Historic Places of the Massachusetts Coast: The John Alden House

The John Alden house is the only standing house in Massachusetts that was built by an original Mayflower passenger. Located in Duxbury, Ma, it is believed to be the 11th oldest standing house in the state.


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Frozen Boston Harbor

February 2015 will likely go down in history for its snow and ice. The rivers that empty into the southern side of the harbor have become particularly backed up ice, that has extended far into the harbor, and has been more severe than the ice of January 2013. Below are some photos…

grape island

Above, a frozen buoy marking the entrance to Hewitt’s Cove, with Grape Island in the background. Below is a view of frozen Hingham Bay looking toward the city:

Hingham Bay

Sunrise over the ice on Hingham Harbor:

hingham harbor

Ice flows at Hingham Shipyard Marina in Hewitt’s Cove:

Hewitts cove ice

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Moon Island and the Old Boston Drainage System


Relatively obscure and not open to the public, Moon Island is only used today for police and fire training activities. However, the island may be most notable for once being the collection and discharge site of Boston’s old sewer system. This system, somewhat effective until outgrown by the city, was temporarily replaced the in the 1950s and 1960s with plants at Nut Island and Deer Island, before the massive modern system at Deer Island was fully operational in the early part of last decade. From a central collection center at the Dorchester Calf Pasture, sewage was collected and pumped through a tunnel under Dorchester Bay to Squantum, and then out to Moon Island via the large, above-ground causeway which still connects Moon Island to the mainland today. The sewage was then collected in pools and discharged at high tide, with the design that the raw sewage would flow out between Long Island and Rainsford Island, and then out to open ocean through Black Rock Channel. As Boston’s population grew over the years, this system lost its effectiveness, resulting in reports sewage washing up on shore. Some relics of this old system can still be seen around Moon Island today.

Designed and approved in 1875, the first phase of the the project- a tunnel under Dorchester Bay-was completed by July 1883. City Sewer connections were made in early 1884 and the system was substantially fully operational by 1885. A Boston Globe article* about the system published in 1897 reports 7,416,000 bricks and 32,277 barrels of cement were used to complete the project. Various estimates of the total cost are cited, but it was said to be over six million dollars at the time. The use of the system was discontinued in 1968 but made available for emergency overflow operations for several years thereafter. Relics of the system can be seen on and around Moon Island today.

* “Sewerage System Completed” Boston Daily Globe, January 16, 1897

An operational overview of the old sewage system is described in great detail in an 1888 publication called The Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston” which was published by Rockwell and Churchill and written by Eliot C. Clark, the Chief Engineer of the city at the time. This publication includes some great historical photos. Similar to the photo at the top of the page, below are two views of the large granite-walled pools which would collect sewage until it was ready to be discharged into the harbor with the outgoing tide:

boston harbor

Several vintage views of the facility when it was brand new can be seen opposite p.83 in the Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston.

bosotn ma

The remains of two outflow pipes on the Northwest side of Moon Island, where the sewage would be released with the outgoing tide. This photo is taken near low tide, the openings are submerged at high tide:

moon island sewer

A clip from The Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston, showing the main station located at the Calf Pasture in the background, and the brick pumping house on the edge of the bay. This photo was taken during a winter (note the frozen bay) some time in the 1880s, between the pumping station’s construction, but before this publication in 1888:

Calf Pasture

Source: The Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston, Plate XVIII, (opposite page 68). Photo believed to be in the public domain by nature of publication date (1888).

