Nantucket, Massachusetts

There once was a man from Nantucket . . . Or in this case, a woman visiting Nantucket. I’ve been too busy working in a museum to visit other museums. A family wedding brought me to the small island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod. For two and half days I crammed in as many museums and historical sites as I could.

I commenced with a self-guided walking tour up Main Street.

I found Thomas Turner Square with a dedication plaque dedicated to “Thomas Turner, son of Nantucket served on the ship Bon Homme Richard Killed in Action with H.M.S. Serapis September 23, 1779.” A reminder of Nantucket’s rich maritime history and how the locals honor their long history. The Bon Homme Richard was commanded by John Paul Jones and the battle with Serapis was when he uttered the famous line “I have not yet begun to fight.” Though the battle was won, the ship was lost and half the crew on both ships were killed. [1]

 

 

TurnerSquare
Thomas Turner memorial plaque

The plaque is on the side of the Pacific National Bank, which is a historic monument as well as a bank. The bank was incorporated in 1804 for the newly wealthy whalers. [2]

In 1830s William Mitchell served as bank cashier. The job came with living quarters on the second floor. William Mitchell moved in with his family, including his daughter Maria, a librarian at the Atheneum and astronomer. William and Maria set up a telescope on the roof, where she preferred to spend her evenings over boring dinner parties. In 1847 Maria discovered a comet and rocketed (pun intended) to fame. (More on her later).

PacificNationalBank

Pacific National Bank

Outside the entrance to the Mitchell’s apartment, William placed a stone marker to measure the angle of distance between true north and magnetic north.

TownsMeridanLine

Town’s Meridan Line plaque

TownsMeridanLine2

Meridan Line Stone

Just past the bank is a granite obelisk standing as a memorial to the Nantucket men who died in the Civil War. [3]

CivilWarMonument

Civil War Memorial

CivilWarMonument2

Civil War Memorial

The memorial was begun in 1874 using a stone from the recently demolished Round Top Mill. 73 Nantucket men died in the war, the first war Nantucket men participated in. Previously, the island was largely Quaker and the Quaker tradition of pacifism kept them out of previous wars. [4]

Slightly off the beaten path is the Fire Hose Cart House. I didn’t go in but I gather this is a museum of antique fire fighting equipment.

FireCartHouseNantucketFireCartHouse

Built 40 years after the great fire of 1846, this was an important building. You can read about it at the Nantucket Preservation Trust website.

Wandering along, I noticed this house out of place among the mid-19th century mansions.

17thchouse

The plaque on this house says it was built in 1690 for Christopher Starbuck. The Starbucks were among the founding families of Nantucket. I was impressed this simple wooden structure survived the great fire of 1846!  This house is an example of a lean-to style house.

The wild Nantucket landscape as it must have looked centuries ago.

Nantuckethillsvillage

Nantucketview Wild Nantucket Landscape

Heading back down Main Street, near the center of town is an example of what new whaling money could buy-this opulent mansion.

HawdenHouse

Hawden House 96 Main Street

William Hawden, a whale oil and spermaceti candle manufacturer and silversmith built this Greek Revival mansion for his family during the golden age of whaling. More about him later on.

Back in the center of town is the Nantucket Atheneum. It was built in 1847 after the great fire burned the original. Maria Mitchell was the first librarian.

Atheneum

Nantucket Atheneum

The Atheneum has a rich history and the previous structure was the site of abolitionist meetings. In 1842 the Atheneum hosted the second Nantucket Anti-Slavery Convention and in 1850, Frederick Douglass spoke here. [5]

This concludes my initial walking tour but I will write about the rest of my trip in future posts.

 

[1] “Bonne Homme Richard Vs. Serapis September 23, 1779”, History Central, 1996-2015.

[2] Frances Kattunen, “Banking Under the Stars,” Yesterday’s Island, Today’s Nantucket, vol. 39, issue 22, 2009-2010.

[3] Frances Kattunen, “Unsung Heroes of the Civil War,” Yesterday’s Island, Today’s Nantucket, 2015.

[4] Same as above.

[5] Caitlyn Kelley, “The Atheneum Celebrates Nantucket’s Anti-Slavery Movement and Local Abolitionists,Nantucket Atheneum, 2016.

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