May is a wonderful month to visit New England places of historic interest. The dreary rain of April is behind us and the hordes of tourists are not yet here.
This week the story of John Hull, the first mint master in Massachusetts Bay Colony, suggests a visit to the town named after him (that would be Hull) and the Hull Lifesaving Museum. You’ll find it in the former Point Allerton U.S. Lifesaving Station, opened in 1889 for the Massachusetts Humane Society and later the U.S. Lifesaving Service, which eventually merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the Coast Guard. The museum now has an exhibit on Shipwrecks and Lifesaving in Boston Harbor, Coast Guard art and rare glass plate negatives of Hull a century go. It also sponsors rowing programs in Boston Harbor. In May, the Hull Lifesaving Museum is open Monday through Thursday and Saturday, from 10 am to 4 pm. Click here for more information.
Beautiful Westport, Conn.
We also brought you the story of Mary Donovan, the Westport, Conn., housewife who invented the disposable diaper. It suggests a pilgrimage to the lovely town where Paul Newman lived for many years – and became the driving force behind The Westport Country Playhouse. Starting May 3, the play Reds will be performed. The historic Wakeman Farm is now the Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainability Center, an organic demonstration homestead open to the public. And there are many historic structures in Westport, including the Old Hill historic section west of the Saugatuck River and north of the Boston Post Road. It has many homes from the Revolutionary and Victorian eras. The Bradley-Wheeler House is headquarters for the Westport Historical Society and a Victorian-era historic house museum.
African-American Historic Places
This weekend Nantucket celebrates spring (finally) with its annual Daffodil Festival with an antique car parade, a flower show at Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm, live music, walking tours and more. For a complete list of events, click here.
Black worshiped at the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill while living in Boston. It’s considered one of the most important National Historic Landmarks in the United States, along with the Abiel Smith School. Both are on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail, which includes America’s largest collection of historic sites involving a free African-American community before the Civil War. You can take a self-guided tour of the trail. Click here and here for tour maps.
Starting Tuesday, ranger-guided tours resume of the National Park Service Boston African-American National Historic Site. They leave Tuesdays and Thursdays from the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial through May 26; click here for more information.
Ann Petry, the first African-American woman to write a novel that sold more than 1 million copies, died on April 28, 1997. Visit the Museum of African-American History at 46 Joy St. for an exhibit of the history of black literature.
New England Events
Saturday night (April 30), the Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents a special historic dinner looking back to the year 1916 and the extraordinary life and career of composer Amy Beach. Between dinner and dessert guests will be treated to selections of some Beach compositions for piano, performed by Jayne Kelly with narrative context provided by Mary Kimmel in the role of Amy Beach. Click here for more.
Bar Harbor is getting a jump on Halloween with a Haunted Bar Harbor Ghost Tour on Sunday, May 1. A costumed will take you to haunted places and tell Wabanaki Indian tales of the supernatural, a suicidal bride’s bereaved ghost and a ship captain’s wandering spirit. Click here for more information.
Sunday also brings a screening of a documentary on the arts of the WPA to the Mount Holly School in Mount Holly, Vt. Enough To Live On: The Arts of the WPA tells how Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal moved art in America out of the rarified atmosphere of the elite and brought it directly to the American people. It’s at 4 pm and it’s free.
New England Places by FLO
Nearly anywhere in New England you’ll find the imprint of Frederick Law Olmsted, journalist, reformer, social critic, public administrator and the father of American landscape architecture. He moved his home and office to Brookline, Mass., in 1883; it’s now a National Historic Site open Fridays, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm. Tours of the historic design office are offered at 10 am, 11 am, and 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm.
Olmsted also designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace, which includes the Back Bay Fens, Arborway and Riverway, Muddy River, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, the Pinebank Promontory, the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.
But that’s not all. In Boston alone, Olmsted commissions include Charlesbank, Charlestown Heights, Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, Pleasure Bay, North End Park and Copps Hill Terrace. He also designed a park that disappeared under Logan Airport.
He also designed the 735-acre Forest Park in Springfield, Elm Park in Worcester (considered the first municipal park in America) and the Olmsted Subdivision Historic District in Swampscott.
Here’s a list of parks, country clubs and campuses Olmsted’s firm designed in New England, by state:
Brockton: D.W. Field Park
Danvers: Glen Magna Farms
Dartmouth: Country Club of New Bedford, adapted estate of Holden Brownell to accommodate activities of the new club
Dedham: MIT Endicott House
Easton: The Rockery
Fall River: North Park, 1901, Ruggles Park and South Park
Groton: Groton School campus
Hingham: World’s End, formerly the John Brewer Estate
Lenox: Elm Court
Lynn: Lynn Woods
Malden: Fellsmere Park Parkways
Manchester: Manchester Town Common and Masconomo Park
New Bedford: Buttonwood Park
Osterville: Oyster Harbors
Springfield: Colony Hills and Forest Park
Swampscott: Olmsted Subdivision Historic District
Waltham: Robert Treat Paine Estate
Weston: Filmore Farm
Whitman: Whitman Town Park
Worcester: Elm Park
Bridgeport: Beardsley Park, Seaside Park, and Northside Park
Hartford, Elizabeth Park, the Institute of Living and Trinity College
Meriden: Hubbard Park
New Britain: Walnut Hill Park in New Britain
New Haven: Edgewood Park
Orono: University of Maine campus (listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places)
Portland: Cushing Island
Providence Butler Hospital