Sawyer Free Library the new building concept plans and rediscovering architect Donald F. Monell #GloucesterMA #ModernMass

This photo chronicle begins with scenes from the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library 2019 Annual meeting, including views of the concept proposal for renovation and addition intended for the library as they appeared in the feature presentation that evening with some brief analysis. The second part of the piece provides  background about the American architect, Donald F. Monell, and visual context regarding his designs for the library expansion built in 1973 and largely ignored through this current new build consideration. Links to several reference documents relevant to this process are collected and provided at the end. (This update is part of an ongoing series published on GMG.)

Annual meeting – Arriving/settling in

About 85 people including Trustees with guests, library personnel, and marketing and architectural representatives were present for the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library’s Annual Meeting on May 20, 2019. (click individual photos to see full size)

Introductions

Mayor Romeo Theken, Library Dir. Deborah Kelsey, and Trustee Chair John Brennan welcomed the public. Brennan thanked several Trustees for long service and welcomed new ones.

 

Award

Deborah Kelsey presented the Mary Weissblum Smith Volunteer Award to Susan Oleksiw and Christy Park in recognition of their curation and management of the Matz Gallery rotating exhibitions over the past five years and their notable careers. Ironically, in the new concept plans, there is no Matz Gallery and limited art space. Read more about Matz’s philanthropy and work in Gloucester here. The major works from the art collection continue to be off view and similarly unaccounted for in future plans.

Dir Kelsey presents M Weissblum Smith Award to esteemed Matz Gallery volunteers_SFL Annual meeting installation views_architect presentation_Gloucester MA_20190520©c ryan

Financial Statement YR 2017-18

The library’s treasurer explained that the Annual Meeting financial reports always illustrate the prior year rather than the one just completed. So for this 2019 annual meeting, the report reflects May 2017- May 2018. He explained next year’s will represent the year 2018-19 and will show red and depletion of the 6 million endowment. Former board members asked about expenses to date, related to the new build, and itemization of the Trustee expenses line item, which was not in use when they served. A trustee explained that a title more accurately reflecting those expenses would be helpful. Reports will be shared.

SFL annual meeting 2019.jpg

Architect’s renderings / Oudens-Ello (with Dore & Whittier for library and MBLC)

 

The 25 million+ quoted for the concept plan does not include preservation of the original heart and soul of the library, the Saunders building, or any mention of the library’s fine art. A recent estimate for potential Saunders preservation begins at 3 million– which would be in addition to any work done elsewhere with the library.

EXTERIOR addition added to Monell_view from fire station_architect presentation_SFL Annual meeting installation views_Gloucester MA_20190520 ©c ryan
View of a proposed addition to Monell (out back). The Saunders House will not be visible. This concept image is not precisely drawn–i.e. City Hall in situ is not captured accurately in this rendering.
Monell addition back and context surroundings_20170129_© c ryan
surrounding context for comparison with rendering above

back sawyer (1).jpg

Stairs and more stairs

3 story glass staircase larger than atrium now_View from Central Grammar renderings_architect presentation_SFL Annual meeting installation views_Gloucester MA_20190520 ©c ryan

Design inspiration did not come from Saunders or Monell. (I asked.) One of the stated goals was striving to continue to make the library accessible for all, although in my opinion since the first presentation years ago, this design undercuts that aim.

Because of gentle switchback steps, currently there is technically no “accessible for all” direct entry from Dale to the Main Floor, or from Middle Street. The accessibility option from Dale curves around to a side* and back entrance. If that level is not the destination, patrons continue to the elevator.

Increasing all of the buildings’ gateway capacities is a fantastic goal. I do not understand how a concept with such tremendous staircase emphasis will remedy that expression of accessibility for all, or ease patron flow. The monumental scale of the three-story glass central stairwell takes up the transition volume between the original Monell and concept addition, and looms larger than the current Monell atrium. In this concept, children’s and teen spaces will be on the top floor. Crowd flow of all ages will need to access the elevator from the ground floor near the back entrance. Once upon a time the children’s wing was on the top floor of the Saunders building and intentionally moved to a space on the ground level. Currently, children’s services is on the ground floor. Friends and librarians using Reading and Salem libraries are not fans of children’s spaces on the top floor.

*The side entrance was sealed off this year due to safety concerns which can be helped by architecture and staff. The new security officers received the biggest applause of the night.

 

Glass staircase design statements — stacked cantilevered and floating– are common features in malls, retail, and transportation (airports!) hubs, often with escalator options, and ample budgets for cleaning staff. They’re not super kid friendly or easy to clean. For this concept, the staircase massing can be greatly reduced and favorably impact the footprint, cost and siting. I’ve written about the odd flow of moving the library’s busy children’s services up to the top level in this proposal. Just one of Christy Russo’s daily programs may bring in 20 to 80 kids and their grown-ups!

Moving to elevator and stairs with or without strollers will increase flow inefficiency dramatically, and be a disservice to an evergreen and engaged population. Children’s could be flipped back to the ground floor, with or without a separate teen space on this level. Research and multi use rooms requested for “21st century programming needs” could be dispersed throughout the expanded upper levels. Safety issues and bathrooms can be addressed on any floor. The librarians have been patiently awaiting remodeling and interior update and upgrades on the ground floor since 2012. The build out goal of 2026 or later is too long!  They need more space, a functioning and better test kitchen, and major bathroom renovations (yesterday!).

Oudens Concept plan Timeline

ETA library tentative opening 2026

TIMELINE_architect presentation_SFL Annual meeting installation views_Gloucester MA_20190520 ©c ryan

SFL Library atrium, architect Donald F. Monell

Monell building, top floor, no artificial light, no filter: looking across atrium with presentation underway on Main Floor as this space was being described again as an uninviting dark hole.

Design inspiration and high bar – Saunders House and Monell

For nearly 190 years, the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library has played a key role in the cultural life of the city of Gloucester and the Commonwealth.  Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library features not one but three iconic buildings. Investment in building projects with such inspiring history, pedigree, assets, materials and form are indeed a rare and enviable opportunity. Any library build should feature both Saunders and Monell. We are so lucky to have them!

There was worry about the Saunders and Monell buildings, the Stacks, and the Rando Memorial garden when the proposed new building first dropped and as this process continued. Thankfully, a Saunders stewardship committee has been reestablished and the Rando Garden will remain. (There was pushback that the “21st century building” left the community with less green space, not more.)  It’s only since last week that razing Monell was taken off the table. And it’s only since February 2019 that the architects began to emphasize green design as they had not realized how valued such criteria was in Gloucester. A workshop was held at the library.

Still, no one involved in the new process was discussing Monell, his inspiration, or influence. Regarding the library 2019 green visionaries—Monell may be more important to them than they realize. After all, he was ahead of his time incorporating wind and solar design into public buildings and homes. I’ve been thinking more and more about Monell, his studies and business ventures, his devotion to Gloucester.

Donald F. Monell earned multiple degrees at Bowdoin (BS, 1937) , Royal College of Edinburgh (1938), Tekniska Hogskolan in Stockholm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), and M.I.T. (MS in city planning,1941 and MS in architecture, 1950).  He was a research assistant in City Planning at M.I.T. (1940-41), and a Research Associate in solar energy at M.I.T. from 1949 to 1951. During World War II he served as a Captain with the 333 Engrs. S.S. Regiment in the US Army Corp of Engineers from 1942-46. Prior to setting up his own firm in 1952, he worked as a community planner in Tennessee and for various architectural establishments. His son Alex Monell said that his father declined positions with larger international firms. “He preferred working on a smaller one to one relationship with clients.” Monell’s tenure at M.I.T. coincided with I.M. Pei and Buckminster Fuller; Monell set up his eponymous business two years prior to I.M. Pei. I asked Alex if his father worked with architect Eleanor Raymond. She built her home in Gloucester and had similar interest in sustainable design. She is credited with designing one of the first solar heated houses in 1948 “I know he worked with Maria Telkes (who invented a means to store heat in melted crystals that stored more than water could) on one of their solar homes and now that I looked her up I see the home was designed by Eleanor Raymond! So they knew each other.”

Monell was licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York and was NCARB certified. He was a member of AiA and Boston Society of Architects. He served on Gloucester’s Civic Art Committee beginning in the 1960s. He was a trustee of the Cape Ann Symphony Orchestra, an incorporator of AGH and Cape Ann Savings Bank, and a Vice President of the Cape Ann Museum (then Cape Ann Historical Assoc.).  Monell’s office was located in the Brown Building, 11 Pleasant Street. His son remembers visiting his dad on jobs and admiring the hand made scale models. Local residents may recognize the names of Monell hires:  Kirk Noyes who preserved Central Grammar and other award winning developments, was a draftsman, and Craig Toftey helped Monell with the Sawyer Free library.

The new building planners describe the need for a 21st century library. What does that mean today? Back in 2012, technology was the big discussion point and the library a possible tandem option for schools. (Elementary school libraries were shuttered and/or volunteer run, and school librarian positions cut.) Since then, libraries in schools became “Learning Commons” with a tech focus. By 2019 Gloucester Public Schools have a 1 to 1 student computer initiative. There was a desire for grounds improvement, since completed and well received with the Rando Memorial. I was asked about helping with a public art comission and how it might work as a play structure, too. Mayor Romeo Theken reminded us of the homes and neighborhood playground where the Monell addition and parking lot were built. Community input suggested opportunities for more outdoor spaces would be welcome, not less. Library design trends recommend co-work and makerspace options so the library is a community center. (Sawyer Free has been a community center since its founding.)

One thought regarding “21st Century” library tech goals: partnerships with M.I.T., Harvard, and Bowdoin could be fruitful and shored up by honoring Monell. Perhaps they’d help facilitate subscriptions to specialized libraries. Coordinating public access to resources like MatLab as one example would enhance “accessibility for all” in a 21st century sort of way.

Monell’s son, Alex, shared a section from M.I.T. President’s Report, 1951, with a reference to his father: “Mr. R. Buckminster Fuller, visiting lecturer, who contributed significantly to this conference, worked this year with the third-year students in architectural design and presented his concept of the “comprehensive designer” in a program emphasizing the relation of structure to design. In August, I950, occurred the five-day symposium on “Solar Energy for Space Heating,” under the auspices of the Godfrey L. Cabot Fund, attended by about 900 persons who were mostly visitors to the Institute. Mr. Donald F. Monell, research associate, was responsible for organization. Speakers included staff members and outside authorities in this field. Professor Lawrence B. Anderson was one of the contributors.”  

Don and Lila Monell could be the “Charles and Ray Eames of Gloucester”

Portrait of Lila and Don Monell ca.1951_at Sarah Fraser Robbins home_Gloucester MA_courtesy scan from historic photo.jpg
courtesy image: portrait of Lila and Don Monell ca.1951 at Sarah Fraser Robbins (photographer unknown)

Don Monell and Lila Swift should rightly be included on any Massachusetts #MassModernism trail. Monell and Swift, co-founders and collaborators of their own wrought steel furniture design firm in 1950, Swift & Monell, husband and wife, architect and artist, were the Charles and Ray Eames* of Gloucester.  Original examples of their woven leather, metal and enamel stools, tables, and bins are rare and placed in collections. The furniture was exhibited at Current Design (now ICA) and Furniture Forum. They operated the business in upstate New York when Monell worked for Sargent Webster Crenshaw & Folley. They built a studio for their business in their home when they moved back to Gloucester in 1952. Initial prototypes and editions were inspired by touring Lawrence Mills with Monell’s brother in law, who worked in the textile industry.  Alex clarifies: “I do not know what mill my father’s brother in law was involved in or to what capacity, I just remember my parents toured it and found the source of leather. A Cambridge firm sold them for awhile. And later my parents gifted them as wedding presents to close friends and relatives. Ray Parsons a blacksmith from Rockport often made the frames and later I made some at Modern Heat.”

*footnote: Ray Eames was in Gloucester. Before Hans Hoffman settled into teaching in Provincetown, he was invited to teach summer classes at the Thurn School of Art in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1933 and 1934. Thurn was a former Hoffman student. Ray Eames studied painting with Hoffman in Gloucester and was a student of his for years.  Decades later (during an interview with Ruth Bowman, who was wonderful, and owned a fabulous Gloucester Hopper) Eames mentioned 1940, a later date, for when she first learned about Hoffman. On an architecture timeline-  Charles and Ray Eames were born in 1907 and 1912 respectively, and Monell in 1917. They were married about a decade before Monell & Swift and west coast rather than east. Yet they were contemporaries. Art & Architecture case study homes began in 1945 (Eames house, 1949) Eames lounge chairs were manufactured in 1956 (after years of prototypes). Gropius House in Lincoln , Mass., landmark Bauhaus residence now museum was built in 1938, same year as MoMa Bauhaus exhibition. The Graduate school at Harvard designed by Gropius was a TAC (The Architects Collaborative) build in 1950. TAC was founded in 1945 with the clout addition of Gropius who continued with the firm until his death in 1969. Original 7 founders were Norman FletcherLouis McMillenRobert McMillan, Ben Thompson,  Jean FletcherSarah Harkness and John Harkness. Twenty years later, Monell’s Plum Cove elementary school design in 1967 was leveraged by partnering with The Architects Collaborative. Gloucester’s Plum Cove school is a TAC build. Wikipedia lists several commissions. The school could be added. 

Swift & Monell.jpg

The Monells were friends with many artists and Gloucester residents. They were best friends with Sarah Fraser Robbins which is another rich “green” connection for Sawyer  library. The Monells were married at her house and living there when their first son came home! Eventually they built their dream home in Gloucester designed to maximize its stunning  natural setting, all granite and ocean views. Their family and business grew. Lila’s art and home are inspired by wild nature, especially birds and insects, often the subject of her prints and photographs, and even wardrobe embellishments.  (More than one person recalled a striking faux brooch or embroidery like adornment that was actually a coiled live centipede.) Domestic animals and wild birds were part of the family. There were always pet crows and birds. “Our mother raised geese and guinea fowl,”  Alex continued, “Mainly the birds we had were ones she brought to rescue from oil slicks and other calamaties. She was well known as someone to bring an injured bird to.” Lila wrote an article in the Mass Audubon newsletter about two cormorants which she had a permit to raise.  “Sarah (Fraser Robbins) had an old lobster boat, never used as one.” Alex recalled. “They used it for fishing. Our families were quite close. We’d head to Norman’s Woe and bring back seagulls. You know, rescue babies, and help teach them to fly.” He said he got them comfortable being tossed like a glider. “They’d come back again and again ready to launch!” It was easy to imagine some glimpse of his childhood in this idyllic setting. His delight brought to mind My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Driftwood Captain by Paul Kenyon. Sea and stone. What a playground!

Monell residence Gloucester Ma
courtesy photo:  Don and Lila Monell family residence (ocean side), Gloucester, MA [Architect Donald F. Monell]

Donald F. Monell Architecture

Monell completed many commissions in Gloucester and elsewhere on the North Shore, New Hampshire and New York. Any renovation and remodel at Sawyer Free is an incredible chance to celebrate his work and honor his legacy. After considering examples of Monell’s architecture it is easy to find his personal design in the work he did at Sawyer Free Library. He was trained as a landscape architect as well which helps to imbue his projects with great sensitivity and gentle passages. Many of his commissions are heavenly sites where buildings serve the surroundings,  whether built or natural. His designs are better because of this reverence for context.

(Note on images- double click to enlarge)

Monell architecture – Residences

Monell designed numerous private residences and additions [e.g. Dotty & Lawrence Brown (1957), Laight (1958), Despard (1959), Boyce (1961), Foster, Nydegger, Marietta Lynch, Judy Winslow, Bob and Libby French (1967), Featherstones, John Hays Hammond Jr, and Phil Weld (many)] in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. Several clients were repeat customers. The Brown home is one example. Alex writes that “the residence was altered by my father in the late 70s to accommodate a library when they moved there year round.”  Much of the big collection of books were cookbooks. “Dotty was a great cook and good friends with Julia Child.”

2015 realtor images
photo: ocean side_Donald F. Monell architect, Gloucester, Mass. 1957 commision; and below photo comparison of back same residence ca. 2015/2019 ( seawall, cladding modified since Monell)

Gloucester Mass home_Architect Donald F Monell commission_later interior library addition_ views 2015 vs 2017

 

stilt house kidney pool grounds_Donald F Monell architect_highly modified since commission_Gloucester MA.jpg
then/now photo: Residence (stilt house) designed by Donald F. Monell, Gloucester, Mass. (modified since Monell)

Within a few short years of moving to Gloucester, Robert and Elizabeth ‘Libby’ French expanded their art collection, he was elected Mayor, and they commissioned Monell to design their home and property in 1967.  caption: video shows interior/exterior and was published in 2016. I don’t know when it was filmed. Small lovely moments – note the interior staircase railing, and exterior deck and bridge to glacial boulders. Clearly some modifications since it was designed in 1967 and perhaps since this video.

Monell architecture  – Public Buildings

Besides the Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library commission, Monell government and public buildings include the Beverly Newspaper factory and offices, Eastern Point Retreat, Plum Cove School, and the Cape Ann Historical Society. Elements of his signature architecture resonate strongly with the work he did at the library.

Eastern Point Retreat House, Dorm & Dining Halls 1960

For the Gonzaga project, Monell joined two buildings and built a cafeteria and dormitories. Recently his original work at the entrance, connector and dormitories was razed. The historic photos BEFORE illustrate his artistry and display a strong connection with the design Monell established at the front of the library on the stacks building between Saunders and the expansion.

Hall to dorm sadly gone
(courtesy photo) BEFORE: Detail showing Monell’s work at the Gonzaga retreat former connector and gateway heading on the left to the cafeteria (still standing) and to the right to the dormitories (remaining though greatly altered). The compelling double bells and arches, poetry pause in architecture, were subsumed by the most recent build out.

 

BEFORE eastern point retreat double bell double arch Monell connector so poetic
(before- subsumed with remodel ca.2017)

 

New construction circa 2017 subsumes some of Donald J Monell architecture_Eastern Point Retreat_Gloucester Massachusetts_20190521_© c ryan (1)
AFTER: renovation/expansion circa 2017 (Monell additions subsumed and/or altered)

 

 

BEFORE / AFTER – dorm, far left (ocean side)

new dormitory construction circa 2017 altered Donald J Monell addition_Eastern Point Retreat_Gloucester Massachusetts_20190521_© c ryan.jpg

 

BEFORE / AFTER – dorm (parking side)

Microphone were set up to amplify sounds of the ocean (white noise) within the dormitory

 

BEFORE /AFTER – cafeteria low glass ceiling (ocean side) remains

New construction circa 2017 subsumes some of Donald J Monell architecture_Eastern Point Retreat_Gloucester Massachusetts_20190521_© c ryan (7)

 

Plum Cove Elementary School 1966

Monell subcontracted/collaborated with TAC for build

DON MONELL ARCHITECT_ Plum Cove school and landscape design_built in 1966_ Gloucester MA_20190523_©c ryan _073333

 

 

Beverly Newspaper Offices and Factory (now Salem News)

public entrance_gentle poetry_DONALD F MONELL_architect _Beverly Times Newspaper Plant and Offices_1969_ now Salem News_20190524_©catherine ryan (8).jpg

 

 

PANO_studied grace_public entrance_DONALD F MONELL_architect _Beverly Times Newspaper Plant and Offices_1969_ now Salem News_20190524_©catherine ryan (8).jpg

wild friend wild respite.jpg
A local resident swooped from nesting (near the roof?). Monell’s design nearly a wildlife refuge. What a beautiful spot! He designed the Gloucester Daily Times (1956) and the Newburyport Daily News, too

Gloucester Daily Times (1956)

side_Gloucester Daily Times newspaper offices built 1956_architect Donald F. Monell_photograph © c ryan May 2019 (5)

Cape Ann Museum (formerly Cape Ann Historical Society) 1968

CAM_20181219_c ryan

Circa 1967 plans for property by Grant Circle

Monell Cape Ann Historical Museum proposal predates eventual Pleasant Street addition Gloucester MA long before 2019 Grant Circle work
courtesy photo: Cape Ann Museum work by Grant Circle is underway, but consideration of that space began decades back. Here’s Don Monell’s illustration related to a  proposed campus for Cape Ann Historical Center by Grant Circle. At the same time he was asked for concepts related to the Pleasant Street addition which is ultimately the direction the museum went at that time (1968).

Cape Ann Savings Bank

Monell’s work at Cape Ann Savings Bank has been altered at least 2x since his commission. Here are a couple of placeholder “before” snapshots until I obtain better examples. Before (courtesy photos)/After example – Note changes like the Monell staircase design vs replacement and office additions vs open floor plan. The arch window motif remains.

architect Don Monell expansion for Cape Ann Savings Bank Gloucester Mass_ altered at least 2x since commission_20190524_© c ryan (2)

 

Signature elements – arches, contrast in materials, rectangles, winding paths

Monell was concerned with getting it right. You don’t have to know about Monell, his body of work or the history of architecture to be moved or respond. His slow designs are considerate of  their surroundings,  integrating connections with the natural and built environment. Thanks to his gentle, contemplative approach, it feels as though there’s more than enough space even when there isn’t much space to be had.

 

Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library

When reviewing Monell’s body of work, it’s clear to see that Gloucester’s landscape, history, art and architecture inform his designs. The library’s connector and entrance are signature Monell motifs and beautiful. It’s no accident that the symmetry of the windows at the back of the building echo the five bays of the firestation,

or that they were inspired and reference City Hall, 1867.

Gloucester mass evolution of City Hall_Office of Mayor (2)

 

No matter which approach one takes to the library, Monell’s consideration of the building and its surroundings is intentional and graceful.

PANO_20170129Monell addition back and context surroundings_© c ryan.jpg

 

 

Special thanks to Alexander Monell for sharing his time, knowledge and inspiring family history. Photos are mine unless noted “courtesy”. Those are extra special as they were culled by Alexander Monell in loving tribute to his father and family that he kindly shared and even granted permission to publish here. More to come!

-Catherine Ryan, May 2019

Further reading

  • May 22, 2019 – Annual meeting – Library’s follow up with the Gloucester Daily Times, article by Ray Lamont
  • May 15, 2019 Questions remain unanswered yet trustees should vote today whether it’s a teardown reno or…  
  • Read more about philanthropist Samuel Sawyer here. Prudence Fish has written about the Saunders house and her book Antique Houses of Gloucester,2007, is a must read. Also see exhaustive 2005 Fitch report (link below)
  • 2017 – architectural renderings Oudens – see above, in this post, and architect’s website. Thus far is all that is available. For the past two years I have been told that the plans will be shared all in good time by architects, trustees, and library. I’ll link when they are. Some documents and updates used to be on the library website.
  • 2017- A House in the Sun by Daniel A. Barber “about solar house heating in American architecural, engineering, political and economic and coporate contests between WWII and the late 1950’s” references M.I.T. and Monell’s work. “Many houses and  heating systems were proposed or built by former students at MIT who had worked with Hottel and Anderson, including those designd by Lof in Colordo. One by Donald F. Monell in Gloucester, Massachusetts, for example, which remained unbuilt, proposed an “orange peel” collector that splayed the solar collection unit across an arc on the roof, and indicated some of the formal varieties of solar collection units that became available later in the decade. Monell also proposed to store the heated water in numerous smaller tanks according to the heating needs of different rooms.”- Barber
  • 2017 – Several round up posts on GMG- search library new building or recent re-post with links
  • 2005 – architectural plans Neshamkin, French Expansion Project – with preliminary suggestions to extend Monell’s architecture out back. There are several ways to approach the addition inspired by Monell* and Saunders. Monell’s handling of the two older structures,  front entrance and addition are important examples of his ouevre, not solely the “facade”, a dismissive term negating his work. At this time another generation of the Matz family was interested in assisting with this work. The beloved Matz Gallery is a hallmark of the current design.
2005 architectural plans show extending Monell architecture to the back
2005 – architectural plans Neshamkin, French Expansion Project – with preliminary suggestions to extend Monell’s architecture out back.
  • 2005 – outstanding Finch & Rose Saunders House Preservation report here
  • 2002 – links to Monell obituary, Gloucester Daily Time, Bowdoin, Boston Globe
  • 2001 – architectural plans Finegold, Alexander Expansion Project (here)

 

  • 1972 – architectural plans Monell  (I posted on GMG here) scroll to end of post
  • 1972 – architectural drawing Monell related to plans for Grant Circle Cape Ann Museum expansion, deferred till 2019 (see above)
  • Matz Gallery example- Mary Rhinelander McCarl solo exhibition 

 

Mary McCarl_Matz Gallery_20190109_ gallery at entrance to Sawyer Free Library ©c ryan
Mary Rhinelander McCarl exhibition, Matz Gallery, Sawyer Free

High tide and waves on Good Harbor Beach left beautiful sand caligraphy | chorda filum seaweed #GloucesterMA

Also known as  bootlace seaweed, mermaid’s tresses, mermaid’s fishing line, dead man’s rope, and

Sea Whip: Chorda Filum resembles a long whip which can be from 10 to 70 cm long and is very deep brown. it grows in a long strand from a disc holdfast. It looks much like rope or cord, and hence its name. It is found in the sublittoral area or often washed ashore after heavy wave action. It ranges from new Jersey to northern Labrador.” Sarah Fraser Robbins and Clairice Yentsch, the Sea is All About Us, 1973. Chorda filum was not present when I wrote about seaweed on Long Beach after the 2016 fall Storm Hermine.

What a dreamy, atmospheric and wide open beach this Easter morning. Prior high tide reached more than half way into post and rope refuge sites for the piping plovers, though plenty of stretches of dry sand moguls remained. The birds were foraging at the water’s edge.

IMG_20190421_073959.jpg

 

Wonderful Essex County islands IBA #ornithology talk by Chris Leahy | Straightsmouth keeper’s house gets love from Thacher Island Assoc & looks like a scene from Edward Hopper!

Esteemed conservationist and bird and insect authority, Chris Leahy discussed recent multi-year surveys of Essex County islands for Mass Audubon and Mass Fish & Wildlife with humor and depth as only he can having resided on the North Shore, in Gloucester, and championed this Important Bird Area for some 50 years.

The islands range in size and offer different kinds of nesting habitat. There are great shoals for fishing. Islands include familiar names like Tinkers, Straitsmouth, Thacher, Children’s, Kettle, House, Eagle, Ram, Cormorant and Ten Pound. Leahy recalled visiting some in the 1960s-70s for the first ever field counts with Dorothy “Dottie” Addams Brown, Sarah Fraser Robbins & others, and readily compares data then and now.

Some of the bird species making the count: gulls, egrets, herons, cormorants, harlequin duck, geese, loon, coots, purple arctic sandpiper, common eiders, and snowy owls. There are not a lot of songbirds due to restricted habitat although so many song sparrows he quips, “it almost feels like they’re going to attack.” Predators do and did. Gulls and rats stuck in my mind, and our ruinous plume hat trade. At that time “Snowy egrets– in FLA and elsewhere south– were slaughtered for plumage developed solely at breeding time, leaving any young to die and rot.”

Climate is partly a factor and population dispersement in the birds they find. Sometimes there are great “fallout” of migratories which are unpredicatable and awesome. Various species are easier to count especially those perched amid low tree shrubs. Guess which ones? Forgot the burrowers! Forecasts are exciting. He predicts we might see Manx shearwters maybe nesting here in the coming years.

Kindness of organizations and people with boats helps make this happen. And one steel hulled sailboat that makes access to these rocky isles a bit more possible.

Chris Leahy presented Treasure Islands for Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library. Mary Weissblum has endeavored to host evenings for Leahy’s numerous publications and projects, so many that she’s lost count. “Always a treat to be educated and charmed by his incredible store of knowledge,” she writes. Look for Chris Leahy’s next talk.

Learn more about Thacher Island Association (Paul St Germain) here 

Learn more about Birdlife International here

photos below ©Linda Bosselman Sawyer Free Library- thanks for sharing Linda!

Neptune smiled down on 40th Anniversary Clean Harbor Swim

Calm and warm water for the 40th Anniversary Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim. Short video of the start and finish and a few snapshots from Day 1. Relays tomorrow!

Sarah Fraser Robbins (R) with Barbara Blais (L)

Sarah Robbins Evans on the right with Barbara Blais watching 40th Anniversary Celebrate Clean Harbor Swim_Evans co founder both swam it many years _20180811_©c ryan Gloucester Mass

Sarah Robbins Evans cheers and celebrates milestone she helped push through 40 years ago. Before it was celebrate the clean harbor it was…clean it. Read more about its beginnings:

Rio Waters can get better! Thanks to Dogged Naturalists We Can Put Our heads Under Water in Gloucester Aug 4, 2016

Sarah Fraser Robbins excerpt, August 10, 2016, and her seaweed recipe included here- see the sea of seaweed and mosses on Long Beach post storm Sept 2016

Gloucester Clean Harbor- H2O no nos are a thing of the past  August 12, 2016

and Conservation Inspiration: Roger Babson, Sarah Fraser Robbins, Sarah Evans, Philip Weld Jr August 15, 2016

Scenes from today

Video 2018 Niles Beach Gloucester MA Celebrate Clean Harbor Swim START roughly 9:30am

 

FINISH roughly 9:48am

 

 

 

Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim Festival this weekend Niles Beach SCHEDULE

20160813_091619

Fun spectator sport even if you’re not out there! And for this special 40th anniversary it’s a two day affair. Here’s the schedule for the  (already) registered folks for  friends and fans who’ll cheer them on.

SATURDAY AUGUST 11, 2018

8:15 – SAFETY Director will meet with Kayakers/Lifeguards.
8:45 – MANDATORY Meeting for coaches, officials, and swimmers
8:00- 8:45 WARM UP

Events 

1. 8-12 year old  boys/girls 500 meter –  Event starts: 9:00 A.M. 
The race will consist of a 500m course which will be along the beach and back around green buoys   Shallow water start and shoreline finish. 

2 .  Open Men/Women 1.2 mile – Event start: 9:30 or 10 minutes after the final swimmer finishes the 500 m event.  The course will be a rectangle, starting in shallow water. The swimmers will swim approximately 0.55 miles out from the beach to a buoy where they will make a 90 degree turn to the left, keeping the buoy on your left. The second leg will be approximately 0.1 miles, and the swimmers will make another 90 degree turn keeping the bouy on their left. The swimmers will then proceed to swim back to Niles beach and finish at the orange buoy at the shore/finish line.

NEW THIS YEAR – SUNDAY EVENT

The 10 Mile Celebrate the Clean Harbor Relay.
6:30 a.m. Registration/Check in opens
7:15 a.m. Safety Meeting. 
7:30 Start of First leg.
No one will be allowed to start a new leg after 1:20.p.m. 2:00 p.m  Course will be cleared.

NEOWSA (formerly NEMSA) Printed matter about the Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim:

The CELEBRATE THE CLEAN HARBOR OPEN WATER SWIMMING FESTIVAL will be held  August 11 and 12, 2018. This year, in celebration of 40 years of aqua activism for Goucester Harbor water quality, we are expanding to a two day open water event  sponsored by New England Open Water Swimming Association (NEOWSA), formerly New England Marathon swimming Association (NEMSA).

Starting off  the festival will be the  Clean Harbor Kids Swim on Saturday, a 500 meter swim along the shore of Niles Beach for 8-12 year olds. Held since 2015, this is a wonderful way to introduce kids to the sport of Open Water Swimming.

Also on Saturday will be the 40th Annual 1.2 Mile Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim

For 2018, we are adding a second day to the event, creating the festival. We will be holding the  10 mile Clean Harbor Relay event on Sunday, August 12th. This event will be held on a 1.0 mile course, very similar to Saturday’s event.  We suggest teams of 5, and swimming through the rotation two times..  Your team may have more or less than 5 swimmers. We believe the more the merrier. There will be a 6.5 hour limit. This will be a fun atmosphere, so bring a beach chair/blanket, snacks, some sunscreen and shade, and have a great time hanging out on the beach between your swims with your closest swimming friends.  

Proceeds from the event will go toward supporting two organizations in the local area: Maritime Gloucester and Gloucester Fisheman’s Wives Association.

The mission of Maritime Gloucester is to inspire students and visitors to value marine science, maritime heritage and environmental stewardship through hands-on education and experiences.

The Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association is a non-profit organization promoting the New England fishing industry, helping to preserve the Atlantic Ocean as a food supply for the world, and assisting active and retired fishermen and their families to live better lives.

We have reason to celebrate this incredible resource that is Gloucester Harbor, and we owe it all to  four Cape Ann residents who, in 1979,  swam across Gloucester Harbor in protest of its polluted status. This evolved into an annual Audubon Society-sponsored event to help raise funds for cleaning the harbor, hence the name “Swim for a Clean Harbor.” When, in 1993, the harbor was deemed clean by the Audubon Society, the efforts of these pioneering swim-eco-activists became a cause for celebration and “Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim” was born. Don’t miss this year’s event. We have reason to celebrate and what better way than to Jump in. Get Wet.”

Complete results will be posted to the New England Open Water Swimming Association Facebook page. A few prior GMG posts about the swim:

Great Public Works then and now | Haskell’s Pond Dam 2018 reconstruction with 1902 construction plans & wild origin story #GloucesterMA

Last month I was fortunate to glimpse the impressive Haskell’s Pond Dam reconstruction orchestrated by Gloucester’s Department of Public Works (DPW). Protecting and managing water utilities can be easy to take for granted. “This not so sleepy dam by Rt. 128 continues to deliver almost 30% of the city’s water,” exclaimed Larry Durkin, City Environmental Engineer. He explained that years ago the DPW team began assessing the city’s water infrastructure and compliance requirements including what would happen during an event storm. Haskell’s Pond Dam needed attention: The reconstruction was projected to cost 2 million (based on the preliminary plans and the recent Babson Reservoir repair). Phase I and II  were contracted out to SumCo Eco Contracting and the estimates were correct. The project cost two million and the work is largely completed thanks to grants and loans from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA), and the Commonwealth’s Dam and Seawall Program.  DPW Director, Mike Hale, and Larry Durkin concur: “They are fabulous to work with.” Discovery was anticipated. While drilling it was determined that the Haskell Pond Dam was indeed not structurally stable, and a MAJOR fix would be required to bring the dam into compliance. The DPW team is working with the state to fund the critical work of Phase 3.

Until then, take time to enjoy its history. While checking out the 2018  progress, I pulled stories and stats from the Haskell’s Pond Dam original build In 1902. As with today, the dam work was regarded  a model project. State assistance and contracted elements were required then, too. The numerous links among these two century projects are a fascinating delve and described below. The evolving breaking news in 1902 kicked off with a bang, surprising lawsuits (next stop for one could be Supreme Court), and deft leadership. Readers and history buffs will recognize names. (Tarr ancestors were involved; were yours?)

panorama and contemporary photos – Like a mini Walden pond- Haskell’s Pond during Dam reconstruction Gloucester, MA ©c ryan July 7, 2018.  

2018 July 2 Haskells Pond Dam reconstruction Gloucester Massachusetts Department of Public Works directing SumCo_ photograph ©c ryan (1)

FAST STATS 2018 Phase 1 & 2 – $1,928,000

Scope for Phase 1 & 2: Construction of a new concrete spillway chute, concrete repairs, clearing of trees and unwanted vegetation and valve replacement at an earthen embankment dam within the City’s active water supply system, and more (A prior $175,000 grant from the state’s Dam and Seawall Program was awarded to support “engineering, permitting and the development of construction documents”  which established scope for Phase 1)

2018 July 2 Haskells Pond Dam reconstruction Gloucester Massachusetts Department of Public Works directing SumCo_ photograph ©c ryan (7)

Contractor: SumCo Eco Contracting,
Status: largely completed
Mayor: Mayor Romeo Theken
DPW Director: Mike Hale
City Environmental Engineer: Lawrence A. Durkin, P.E.
Project start (historic): 1902
Modern project start: 2013-18; RFP for Phase I issued: March 15, 2017
Total project cost: estimated to be $7 million
Funding Awarded to date: $1,925,000 