The remains of the old pumping house (East of the main station on the shores of Dorchester Bay) at Columbia point as it stands today:

boston sewer

A closer view reveals cracks in the wall and a roof that has partially caved in:

old calf pasture sewage plant

The old Calf Pasture pumping station (located in the background of the 1880s vintage photo three above), as seen from the vicinity of the JFK library on a winter day:

boston sewer

Below is a distant view of the pump house as seen across Dorchester Bay from the system’s East Shaft on Squantum. A little known fact is that the rock outcrop in the middle- known as “Thimble Island” on charts, is actually the middle shaft of the old sewer tunnel under Dorchester Bay, as is outlined on the diagram opposite p.74 in the Main Drainage Works:

Dorchester Bay

A modern day fire drill in progress at the fire training facility on the North side of Moon Island, as seen across the Western Way from Spectacle Island. On occasion, one can see the smoke rising from the fire test facility on the island. On a calm night, one standing nearby may also be able to hear gunfire from the police shooting range facility that is now located in the old sewer vats:

boston harbor

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Sunset over Boston from the Air

skyline view

A view of the Boston City Skyline from the air, while on approach to Logan Airport.

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Old wharf pilings at Weymouth Neck

Back River

The old wharf pilings at Weymouth Neck, on the north bank of the Weir River as it meets Hewitt’s Cove. The pilings were once part of a large fertilizer plant up until it was shut down in the 1960s. An aerial photo of the plant can be seen here (third photo from top):

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Autumn Sunset Views

Looking East over Nantasket Beach as the sun sets behind: Friday October 1oth.

autumn sunset

Sunset over the Wier River in Hingham on Saturday, October 11th:


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The Ruins of Misery Island

The large Island called Misery lying at the top of Salem Sound was once a popular summer resort- it once even had a casino on its premises. Its decline as a resort was caused in large part by a massive fire in May of 1926, but the remnants of some of the old island cottages can be seen today. The Island is open to the public and owned by the Trustees of Reservations. Pictured below is the Bleak House, once a private residence, located on the Southwestern side of the island:

misery island

The ruins of the Bleak House as seen from the Southwestern side of Misery Island:

boston harbor

An old doorway down to the ocean on the North side of the ruins of the Bleak House:

bleak house

From this hill on the North side of the island where the casino ruins are located, there is a clear view all the way North to Manchester and Gloucester. House Island and Misery Island Cove are visible in the foreground:

house island

A staircase near the old casino ruins on the North side of the island:

misery island

A very large, sprawling oak tree is located on the Western side of the island. By the look of it, the tree must be several hundred years old.

salem sound

Pictured below is the ruins of the old water tower on Misery Island. Several old photos of the water tower were published by the Boston Globe on May 9th and 10th, 1926, documenting the great fire that swept the island.

House Island and what is known as Sauli Rock (green marker) as seen from Misery Island:

lobster point manchester

A view of Baker’s Island and Little Misery from the South side of Misery Island, in a scene perhaps more fitting of Downeast Maine than the coast of Massachusetts Bay.

bakers island

The wreck of the Steamer Monohansett, which wrecked in a storm on the Eastern side of the island near Little Misery in 1904. (This is not to be mistaken with the City of Rockland, a vessel scuttled nearby, the remain of which are visible today-The Monohansett was removed). If one looks carefully, the photo shows one of the intact island homes of the time in the background. Clearly, it exhibits similar architecture of square, rock columns as the ruins that remain today. The home pictured is believed to be that belonging to Charles S. Hanks, a prominent businessman of the time. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

Monohansett wrecked 1904

Cruising up through the Salem sound to Misery Island is a pleasant ride if one can navigate its many ledges and rock outcrops. Below is a view of the Salem Sound looking Southwest from Misery Island. In the distance, Children’s Island and the beacon on Satan Rock are visible. In the far distance, the shores of Cohasset and Scituate are visible.

salem sound

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Picture of the week: Hingham Harbor at Dusk

A view of Hingham Harbor at dusk, as seen from World’s End:

World's End Sunset

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Langlee Island and the Inner Hingham Harbor

At the far Southeastern end of the greater Boston Harbor lie the islands of Hingham Harbor. There are four rocky outcrops in this sheltered bay once known as Bare Cove to early English settlers: Langlee Island, Sarah Island, Ragged Island and Button Island.

Langlee is the outermost, sitting between the Hingham Yacht Club on Crow point, and the fields of Planter’s Hill on World’s End. Button Island is the closest to shore and most visible. The terrain of the islands is comprised of rock, and the long, low cliffs that line its shores bear the high water mark that is visible at low tide. Below is view of Hingham Harbor and the Boston Skyline, looking Northwest from the cliffs on the North side of Langlee Island:

Long view hingham

According to The History of the Town of Hingham, which was published by the town in 1893, a gentleman by the name of John Langlee purchased the island in 1686- a purchase from which it derived its current name. Langlee was likely born in England and came “in early life” to Hingham according to the documents. It is likely that nearby Sarah island was such named due to the fact that was a popular name in the family: Langlee’s wife, daughter and granddaughter were all named Sarah. The latter became Sarah Derby, as she married a member of the well know Derby family of Salem, for which Derby Wharf is named. She is also known as the founder of Derby Academy in Hingham. John Langlee lived in what is now downtown Hingham, and today has a street bearing his name in Hingham near crow point.

A conveniently placed sign on the island, letting you know you have arrived:

Hingham Harbor

Pictured below is a small cove on the Eastern side of Langlee which allows access for small boats:


Looking South from Langlee Island, towards the other Hingham Harbor Islands, Sarah Island and Ragged Island:

Hingham Bay

At low tides, sometimes these islands are nearly connected to land, as can be seen in the link. Another interesting perspective can be seen here, featuring the Hingham Harbor Islands, Grape Island and World’s End as seen from an airplane before landing at Logan Airport. Below is a view of Langlee island and some of the moorings on Hingham Harbor as seen from the hills of World’s End:

Langlee Worlds End

Hingham Harbor on a foggy, fall day, with the air so calm there is hardly a ripple on the water. Button Island, the smallest of the bunch can be seen in the foreground:

Button Island

The Hingham Yacht club as seen from the cliffs of Langley Island, with the City of Boston in the background:

boston harbor

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Summer Views of Peddocks Island

Last week, I returned to Peddocks Island for the first time in over a year. It was a bright blue sky day. The island was very ho, and the grass and brush of the island’s long, low-lying center was very dry having been bleached by the sun this entire dry summer.  Elsewhere, I was pleasantly surprised by the work that had been done to fully update the old chapel near the island’s main dock in Hull Gut. Check out the pictures below, and while you are at it, take a look at some previous photos of Peddocks including those of Fort Andrews and the island in the early Spring, and the Prince Head on the Southeastern side of the island.

Hingham bay and the tug boat anchorages on the Island’s East side:

east harbor

A stark view of dry brush surrounds the main trail as the sun beats down:

boston harbor

A rusty old automobile chassis is one of the many relics one can find when walking through the high grasses on the long, flat tombolos (geological name for a sandbar) on the island:

peddocks island

Looking West toward the city from the shores of Perry Cove:


Summer sunset over Peddocks:

Boston Harbor Sunset

Looking towards the West Head from one of the higher points on the East Head. From this view point, one can see how long the shoreline of Peddocks Island is- in fact, it has the longest shoreline of any of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Boston Harbor

Looking back on the trail toward the East Head, where Fort Andrews is located:

Boston harbor trails

A previous photo taken from a similar vantage point at the opposite time of the year (early March). Somewhat of an interesting contrast:

winter paddocks contrast

Following the old trail further as it goes into the woods in the island’s middle head. A small village of fisherman’s homes- some occupied but many abandoned- lies off this main road.

Peddocks Island

The leaves of many plants seemed to have started to turn yellow and orange as early as August, perhaps due to our hot, dry summer:

Peddocks Hingham Bay

The old brick buildings near the parade ground on a late summer day:

Peddocks Summer

An old engine block, revealed by the low tide. I tried to make out a brand or some markings, but the sea had her too long. Nothing was recognizable.

Peddocks Island

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Posted in Boston Harbor Day Boat Trips, Boston Harbor History, Boston Harbor Navigation, Uncategorized, Visiting Boston Harbor | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment