Nahant, a New England paradise

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Nothing beats a personal tour of someone’s neighborhood. For a while my friend had been inviting me to visit his slice of paradise, an idyllic New England peninsula with Atlantic Ocean on one side and miniature Boston skyline across the water on the other. I finally made it there and was rewarded with beautiful weather, amazing sunset and a fabulous tour by my friend, who literally wrote the book about the history of his community. Nahant, Massachusetts juts into the Massachusetts Bay, connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.  The Native Americans called it Nahanten (meaning point, or almost an island). The Puritans found it in 1630.

The mostly residential community has a rich history. Originally a grazing pasture for the cattle, sheep and goats of townspeople in nearby Lynn, Massachusetts, Nahant incorporated as a separate town in 1853 when the temperance movement threatened the resort trade. It has a long history of welcoming weary folks from Boston seeking escape from the city. The first hotel was built around 1802 and by 1817 a steamboat ran between Boston and Nahant. By the 1840’s it had become a major summer resort for Boston and by the late 1800’s it was home to some of the country’s first amusement parks.

Some of the interesting sights on my tour: the recently restored life-saving station, built over 110 years ago after a tragic shipwreck nearby in 1898.

The WWII bunkers with 12-inch guns, built to guard Boston from the north. The tall cement towers remain, standing as a reminder of the days of blackouts and enemy submarine threats off the coast.

The country’s first lawn tennis game took place near East Point in August of 1874 (though other places in America dispute this claim). A young man named J. Arthur Beebe had brought some tennis equipment from England and played the game, starting an annual tennis tournament.

At the beach we looked out at Egg Rock and Castle Rock and other rock formations that inspired early painters from Boston. My friend mentioned that some of these hang in Washington art museums.

And my friend told me of two presidential visits by the Roosevelts. Teddy came to visit his friend Senator Henry Cabot Lodge who lived in Nahant. He was heckled by suffragettes and nearly killed in a trolley accident on his way out of town (in Lynn, MA). FDR came several decades later for the wedding of his son, John, to the daughter of a prominent Nahant family.

There is more, but it will have to wait for another tour and another visit. My friend promised.

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This entry was posted in 17th century, 19th century, 20th century, President, tourism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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