garden offers a bench where you can contemplate the messages inscribed on the bell tower (Lillie named the two bells for Roman Catholic scientists Gregor Mendel and Louis Pasteur) and the prolific flowers with names like Lady’s Slipper, Lady’s Mantle, and Madonna Lily invoking the Virgin Mary.
The 700,000 daffodils may have passed, but the rhododendrons will be blooming in Spohr Gardens, an out-of-the-way landscape off Oyster Pond Road that’s worth a painting or picnic in early June. Begun in the 1950s, the six-acre plot set on a still green pond was the passion of Margaret and Charles Spohr, who also collected the ships’ anchors, bells, and millstones on display.
You could wind down the day with a brew and burger at “the Kidd” (Captain Kidd Restaurant on Water Street) where wisps of theoretical discourse can be heard among the tourists’ din.
But if you like to bike, follow the Shining Sea Bikeway out Quissett Road to Quissett Harbor. New this year, the shore-hugging route, which many consider the sweetest on Cape Cod, has been extended from the Woods Hole Steamship Authority to County Road in North Falmouth, about 10 miles. Slightly north of Woods Hole proper, inner Quissett Harbor looks like a page from a children’s book: deep and glade-like, dotted with classic sloops. Around the shoreline, the buildings of the former Quissett Harbor Hotel and James Marshall estate, now a conference facility of the National Academy of Sciences, recall Quissett’s days as a 19th-century vacation spot.
A leafy trail shoots off to small beaches, and a narrow neck of land, the Knob, wraps its protective arm around the harbor. Here you can watch the sun set with a wide-open view to Buzzards Bay and the Elizabeth Islands.
While I was here, a boy splashed in the shallows with his parents. “Mom,” he said, “isn’t this the perfect place?”
Patricia Borns can be reached at email@example.com.