Let history be your guide to a weekend outing this spring. The New England Historical Society every Saturday offers tips on New England places to visit based on our recent stories. This week’s efforts suggest day trips to a town with a large historic district. Or perhaps this is the time to visit one of New England’s maritime museums. A case of cabin fever might be cured by exploring places where pirates buried their treasure — or by visiting a treasure in Springfield, Mass.
The story of the 1896 murder on the Herbert Fuller suggested a visit to one of New England’s many maritime museums. Here are some of our favorites:
The Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn., is the biggest maritime museum in the world, with 60 historic buildings in its recreated seafaring village, dozens of historic ships and a library. Beginning Sunday, April 10, you can take a 3-hour private cruise aboard the classic 30-foot wooden motor yacht Encore around Fishers Island Sound to see lighthouses, cottages and harbor seals.
The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Maine, is on the active waterfront of the scenic Kennebec River and includes the historic Percy and Small Shipyard. It’s one of Maine’s most popular destinations with a historic boat collection, thousands of marine artifacts, a Maine lobstering exhibit and temporary exhibits like the current Wavelength: The Story of Signals at Sea, until May 29.
Whaling was such a huge industry that Southern New England has two major whaling museums in New Bedford, Mass., and Nantucket Island.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum occupies an entire city block and features the whale ship Lagoda, the world’s largest collections of scrimshaw and logbooks, marine art and 20 exhibit galleries in historic buildings.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum has a 46-foot skeleton of a Sperm whale suspended from the ceiling, a collection of whaling artifacts and exhibits about candlemaking — true to the museum’s origin as a candle factory.
Autos and Architecture
The inventor of the first electric car, Thomas Davenport, was born in Brandon, Vt., a town with a historic Early American downtown. Its entire core of 243 buildings is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The visitor’s center, open 365 days a year, is located in the Stephen A. Douglas birthplace. Yes, he was born in Brandon, where, as an adult, he returned and proclaimed Brandon a good place to be born and leave. The house is a museum open in mid-May.
New England was once, briefly, the center of the auto industry. The first gasoline-powered auto was made in Springfield, Mass., where the Springfield Museums include a gallery of early automobiles. The Springfield Museums, at 21 Edwards Street, are actually four museums: two fine art museums, a science museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sclupture Garden and the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. You’ll find the automobiles along with products made in Springfield like the Indian Motocycle. The Springfield History Library and Archives has a collection of historical papers, including genealogical records and over 20,000 books on genealogy. The museums are open every day but Monday from 10-5, on Sunday from 11-5.
Celery Bug Bill, an eccentric who believed celery bugs told his future, lived in Franklin, Mass., home of the first public library and the oldest continuously used one-room schoolhouse. The town, which is actually a city, offers restaurants, shopping and The Franklin Common Historic District, which has 74 historic buildings, including houses built before the American Revolution. Stop in the Franklin Historical Museum Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons and you’ll learn the story of how Franklin got that library.
New England’s pirates had the good sense to bury their treasure in places that generally retained their natural beauty – and are now public parks and conservation land.
Capt. William Kidd was friends with Capt. Thomas Paine, whose house still stands on Conanicut Island in Jamestown, R.I. Kidd supposedly dropped anchor there to visit the retired pirate, and legend has it that Paine hid treasure for Kidd. Fort Wetherill State Park on the island is a beautiful place to hunt for treasure, located high on the cliffs overlooking Narragansett Bay. The old fort, though covered with graffiti, is a cool place for kids and offers stunning views. Jamestown is rich in non-pirate history as well. Find out more here.
Kidd returned to the American colonies after a plundering expedition. He knew he was wanted for piracy, and may have buried treasure somewhere on the coast of Long Island Sound. We mentioned last week that some believe Kidd’s treasure was buried on Charles Island in Milford, Conn. It’s now part of Silver Sands State Park, and you only have a few more weeks to visit as it is closed from May to August to protect heron and egret rookeries. You can reach the 14-acre island by a rocky sandbar at low tide.
Dungeon Rock, a geological formation that looks like a human skull, was the hideout for pirate Thomas Veal. He perished in the earthquake of 1638, along with his treasure. In 1852 a man named Hiram Marbles bought the land to look for the treasure. He and his son spent 30 years burrowing a 175-foot tunnel through the rock, charging tourists to help cover the cost. They never found any treasure, which means it still might be there. It’s at the Lynn Woods Reservation in Lynn, Mass.
Legends abound about pirate treasure buried on the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. Mark it on your calendar to visit these glorious islands; the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company begins cruises out of Portsmouth, N.H., around Memorial Day.
Black Sam Bellamy supposedly built an elaborate earthen fort with an underground vault for treasure northwest of Machias, Maine. Though pirate historians say there’s no way Bellamy buried pieces of eight in New England, he did leave behind a treasure: possibly the only pirate ship ever salvaged. His ship the Whydah sunk in a nor’easter in 1717 off the coast of Cape Cod. The artifacts are displayed at the Whydah Museum in Provincetown, Mass. Located at the end of MacMillan Pier across from the ferry terminal, the museum will open Sunday, April 17th. Hours are 10-5, but in July and August from 9 to 6. They are also opening in Yarmouth this summer on Route 28.
Photo of Brandon, Vt., by By Doug Kerr – Flickr: Brandon, Vermont, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia. Photo of Charles Island by By Randal J. (RJFerret) CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikipedia. Photo of Nantucket Whaling Museum by By Kenneth C. Zirkel CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikipedia.