Thursday, August 12, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 60: Scituate, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 60:  Scituate, Mass.
July 8, 2010

            Driving through Scituate was an amazing experience.  At times I felt as though I was driving through a series of postcards depicting what a perfect small seaside town should look like.  Besides the miles of beautiful shoreline Scituate is filled with some unexpected historical sites with some pretty wild stories.  All in all it is a place that quickly became one of my favorites. 
Old Oaken Bucket Homestead Well
Incorporated in 1636 with a name that comes from the Wampanoag Indian term for ‘cold brook,’ Scituate was primarily a fishing community from the onset.  Route 3A is the main road through Scituate and gives you a great view of the harbor along the North River.  One such postcard view is that of an old fishing house located out in the river near Damons Point Rd.  I had to make a point to stop along the bridge crossing the river to take in the beautiful scene.  It also made me wonder how people get out to this building except by boat, it is as beautiful as it is inaccessible.
One of the many historic spots in Scituate actually has its name in literature.  The Old Oaken Bucket, on the road of the same name, was made famous worldwide by poet Samuel Woodworth.  His 1817 poem about longing for his youth has been described as one of the most beautiful pieces of work in the English language.  The land where the Old Oaken Bucket well and homestead stand today was originally a farm belonging to Samuel Woodworth’s stepmother, Besty Northey.  Woodworth moved there after his father and Northey married in 1796; he often drank from the well on the hot days when he worked with his father on the farmland.  ‘The Old Oaken Bucket’ was voted Scituate’s town song in 1935. 
Lawson Tower
The next spot I visited exceeded my expectations.  It was at this spot where I also was lucky enough to receive a guided tour as well.  Lawson Tower looks a bit out of place among the other historic buildings in this small seaside village.  The reason is because the architecture is straight out of 12th Century Germany.  Standing 153-feet tall, this amazing piece of architecture is for all intents and purposes the most beautiful water tower on Earth. 
The story of how it came to be is an article in itself.  Around the turn of the 20th century, millionaire and ‘copper king’ Thomas W. Lawson had built an estate he called ‘Dreamwold,’ in Scituate.  Unfortunately shortly thereafter the Scituate Water Company constructed a very plain, gray steel sandpipe to serve as a water tower.  Not wanting his spectacular view to be ruined Lawson supposedly hired an architect to travel Europe and find a design to cover up the eyesore water tower.  Legend has it that this tower is based on a similar site located at Stahleck Castle on the Rhine River in Germany. 
The Mann Farmhouse
The tower is breathtaking and it overlooks a baseball field on one side and several other historic sites on the other.  It is surrounded by beautiful flowers and a small playground belonging to a neighboring church.  While I was photographing the tower I was able to meet the head of the Scituate Historical Society as he was locking the tower up.  He was gracious enough to take a few minutes to tell me the story of Thomas Lawson and even showed me inside the tower where I could see the remains of the old grey water tower.  He was very knowledgeable and the stories he told me made the trip to Scituate even more interesting.
The building which now houses the Historical Society sits a few steps from Lawson Tower.  The ‘Little Red Schoolhouse’ served as Scituate’s high school from its opening in 1893 until the Gates Intermediate School was built in 1917.  Any trip to Scituate needs to include a stop here, there are pamphlets showcasing all of the town’s historical sites and they come in very handy when trying to plan a day trip.
Old Scituate Lighthouse as seen from Museum Beach.
The Mann Farmhouse and Museum on Greenfield Lane is interesting for the fact that the Mann family are the descendants of Richard Mann who settled in Scituate in 1636.  Three generations of Mann’s lived in the house right after, and a seventh generation Mann, Percy Mann, lived in the house until his death in 1968.  There is a beautiful wildflower garden complete with a trellis to enter through and a small walking bridge. 
One sort of offbeat attraction of the Mann Farmhouse is something very easy to miss or misidentify.  According to the story, after having a run-in with town officials over various fees due on his car, Percy Mann in the 1920’s decided it would be better to drive his car out back and leave it there.  For nearly ninety years it has slowly deteriorated and there is now a large tree which has grown up through the frame of the car.  What appeared to me to be misplaced junk became a really neat side note on my trip to Scituate.
Old Scituate Light
            The main attraction in Scituate is the historic Old Scituate Lighthouse.  Built in 1811 and located on Cedar Point in Scituate this lighthouse played an important role in the War of 1812.  It was on this spot that Rebecca and Abigail Bates, the ‘Lighthouse Army of Two,’ scared off the British troops by playing their drum and fife loudly.  The British feared the sounds were of the approaching Scituate Militia and retreated.  After being out of service for over 130 years the lighthouse was once again made visible from sea to aid passing vessels. 
Even before reaching the point where the lighthouse is there was a magnificent view of the entire shoreline on Jericho Road.  Lighthouse Road is dotted with quaint homes, some more than a hundred years old, that are empty during the colder months but were bustling with activity on this day.  There is a breakwater which sticks out into the harbor with many tiny sailboats heading out into the open water from Museum Beach.  It is out on the breakwater where you can get a tremendous view of Scituate Light which looks more like a granite rocket ship than a lighthouse.
A trip through several perfect postcards of a seaside village, that is what Scituate felt like for me.  It is no coincidence then that I have been there three times since beginning these travel articles.  I recommend visiting the Scituate Historical Society and getting the historic site pamphlet and then taking your time to see all of them.  There is something for everyone here.  Have fun and happy traveling!
DirectionsOld Scituate Light: From Rt. 3 north take Exit 12, merge onto Church Street heading toward Marshfield.  Turn left onto Old Oak St., and continue onto Union St for 3.3 miles.  Union St. becomes Bridge St., turn right onto Rt. 123 for 1.8 miles. Turn onto New Driftway at the rotary, this road becomes New Kent St., Kent St., and Front St. in that order.  Turn right at Jericho Rd. and continue onto light.
            Lawson Tower:  From Rt. 3A heading north take right at First Parish Road.  Take 5th left turn at Central Park Drive.  Tower is on left.  Little Red Schoolhouse/Historical Society is across the street from Central Park Dr. on Cudworth Road.
            Old Oaken Bucket Homestead:  From Rt. 3A heading north take 4th exit in rotary which is Old Oaken Bucket Road.  The homestead is about a half mile up on the left.

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