  • from State: $1,925,000 – The City has done very well with Grants and Loans from the MA Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA), and its Dam and Seawall Program, Mike Hale and Larry Durkin concur. “They are fabulous to work with.”
No EEA Grant Loan Comment
1 Design  & permitting grant FY 2016 $175,000 Completed 6/30/16
2 Haskell Phase 1 Construction Grant FY 2017 $500,000 Closed 6/30/17 and City reimbursed
3 Haskell Phase 1 Construction Loan FY 2018 $500,000 Submission by DPW to EEA 7/26/18 for reimbursement
4 Haskell Phase 2 Construction Grant FY 2018 (Applied to Phase 1 change orders) $500,000 Submission by DPW to EEA 7/26/18 for reimbursement
5 Additional FY 2018 EEA, funds applied to Phase 1 change orders $250,000 Submission by DPW to EEA 7/26/18 for reimbursement
6 Haskell Phase 2 Full FY 2019 Grant, to be applied to Phase 3 $500,000 to be realized if Phase 3 goes forward in FY 2019
7 EEA Total to date $1,925,000 $500,000

Phase 3:  Some future phase was anticipated, though obviously impossible to nail down until Phase 1 & 2 were completed. The reconstruction was based on discovery put into works five or more years ago as Durkin and DPW team assessed city’s watersheds. The dam has been deemed unstable and will require a major fix to be compliant. According to Durkin, the scope for Phase 3 will include “a secant concrete wall to be drilled and concrete along the dam crest for its entire length, cored in the bedrock beneath dam for structural stability and a concrete parapet wall tied into the secant wall that provides the necessary containment for the maximum storm as defined by the state” and some exicting ancillary projects I’ll write more about in a future update. Phase 3 is estimated to cost 5 million and DPW is working on grants with the state to ensure that it happens.

Location(s): West Gloucester
Priority:  Mayor Romeo Theken’s Office-City consider water highest priority – this one continues to provide 1/3 of the city’s water

Before / After

before photos courtesy DPW ca.2014  /  after photos ©c ryan 2018

 

 

ORIGINAL 1902 PLANS AND PROPOSAL

Plate 14 West Gloucester showing Haskell's Pond_from Gloucester MA Dept Public Works archives

Reviewing the ordeal that was constructing the dam– one hundred and six years ago –is a fascinating read, and helped me appreciate the major job it’s been in 2018. The original dam construction was contentious and hence the top news story of 1902 and years prior. While researching its beginnings, I was struck by just how many areas of concern and themes of city governance from 1902 remain relevant in 2018. Here’s a short list: the financial condition of the city (“revaluation”), suitable allocations, considering work on Rogers Street, water costs, heroic solo sails, possible steel bridge over Annisquam, Burnham Field play ground, pros and cons of tourism, disagreement over what is considered sound development, new theater on Main Street, announcing state grants, eminent domain, boundary lines, Gloucester Fresh, cut bridge in bad condition, aiming to keep work in town when possible, Stage Fort Park tributes, environmentally friendly innovations,  sustainability, access and oodles of local politics-  Office of Mayor and City Council, city staff, committees, and commissions.

The excerpts below pertain to Haskell’s pond dam from 1902 Gloucester Daily Times  archives that I pulled from reels at Sawyer Free and transcribed for easy access.  Plans and maps are courtesy of Mike Hale and the Department Public Work team. Links to high resolution versions are provided at the end of the post.

January 4, 1902 – MAYOR FRENCH LOSES: Aldermen Vote to Exonerate Water Commissioners

Continue reading “Great Public Works then and now | Haskell’s Pond Dam 2018 reconstruction with 1902 construction plans & wild origin story #GloucesterMA”

Long Beach, Mass: storm damage unearths submerged grove of mystery roots

Does anybody know the age of the mangrove-like roots that began to surface back in 2012 aside Eagle Rock and the creek? The 2018 winter storm erosion exposed more of a grove line parallel to the seawall. I am curious about the seemingly fossilized piercings and how the landscape may have looked before the beach we walk today.

more photos in my GMG post from 2016: Shore nature challenge: what are these? Long Beach Easter Island

Long Beach Massachustts after winter 2018 storm damage- mangrove like roots surface©c ryan_20180523_134700InkedLong Beach Massachustts after winter 2018 storm damage- mangrove like roots unearthed - detail marked up©c ryan_20180523_134700

 

 

Register by Aug 11 for 39th Annual Clean Harbor swim (kids and adults) held @Niles Beach August 19th

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REGISTER BY AUGUST 11 for 39th Annual Clean Harbor Swim- 

“New since 2015 is the Clean Harbor Kids swim, a 500 meter swim along the shore of Niles Beach for 8-12 year olds. This is a wonderful way to introduce kids to the sport of Open Water Swimming.”  And to talk about the history behind celebrating a clean water swim here in Gloucester harbor, the natural world ‘all about us’, stories of conservation, and work of naturalists like Sarah Fraser Robbins.

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Gloucester Motif Monday: conservation inspiration. Roger Babson, Sarah Fraser Robbins, Sarah Evans, Philip Weld JR

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 Babson

Reservoir

and Sanctuary

[Eleven hundred and fifty acres]

THIS RESERVOIR, WATERSHED, AND

RESERVATION ARE FOR THE PEOPLE

OF GLOUCESTER, THE LAND HAVING

BEEN GIVEN IN MEMORY OF MY

FATHER AND MY GRANDFATHER WHO

ROAMED OVER THESE ROCKY HILLS–

THEY HAD THE VISION THAT SOME

DAY IT SHOULD BE CONSERVED FOR

THE USES OF THE CITY AND AS

AN INSPIRATION TO ALL LOVERS

OF GOD AND NATURE

-ROGER W BABSON, 1931

There are examples of land preservation, but featuring a watershed in 1931? Isn’t it wonderful! If you haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth a close look. I believe that it has definitely inspired many in Gloucester. 

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DPW HQ on Poplar

 

THE FIRST CLEAN HARBOR SWIM

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1979

 

Thank you to Deborah Cramer and Dan Greenbaum for sharing this memory and finding this Gloucester Daily Times article! This trio’s swim inspired Cape Ann’s Year of the Coast led by MassAudubon the following summer.

Related posts:

8/13/16, race above same day: And they’re back

8/13/16, Celebrate Clean Harbor Swim, and they’re off

8/12/16 Gloucester’s Clean Harbor: H2O No No’s are in the past – some history of the swim

8/10/16 Accclaimed writer, Gloucester resident, and one of the trio that inspired the Clean Harbor Swim Sarah Fraser Robbins excerpt ( the title of her classic book The Sea is All About Us was a nod to Gloucester summer resident TS Eliot’ Four Quartets)

8/6/16 litter 1978 Crackdown at the quarries 

8/4/16 history of the swim and news about 2016 Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim

RIO WATERS CAN GET BETTER! THANKS TO DOGGED NATURALISTS, WE CAN PUT OUR HEADS UNDER WATER IN GLOUCESTER. REGISTER NOW FOR THE AUGUST 13 CLEAN HARBOR SWIM

And they’re back! Clean Harbor Swim

GOOD CLEAN FUN!

99 swimmers. 1.2 miles. Final racers coming in now. Well done all! Most were  in wetsuits–I  heard many comments about the water being cold. “The coldest one I remember.” I will add some information and photos here later when I’m at my office; complete results will be posted to the New England Open Water Swimming Association Facebook page. Mostly personal best athletic feel in the air, some clean connection.

First place (third year in a row)

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Brian Barry has been participating since they moved here in 2002

 

And they’re off Clean Harbor Swim

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Joey’s 2009 interview with Richie Martin

 

Related posts:

8/13/16, race above same day: And they’re back

8/12/16 Gloucester’s Clean Harbor: H2O No No’s are in the past – some history of the swim

8/10/16 Accclaimed writer, Gloucester resident, and one of the trio that inspired the Clean Harbor Swim Sarah Fraser Robbins excerpt ( the title of her classic book The Sea is All About Us was a nod to Gloucester summer resident TS Eliot’ Four Quartets)

8/6/16 litter 1978 Crackdown at the quarries 

8/4/16 history of the swim and news about 2016 Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim

RIO WATERS CAN GET BETTER! THANKS TO DOGGED NATURALISTS, WE CAN PUT OUR HEADS UNDER WATER IN GLOUCESTER. REGISTER NOW FOR THE AUGUST 13 CLEAN HARBOR SWIM

 

 

Gloucester’s clean harbor: H2O no no’s are in the past

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Did you read about Cape Cod’s Big Water Drinking Problem in the Boston Globe magazine this past weekend, the cover story? Oy, complicated.

There’s still time to register for the annual Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim which will be held at Niles Beach Saturday morning. Swim or raise a toast–there is so much to celebrate.

Swim to celebrate Gloucester’s clean water

Swim to celebrate the moments people help*

Swim to celebrate a history of ongoing conservation

Swim to celebrate the guys on the DPW crews

Before it was Celebrate the Clean Harbor it was… clean it.

Thirteen year old Elinor Doty swam a mile and a half in 29 minutes, ahead of 16 other swimmers in 1979. The race was in tribute to John McPhee, head of Gloucester Sea Scouts. “We tried to get swimmers who knew John McPhee,” said race organizer Jim Doty, Elinor’s father. “I’d like to make it an annual event if I can swing it…”

“Rounding out the field of 17, was 68 year old Sara Robbins, who was surprised by an unexpected visitor during the middle of the race. “The grey harbor seal popped up beside me to show me a two-pound flounder that he had caught,” said Robbins, who has been training a half mile each day for the past two weeks. “I’m not too fast but I get there.” She said she used the side stroke during the whole course.”

Doty came in first place again in 1980 when the swim morphed into the ideal kick off event for Cape Ann’s Year of the Coast. Because of water quality, several parents wouldn’t let their children participate. “And only two are from the Cape Ann YMCA, James Doty notes, which usually supplies more contestants.

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1979

 

Water pollution was rarely mentioned if at all before the Cape Ann Year of the Coast, an undeniable avalanche tipping point. One 1980 article has a picture of Sarah Fraser Robbins, Sarah Evans and Chandler Evans. The 8 year old was ceremoniously passed from boat to boat and then dropped in so three generations could swim across the finish line. In 1981 organizers reminded people that they didn’t need to complete the swim, they could jump in and swim across the finish line in support. I wonder if that tradition was maintained?

1980 swimmers besides the Evans clan and Doty–Gloucester residents, unless otherwise stated: David Hayden (2nd place), Karen Hartley of Dorchester (3rd place), Andy O’Brien of Rockport, Barry Hallett Jr, Darrell Hallett (swam part way alongside his brother), Kay Rubin, Polly Doty of Dedham, Jack Crowley of South Weymouth, Carl Blumenthanl, Chris Lovgren of Gloucester, Stan Luniewicz, Bill Jebb representing Sea Tec, Steve Haskell Sea Tec, Sharon Kishida Sea Tec, Earl Kishida Sea Tec, Jan Childs, Chris Sanders of Rockport, Chris Vonalt of Rockport, and Sam Rugh.

Councilor Carolyn O’Connor led a brief awards ceremony. I love the quip recorded in Laura Meades 1980 sports report Hardy Swimmers Keep Heads High“As they went on, the swimmers shouted encouragement to one another and checked their progress.  “What’s ahead of us?” asked Steve Haskell of SeaTec Inc, a diving firm. “A couple of 8-year olds,” replied SeaTec’s owner, Bill Jebb, swimming beside Haskell.”

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1980

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1980

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I hope DPW feels proud that their work protected us, Gloucester’s famous harbor, our legacy.

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Before the waste water treatment facility was built in 1984, untreated waste (sanitary, storm water, industrial, you name it) was discharged directly into the inner and outer harbor. Gloucester was not alone. Rockport, Essex, Beverly- there were many North Shore stories. I wish I knew the name of every person that did the necessary retrofitting and water treatment labor. They dug up roads, laid pipe, cleaned up messes, dealt with outfalls, extended sewer lines, requested a decontamination shower and changing area (1978) so they wouldn’t have to wash up at home, engineered, mapped, and monitored what was necessary to bring us from a crisis by 1980–and lawsuit– to where we are now in 2016. DPW continues to address storm water pollution, also mandated, and will make next year’s compliance deadline. (Gloucester is not unduly impaired by industrial waste like some other communities that will feel the pinch.) Thanks to Larry Durkin, Environmental Engineer, DPW, and Senator Tarr’s office for pouncing on MBTA’s pesticide spraying.

To paraphrase the famous George M Cohan quote: My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my brother thanks you, andI will add that my children thank you, future generations thank you, wildlife thanks you, businesses thank you, truly all of Gloucester thanks you!

**I grabbed material for this post from GDT headlines thanks to   Sawyer Free Library. Newspapers on microfilm are available in the Reference Department. I am not alone in dreaming of the day when Gloucester archives, Gloucester Daily Times, and other essential research are digitized, but I tend to repeat this ongoing plea.

*It’s not one person, event or decade that stands out. There’s an incredible timeline of care. Who would you add? part 2

Continue reading “Gloucester’s clean harbor: H2O no no’s are in the past”

Naturally beautiful 6 layered rock. Sarah Fraser Robbins excerpt.

20160810_111305Black rocks are slippery and demand respect. Dreaded barnacles may be near. For the uninitiated, advice helps: Tread slowly. Crouch low. No flip flops. Maintain 3 or 4 points of contact. Walk like a crab. The rocks feel sticky, maybe dry. Caution: things change quickly if you’re wet.

Still, people fall. Hard.  I have witnessed spectacular slides down cliffs, torn and stained swimwear, bruised backs, skin scraped raw and red, stubbed and bloody toes, one gashed head, and a fractured wrist.

I have a copy of The Sea is All About Us in a guest room for family and friends. I can’t say that it will ward off all evil falls, but it’s helped. The granite galvanizing, seaweed section quoted below is one of the oft read passages I share. What a teacher! She lived in Gloucester and wrote about it.

If you read it once, I guarantee that it will change how you see the colors of our rocky coast, and sea all about us.

 

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From 1973 The Sea is All about Us by Sarah Fraser Robbins and Clarice Yentsch. Back cover: Yentsch and Robbins (first author-holding horseshoe crab)

The Rocky Shore 

The Black Zone

Plant and animal life on the rocky shore can be separated into six general zones, beginning with the Black Zone, which marks the average high point that the sea reaches upon the land. The Black Zone is covered by microscopic blue-green algae, which are so dense that they make a black line of varying widths along the rocks. These blue green algae exist at high-tide level all around the world wherever the sea meets the land on the rocks. 

