Thursday, February 27, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod's Woodstock

The original Woodstock music festival is widely considered to be one of the most important moments in the history of music. From August 15-18, 1969 an estimated 400,000 people crowded onto Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. The list of musical acts that played during the festival reads like a who’s who of icons. Legends like Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Who, and more graced the stage enthralling the crowd. 

Two years later in August 1971 former Beatle George Harrison and Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar organized the Concert for Bangladesh. Taking place in New York City’s Madison Square Garden it was a pair of benefit shows to raise money and awareness for the refugees of East Pakistan, following the Bangladesh Liberation War-related genocide. The shows were attended by 40,000 people and by 1985 the concerts and subsequent investments had raised nearly $12 million. 

One year later in May 1972 those first two events collided in the dunes of Provincetown on Cape Cod. An idea was hatched for a Woodstock-type concert benefiting Bangladesh. Who organized it? Who played it? Was it a success? This is the story of Cape Cod’s Woodstock. 

The roots of this event began in December 1965 with the creation of the Provincetown Academy of Living Arts. This was a nonprofit year-round arts center where students and professional artists alike could study and perform. However after two years the organization was still looking for a physical home base for operations. In 1969 they expanded their operations and began holding and sponsoring art festivals. Things came together when 20-year old Harwich resident David Blackmore pitched the idea of the day long outdoors music and arts festival to the organization in early 1972. It was to be a free event hopefully with donations from attendees going to support Bangladesh. Although there was minor resistance from locals the Cape Cod National Seashore granted the festival. Dubbed the Provincetown Music and Arts Festival it was promoted throughout New England by Blackmore, something beyond what the National Seashore had anticipated. Despite that fact Blackmore expected only between 1,000-1,500 people to show up. 

The location chosen for the event was the Province Lands Amphitheater, which could seat 700, with a date of Sunday May 28, 1972. It was scheduled during one of the busiest weekends of the year, Memorial Day Weekend. It was a nearly-perfect weekend weather-wise. Not only was the event given the green light by the Cape Cod National Seashore, a section of dunes on Race Point Beach was opened up to allow concert goers who could not find accommodations a place to sleep. People, cars, motorcycles, and more lined the dunes and the streets of Provincetown. It was a far larger crowd than Blackmore had anticipated filled with hippies, Hells Angels, and more. Rumors would permeate the crowd in the time leading up to the show of potential big name acts at the event all the way up to a Beatles reunion. None of those rumors came to pass though. 

The Province Lands Amphitheater
(Christopher Setterlund)

The show began at 10am on Sunday and was packed with bands from the Cape and Boston. The top performer as far as Cape Codders go was Marie Marcus, the Cape’s First Lady of Jazz. However the top performer for connections to present-day was The Daddy Warbucks Band. At the time they had toured with Rod Stewart. Two of the members of the band were Marshall Bruce Mathers and his wife Debbie, their son, born only a few months after the show, went on to become iconic rapper Eminem. The other acts on the bill were: Albatross, who played in Falmouth; Flight, a brass band from Springfield; Keith Troupe, a newly formed band in the Harwich-Chatham area; L Z Band, a blue and jazz band from Boston; and Sadbird, recently of the Groggery in Boston. 

Thousands in attendance at the festival.
(Cape Cod National Seashore Archives)

All in all somewhere between 8-12,000 people crowded in and around the Race Point Amphitheater to hear the live music and show their support. Unfortunately the large, lively crowd for the event did not translate to large donations for Bangladesh. Before the festival was over it was announced that a mere $100 had been collected from those in attendance, or roughly $1 for every 120 people. It did not stop there as in the aftermath of the show it was revealed by Provincetown Police Chief James Meades that the festival may have been more harm than good. 

