CAD, Cottages, Cattle, and Crab Alley

Hi hello! It’s been a bit. This past week has been action packed with visits galore to Peddocks Island as well as Minute Man. I have quite a lot to say about Peddocks, but I do have one photo from Minute Man to share at the end.

On Monday, Jeff, Jenn, and I went on our first site visit to Peddocks Island in preparation for the CLI we will be working on until the end of my time here at the Olmsted Center. We were accompanied by Deni Sarno-Bucca of DCR (owners of Peddocks) and Marc Albert of the Boston Harbor Islands Stewardship. Before our trip I prepared site maps for the island, which included contour lines from LiDAR, building footprints, and trails/roads. While reading the 1 foot contours created from LiDAR data, Eliot pointed out a strong trail signature along the north edge of West Head. There is currently a maintained trail on the south side of West Head, but there is no visual sign of a trail (save for the contours) on the north side on any current maps or on the island in person. However, after Jeff introduced me to NETR Historic Aerials, I was able to use a slider to quickly look between a 1969 aerial and a 2013 aerial, which showed me that exactly where I had traced trails from the contours, there were indeed trails at one time and I wasn’t just making things up (insert nerd excitement here!). These trails are now overgrown and not visible on aerials by 1995.  Hopefully during a winter leaf off site visit, we will be able to better see where the trail entrance is and do some minimal bushwhacking to gather GPS data for that north side trail on West Head.

Middle Head is where most of the cottages are located, and to me the most interesting as a cultural landscape (sorry Fort Andrews). Just the diversity of the people on the island in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries was a surprise to me. Usually when thinking about immigrants into Boston in that era, Irish and Italians come to mind. While many inhabitants of Peddocks were indeed Irish and/or Italians, many were Azorean and Portuguese who had been displaced from nearby Long Island which the City of Boston purchased and in turn, evicted the residents. The rich heritage of living on an island and being somewhat restricted to tools/resources either readily available on the island or reachable by boat gives islanders an intriguing kind of resiliency and grit that is unique. This inherently ties the residents to the land, as well as lending to a protective sort of nature over the land, making them understandably wary of unknown visitors. Peddocks and Little Brewster are the only islands which still have permanent/semi-permanent residents, and the location of cottages on Peddocks makes public visitation tricky; the trails navigate straight through the yards of some residences and unlike Little Brewster, public and private are not so easily distinguished or separated among paths, buildings, and space.

Something that struck me while visiting the island in person is how distinguishable the cottages on the south side of Middle Head are from the north side and Crab Alley cottages. I knew from reading the Ethnographic Study that the southern cottages were inhabited only seasonally by vacationers, while the northern and Crab Alley cottages were generally occupied year round by fishermen and the islanders who worked on and with the land and water, hence the name Crab Alley as crabbing was one source of income and food for those living there. It was apparent that the southern cottages had been less used mostly because of how pristine the buildings and surrounding landscapes were in comparison to the other cottages on Middle Head. The close proximity of the houses to one another in the northern and Crab Alley areas also lends itself to a more utilitarian nature, mimicking a tightly packed urban environment but on a much smaller scale. In contrast, the owners of the southern cottages were seeking to escape that tightly packed urban landscape of the greater Boston area.

And of course some photos from our lovely Thursday at MIMA with Margie!


2 responses to “CAD, Cottages, Cattle, and Crab Alley

  1. Love it, Melissa, would love to see in the next post a pic of how the Peddocks Island chair you brought home looks in your apartment! V posh and fashionable!

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