Just below the Black Zone lie

The Periwinkle Zone and The Barnacle Zone.

named after the dominant animals. There is no definite territorial line for these animals, and indeed the zones often intermingle with each other. Barnacles and periwinkles can be found penetrating the Rockweed Zone (the next zone seaward) and sometimes into the edge of the Irish Moss Zone. Both periwinkles and barnacles are equipped to withstand desiccation (drying out), and can live very successfully in an area that is dry up to 70 percent of the time.

The Rockweed Zone

lies in the middle intertidal area, and is characterized by the brown seaweeds that live there, such as the sea wrack, Fucus, and the knotted wrack, Ascophyllum, which are long, brown seaweeds with conspicuous float bladders that are firmly attached to most of the rocks. They hang limply when the tide is out and float upwards as the tide rises until they are completely erect at high tide. They sway back and forth, dampening the effect of wave action, and providing a sheltered environment for many intertidal plants and animals.

The Irish Moss Zone

is down lower from the high tide line and is exposed only during the very low tides which occur twice a month. The short, dark red tufts of Irish moss, Chondrus Crispus, cover the lower rocks like a carpet, in sharp contrast with the brown Rockweed Zone, the white Barnacle Zone, the Periwinkle Zone and the Black Zone above. 

The Laminarian or Kelp Zone 

is exposed only at the very lowest tides, which occurs four times a year. This zone extends down as far as light usable for photosynthesis can penetrate–about 30 meters in Folly Cove, and 200 meters in very clear tropical water. The Kelp Zone is the dwelling place of many animals that can survive only continually submerged in water; sponges, hydroids, anemones, certain mollusks, echinoderms, arthropods, tunicates, and fish. Many of these animals may be found higher in intertidal zones, but only in pools that never dry up.

On tide pools- “AT TIMES IN AUGUST THEY ARE REDUCED TO A CRUST OF SALT CRYSTALS”

Tide pools occur in all zones. The upper pools in the splash area or Periwinkle Zone are sporadically replenished with sea water, and consequently are subject to variations caused by land temperatures. They may freeze long before the ocean does. They evaporate in hot sun and strong winds, and thereby concentrate their salinity, that is, become saltier than the sea. At times during August, they are reduced to a crust of salt crystals. After heavy rains and floods they become much less salty. Some tide pools in the middle zones will contain animals and plants characteristic of a deeper zone because the conditions present are similar to those in the zone below. Tide pools in the Irish Moss Zone often contain kelp and associated animals. Tide pools are always a good place to explore. 

The edge of the tide is a fragile environment which in its delicate natural balance can easily be destroyed by interference. The building of piers, jetties, and sewage outfalls, and the dumping of trash or industrial wastes into the ocean can be devastating. Overcollecting can be destructive. In the intertidal areas, look and touch only. Examine plants and animals carefully. Overturn stones to see what is clinging to them or living underneath, but always turn that stone back. To leave it overturned alters the environment completely and needlessly kills many organisms. Take photographs or make careful drawings for your notebook, but collect only dead material. Use unbreakable plastic containers from which to observe the organism and then return them to the tidal pool. 

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Dry scurry as you like

 

Rio waters can get better! Thanks to dogged naturalists, we can put our heads under water in Gloucester. Register now for the August 13 Clean Harbor Swim

While Rio welcomes the 2016 XXXI Olympics, Gloucester will host the “38th Annual Celebrate the Clean Harbor Swim” on August 13, 2016 at 9AM on Niles Beach. A  500 meter course for children ages 8-12 was added last year; any parent and child registering at the same time will receive a promotional discount. I find that incentive extra symbolic because a mother and daughter, Sarah Fraser Robbins and Sarah Robbins Evans, together with Philip Weld, Jr., got this all going! MassAudubon facilitated the annual swim the following year and many years after. More recently it’s been produced by the New England Ocean Water Swimming Association (NEOWSA). Many partners with the City of Gloucester continue to work hard for clean water. I’ll write more about the history of the swim in another post, but in this post I want to delve a bit into the biography of Sarah Fraser Robbins.

They swam for clean water because the Clean Water Act was not being enforced in the Harbor. Today participants swim to celebrate clean water.

There are 2.5 centuries of conservation efforts and notable naturalists in Gloucester. Sarah Fraser Robbins was one.

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Sarah Fraser Robbins was 68 at the time of the first swim, a long time Gloucester resident, environmentalist, author, scholar and museum educator. She worked at the Peabody Essex Museum for 25 years. In 1961, she and others helped persuade the Raymond family to donate land to Mass Audubon, now Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary. Robbins was friends with Ivy LeMon who was active in banding monarchs to trace their migration wintering in Mexico–had to be with that wonderful name. I have heard that together they helped to secure habitat and urged people to garden using the plants butterflies liked. Kim Smith continues on that Gloucester path.

Robbins published articles in regional journals, the journal of the New England aquarium, and for close to 30  years a regular column- “The Curious Naturalist” -for  Mass Audubon publications. The Sea Is All About Us: A Guide to Marine Environments of Cape Ann and Other Northern New England Waters, the 1973 book Robbins wrote with Clarice Yentsch, was an influential touchstone about wildlife at our shores. The lengthy title opens with a nod to the T.S. Eliot poem Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages. What other could it be?  That glorious landmark seamark poem is all Water, art, legacy and nature. And the paradise that’s Cape Ann. 

Read an excerpt with Robbin’s curator, scholar and naturalist’s eye in mind. (Her father was an amateur geologist.)

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,

The ‘savage rocks’ are two groups of rocky ledge off our shores nearby Straightsmouth and Thacher Island. The bigger ‘Dry Salvages’ are a mile and a half out and the little salvages are a mile out. Growing up, including when he came home from Harvard, Eliot sailed from his family’s summer home on Eastern Point. He could clear the Dry Salvages or thread past Avery Ledge and Flat Ground and back home to Gloucester.

… the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.

Check out who wrote the forward for the new edition of The Sea is All About Us:

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None other than Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge, another Gloucester conservationist ( and still looking for horseshoe crab sightings)

The Peabody Essex Museum and Maritime Gloucester memorialized Sarah Fraser Robbins. Be inspired!

  • In 2003, Peabody Essex Museum established the Sarah Fraser Robbins Directorship for the Art & Nature Center, currently held by Jane Winchell.
  • In 2014 the Center was dedicated in memory of PEM honorary trustee, Dorothy “Dotty” Addams Brown, Sarah’s good friend and Eastern Point resident.
  • Maritime Gloucester’s education center was dedicated in 2008 as the Sarah Fraser Robbins Marine Science Center.
  • In 2014, Maritime Gloucester also established the Sarah Fraser Robbins Environmental Award.

Philip Weld’s father, Philip S. Weld Sr., was a newspaper publisher, editor, writer, environmentalist, veteran, and record breaking sailor. The year after the first harbor swim Phil Sr won a transatlantic race sailing “Moxie” and wrote about that crossing. He grew up in Manchester and raised his family in Gloucester.

You can see Sarah’s daughter, Sarah Robbins Evans, interviewed in a great 2010 GMG video by Manny Simoes. Make sure to watch his terrific mini doc overview of that 32nd Clean Harbor Swim run by Richie Martin. There are brief and peppy participant interviews. Swimmers came near and far- Tewksbury, Beverly, Boxford, Boston, Bedford NH, Essex, Portland ME, Falmouth ME, Swampscott…watch to find out more!

To register for the Clean Harbor Swim

Continue reading “Rio waters can get better! Thanks to dogged naturalists, we can put our heads under water in Gloucester. Register now for the August 13 Clean Harbor Swim”