Crowds of people around the Province Lands Visitors Center
(Cape Cod National Seashore Archives)

The large number of people on the dunes caused extensive damage. The night before many had torn up beach fencing and shingles from National Seashore buildings to burn for warmth. Drug and alcohol use ran rampant before and during the event and at one point part of the Province Lands Visitors Center’s roof was set on fire. The end result was Meades proclaiming he would go to Federal court to file and injunction if another similar festival was ever planned. In spite of all that then-Superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore Leslie Arnberger applauded the efforts of the Park Rangers and the members of the U.S. Park Police that had been dispatched from Washington D.C. for keeping the enormous festival relatively contained. 

It was a moment in history of Cape Cod and the youth of the early 1970’s. It was an event not likely to ever be duplicated, or even allowed, on the Cape again. For one day in May 1972 Woodstock, Bangladesh, and Cape Cod culture all converged in the dunes of Provincetown. 

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Travel Tuesday: #1 - Cape Cod Canal Sandwich Side

     Welcome to the first installment of something a bit different on my In My Footsteps blog. On Tuesdays I will choose a photo from my collection that is available on Smug I will tell the story of where it was taken, why it was taken there, and any humorous anecdotes from the shoot. It is called Travel Tuesday since unless you live at that particular spot you’d have to travel to get to it. This was originally called Photo Friday but I have something new in store for Fridays coming up. Enough of the intro here is the first photo.

     This photo was taken just last week. It is the east end of the Cape Cod Canal in the town of Sandwich. There is the Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center there open from May through October. To get from the eastern most parking lot to the breakwater at the mouth of the canal is ¼ of a mile walk. After dark it is sparsely lit which makes long exposure shooting relatively easy. This photo was taken about 500 feet from the parking lot, in between a pair of overhead lights. On the right sticking up over the treeline is the Sagamore Bridge, built in 1933, about 2 ¼ miles away. On the left in the foreground is the Canal Generating Plant about ½ mile away. This petroleum and natural gas electrical power station first opened in 1968 using coal. It was bought by the Mirant company in 1999 and was sold in March 2018 to Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners of New York for approximately $320 million.

     On the walk out to the spot to shoot this photo I could hear the sound across the canal of what was likely a coyote catching its dinner along Scusset Beach. It was chilling to hear but not as bad as if it had been happening up ahead on the trail. Remember to have some sort of flashlight or head lamp with you for night shooting. It helps you see where you’re going if you’re on treacherous terrain, and also helps you avoid gifts left by dogs that their owners happily left behind.

     The photo itself is a 30-second exposure and includes a plane flying by appearing as a straight line, along with green, orange, and red lights dotting the shores of the canal.

Where to go to take this photo: Ed Moffitt Drive, Sandwich, MA

Friday, February 21, 2020

In My Footsteps: Hudson, New York

     It is consistently recognized as one of the best small towns in New York and America as a whole. Located just over 120 miles north of New York City this charming town is considered to be Upstate New York’s ‘downtown.’ With a population of 6,239 as of 2017 it sits across the Hudson River from the town of Athens. Hudson began as a whaling port far removed from the ocean and today is an up and coming port of art and culture far removed from New York City.

     Hudson began as a whaling town due to the British blockades of important American ports leading up to the Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. Named for explorer Henry Hudson it was around this same point that the town of Hudson was actually the 24th largest city in the United States in 1790. After a down period the town of Hudson has undergone a huge resurgence in the late 20th into the 21st century. It is now seen as an Upstate smaller version of Brooklyn with a thriving arts district and influx of youth combined with a firm pulse on its rich history.

     One must include taking in views of the sprawling Hudson River when visiting this charming small town. There are two tremendous places located near to each other that fit the bill. First is Promenade Hill Park. It is located high above the water, giving you an amazing view. There is a beautiful statue of St. Winifred which overlooks the water. It is a saint of Welsh origin sometimes referred to as the Patron Saint of Mariners. It was placed at the park in 1896. The spot was first known as ‘Parade Hill’ is the 18th and 19th century but was seen as ‘too common’ a name during the Victorian-era and the nickname ‘Promenade Hill’ eventually became its name.

The statue of St. Winifred at Promenade Hill Park (Christopher Setterlund)

     The second spot to take in water views is the aptly named Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The southern-most section is called ‘Rick’s Point’ after former longtime Hudson Mayor Rick Scalera. It is here at water level that one gets a closer look at the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse located a half-mile west of the spot. Sitting stoically out in the middle of the water it was built in 1874 to help guide vessels around the Middle Ground Flats, a partially man-made island in the river. For closer views of the lighthouse one can walk a few hundred yards down the railroad tracks, but it is best advised to take a boat.
Henry Hudson Riverfront Park (Christopher Setterlund)

Hudson-Athens Lighthouse (Christopher Setterlund)

     For a mix of history and scenic views one cannot go wrong by driving a few miles south of the downtown area to the Olana Historic Site. Olana is the name of the mansion once home to famed 19th century landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. The mansion, built in 1872, sits as part of a larger 250-acre property. The views of the Hudson River Valley, Rip van Winkle Bridge, and Catskill Mountains are breathtaking with the highest elevation on the property at 495-feet.

Olana (Christopher Setterlund)

     This has been only a small taste of what Hudson has to offer. There is history everywhere like the home of artist Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of American Painting. There is the art and shopping along Warren Street. There is no shortage of delicious food at spots like Ca’Mea Ristorante, BABA Louie’s, and Wm. Farmer and Sons. Hudson is not considered one of the best small towns in America for nothing.

     Perhaps the best way to enjoy Hudson though is to simply park, walk, and explore! Have fun and happy traveling!

Check out my video on YouTube here: In My Footsteps: Hudson, New York

If You Go:
  • Promenade Hill Park – 2 Warren Street
  • Henry Hudson Waterfront Park – Water Street
  • Olana Historic Site – 5720 State Route 9G

Helpful Links:
My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

Thursday, February 20, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The South Yarmouth Railroad Station

     Since September 1981 the Cape Cod Rail Trail has been allowing tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts the chance to experience Cape Cod’s natural beauty by bicycle, on foot, and more. The Cape Cod Rail Trail follows an old railroad right-of-way initially owned by the original Cape Cod Railroad in the mid-19th century. At first the tracks brought train service as far as Hyannis and Yarmouth Port with service reaching Woods Hole and Provincetown by 1872.

     For more than thirty years the terminus of the Rail Trail was a parking lot along Route 134 in South Dennis with the trail being twenty-two miles in total length. In 2015 construction on westward expansion of the Rail Trail began. In December 2018 a new 3.7-mile extension opened in Yarmouth as the trail now ends at Higgins Crowell Road in Yarmouth just past the Bayberry Hills Golf Course. A new parking area was built where the trail crosses Station Avenue, clearing what had been abandoned and overgrown railroad tracks. Did you know that decades ago, long before Stop and Shop, CVS, Wendy’s and more lined Station Avenue those railroad tracks were active, and the South Yarmouth Railroad Station sat on the appropriately named ‘Station’ Avenue? This is its story.

The new Rail Trail extension looking west, the railroad station would have been directly to the right.
(Christopher Setterlund 2016)

     Beginning in the late 1840’s the Cape Cod Railroad began extending its tracks eastward. It was a slow but steady progress. By the spring of 1854 the tracks had made their way into Yarmouth making railroad stations a necessity. The town’s first station was in the fishing village of Yarmouth Port along present-day Railroad Avenue. As the fishing industry in Yarmouth Port slowed, the business center of the town began to shift south. In 1865 a new railroad station was built in South Yarmouth, close to Bass River near the intersection of present-day Great Western Road and North Main Street. This station became the main one in town, complete with a post office, while the Yarmouth Port station still remained in operation as well. The new station was christened the North Yarmouth Railroad Station.

     The North Yarmouth station was part of the Cape Cod Railroad until 1872 when it merged with the Old Colony Railroad and the Newport Railroad to become one all encompassing Old Colony Railroad. In April 1883 the station along with the corresponding post office was renamed East Yarmouth. It was changed again in April 1889 this time to Yarmouth Farms. In March 1893 the New Haven Railroad leased the entirety of the Old Colony system, essentially giving them a monopoly on rail travel in New England by 1898.

     As time went on the business center of town shifted south again, toward present-day Station Avenue. Early in 1900 the town petitioned the state Board of Railroad Commissioners for the ability to relocate the Yarmouth Farms station. The main opposition came from business owners near the present station, suggesting their interests would be crippled by the removal of the station. The pleas did not work and the New Haven Railroad decided to move the station coupled with the promise of a macadam road being created connecting South Yarmouth to the new station location. Macadam is a form of pavement invented by Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam in the early 19th century.

     On July 27, 1901 the Yarmouth Farms Railroad Station move was approved. It took six days in mid-August and was done by being partially disassembled and placed on flat cars. It was moved roughly a mile east where it was renamed the South Yarmouth Railroad Station. As a consequence the former Yarmouth Farms post office was discontinued. The macadam road work commenced as the station was moved, up to 180-feet per day. It was finished in December 1902, the current-day Station Avenue.

The South Yarmouth/Bass River railroad station circa 1927 (public domain)

     In June of 1910 a forest fire of more than one hundred acres threatened the station but the firefighters will along with a shift of wind direction saved it. The New Haven Railroad changed the name of the South Yarmouth station to Bass River in September 1914. The company wanted to remove all north, south, east, and west names in stations to avoid any confusion in train orders. Bass River Railroad Station ended up becoming a far better name than the rumored name New Haven Railroad had considered, and that was ‘Mozart.’ As automobile availability began to rise, along with better paved roads, interest and usage in rail travel on Cape Cod began to wane in the 1920’s into the 1930’s. The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad began losing money in keeping the trains running.

     The end for the station came in 1936. In June the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad broke its lease with the Old Colony system of routes as part of bankruptcy reorganization. The South Yarmouth/Bass River station was one of the first casualties as it was seen as a lightly patronized station. In all 88 railroad stations would be shut down in the immediate aftermath of the bankruptcy. New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad operated at a $2.5 million loss ($44.7 million in 2020) in 1937 alone. The reorganized company survived until 1969 when it was absorbed by the Penn Central Transportation Company.

The Rail Trail crossing North Main Street near where the original Yarmouth Railroad Station stood. (Christopher Setterlund)

     The South Yarmouth/Bass River station sat vacant, routinely being defaced and broken into, before the town demolished it in September 1940. The tracks remained, becoming overgrown and concealed, for decades while Station Avenue prospered business-wise. It was not until 2015 that the parcel of land that once held the South Yarmouth Railroad Station was repurposed as the Cape Cod Rail Trail extension. Though the tracks were removed from Station Avenue west they still remain to the east of the street where they continue on much like they did decades ago.

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

Thursday, February 6, 2020

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Wreck of the Montclair

     Cape Cod has seen countless shipwrecks over the centuries. Its shifting shoals and sand bars have always been hazardous to passing vessels especially on the Atlantic Ocean facing coastline. Between Race Point Beach in Provincetown and the southern tip of Monomoy Island in Chatham is nearly fifty miles of some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Estimates by the National Parks Service say there are upwards of 1,000 lost vessels in what is common referred to as an ‘ocean graveyard.’ Legendary wrecks include the 17th century Sparrowhawk, the 18th century Whydah pirate ship, the 19th century Portland, and 20th century Pendleton. Even vessels as large at the 473-foot Eldia, which was grounded on Nauset Beach in 1984, have not been able to escape the pull of the Cape’s sand bars.
     Some of these vessels, like the Sparrowhawk, have been revealed due to the shifting sands and had their wooden carcasses removed and put on display in local museums. One wreck that has been appearing and disappearing over the last decade is that of the Montclair. Located on southern Nauset Beach it is a glimpse into history and an adventure to explore. However it is a real ship and a real tragedy with numerous lives lost which happened nearly a century ago. This is the story behind the remains that have been photographed and shared throughout social media over the last several years. This is the story of the wreck of the Montclair.

The Orleans Lifesaving Station circa 1900, courtesy of Sam's

     The vessel known as the Montclair was a three-masted schooner. The 371-ton wooden ship was built in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1918 and designated a transport vessel. It was owned by Captain C.B. Martin of Partridge Island, Nova Scotia.

     On Tuesday March 1, 1927 the 142-foot Montclair set sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia en route to New York City with a cargo of 2.5 million wood laths. It was headed by Captain William McLeod with a total crew of seven men. That same day a British vessel, the Frederick H., also left Nova Scotia with New York as its destination. Neither would reach its destination. The very next day the vessels began to feel the effects of a strong late-winter storm raging in from the southwest. Winds of up to 60 mph tore at the ships as they rounded Provincetown and headed down through the shoals of the Atlantic side of Cape Cod on March 3rd. McLeod had the utmost confidence in his vessel and pressed on south.

     The wind and waves pounded the Montclair and began pushing it in toward the shore as it headed past Nauset Beach. The ship lost two of its three masts, the fore and mizzen masts. Unable to control the vessel they could only hang on as it was pushed into the sandbars roughly a mile off shore just south of Nauset Beach. It was at this point, early on March 4th, that the peril of the Montclair awakened Captain Edward L. Clark. Clark was part of a skeleton crew of three men at Coast Guard Station #40 located just east of Little Pochet Island, two and a half miles south of the current Nauset Beach parking lot. The station had been designated inactive in the early 1920’s ironically due to the fact that there had not been any shipwrecks in the area for decades.

The wreck of the Montclair in 1927, courtesy of the William Quinn Collection

     Clark notified the Provincetown and Old Harbor (Chatham North Beach) Coast Guard stations and people rushed to the scene. After one last attempt to swing the Montclair clear of the shoals it was tossed up on to the sand where it was beaten by the waves of the high rising tide. The brave Coast Guard crews headed out into the wind and waves for an attempted rescue even managing to shoot three weighted lines over the stern of the crippled ship. Five members of the ship’s crew grabbed on to one line while the other two men grabbed another before the Montclair was broken in half near the middle. The five crew members including Captain McLeod were washed overboard while the other two men were picked up and brought back to shore.

     The splintered ship was eventually lifted off the sandbar by the tides and brought to shore where it was tossed up onto the sands of Nauset Beach. Its cargo of wood laths scattered for miles along the sand. The two survivors of the wreck Nathan Bagg and Gartland Short were treated for hypothermia and hysteria at the Coast Guard station. The body of Captain McLeod was quickly recovered while three of the other four missing were also quickly pulled from the water as the storm subsided and the sea calmed. The fifth and final deceased member of the Montclair’s crew would be discovered on March 15th on North Beach in Chatham by Wesley Eldredge mostly buried under the sand.

The remains of the Montclair today

     Much like with the grounding of the Eldia decades later countless residents came out to see the wreck of the Montclair with some helping themselves to some of the unbroken wood laths that had been deposited for a half-mile along the coast. Considered to be the worst maritime disaster on the Cape in more than twenty-five years questions were raised after as to whether more lives could have been saved if the Orleans Coast Guard station had been active.

     The Frederick H., which had left Nova Scotia the same day as the Montclair, also ran into the destructive storm as it sailed around Cape Cod. Badly damaged as well it managed to limp its way into Vineyard Haven only thanks to constant pumping of the water from the hold and galley of the vessel by the crew.

     Along the coast of Cape Cod at the same time author Henry Beston was residing at his ‘Fo’castle’ beach shack, writing his soon-to-be classic ‘The Outermost House.’ The news of the wreck of the Montclair made its way to Beston who immortalized the disaster in his book’s sixth chapter. Deputy Collector Thomas Finnegan reported to the scene from New Bedford with a team of eight men as the Montclair had been a suspected rum-running vessel. He questioned the two survivors but did not secure any useful information. One blessing from the disaster of the wreck was that the Orleans Coast Guard station was restored to full strength after it happened.

The remains of the Montclair today

     The shifting sands have buried and uncovered the remains of the Montclair several times over the decades. In the 2010’s it was revealed repeatedly, each time slightly more decayed than before. The wood is soft and rotting away, while the iron is rusty and gives the ship a ghostly skeletal appearance currently. It is nearly a two and a half miles walk over the sand to reach the remains of the Montclair.

     Though an interesting adventure taking the walk out to find its remains it is a somber and solemn reminder of the dangers of the sea. It is important to remember the five men who lost their lives aboard the Montclair as well: William Downing, William Stewart, George Cains, Jerome Butler, and Captain William McLeod.

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my websiteChristopher

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In My Footsteps: Stockbridge, Massachusetts

     Nestled in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts is Stockbridge. It combines the feel of a quaint mountain town with amazing scenery loads of history and spectacular attractions into one of the gems of New England.

     Initially called Indian Town when first settled in 1737 it was incorporated in 1739 and named Stockbridge after a town in Hampshire, England. As of 2015 the population of Stockbridge was only 1,846 laid out over 23-square miles. This mixed in with the rolling hills makes this every bit a small town. Yet it is a hugely popular destination especially in summer.

     Despite being surrounded and engulfed by the Berkshire Hills one cannot begin a visit to Stockbridge without going to the Norman Rockwell Museum. The famed 20th century artists used the town as an inspiration for his illustrations. Though he was born in New York City in 1894 Rockwell moved to Stockbridge in 1953 and lived out his remaining years there. The museum which bares his name was founded in 1969 and includes more than 100,000 items of which 998 are original paintings and drawings. Rockwell’s studio was also moved to the site and is open from May to October while the museum is the most popular year-round attraction in town.

     To enjoy scenery and solitude there are a pair of attractions located close to each other. The Naumkeag Mansion is the centerpiece of an estate once owned by New York City lawyer Joseph Choate. The 44-room mansion is part of a 48-acre property with panoramic views and was built in 1884. It is open except for January, February, and March. Located less than half a mile from Naumkeag is The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. The Roman Catholic shrine resides on 350-acres and was first opened in 1960. It welcomes tens of thousands of people annually whether worshipers or those who simply wish to take in the beautiful scenery.

The scenery at Eden Hill, National Shrine of the Divine Mercy

     When looking for shopping, dining, and lodging options one only needs to venture down to Stockbridge’s famed Main Street. One destination must be The Red Lion Inn. Today it is an 82-room iconic hotel that has been in operation in one form or another since 1773. From Presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Coolidge, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, to celebrities like John Wayne and Bob Dylan, it is a place to say one stayed as much as it is a place to stay.  

The Red Lion Inn

     A stroll along Main Street allows you to pass by longtime shops like Williams & Sons Country Store, established in the 1790’s, Main Street Cafe, and Stockbridge General Store. Or stroll down the alley next to the General Store to visit Theresa’s Stockbridge Cafe, formerly known as Alice’s Restaurant, made famous by the Arlo Guthrie song in 1967.

     Located 130 miles from Boston, 70 miles from Hartford, and 140 miles from New York City Stockbridge is an escape that is not far away. Beautiful in the winter snow or the blooming spring flowers it is never a bad time to check out this quaint town in the Berkshire Hills immortalized by Norman Rockwell’s art.

Check out a video of some of Stockbridge’s attractions here:

If You Go:

Visit my website: Christopher