To the casual observer, and likely to most tourists, the quaint, red-sided fishing shack with lobster buoys along the side is just another – albeit very nice – old fishing shack. It’s identity goes a bit deeper than that, however. According to Wikipedia:
“Motif Number 1, located on Bradley Wharf in the harbor town of Rockport, Massachusetts, is a replica of a former fishing shack well known to students of art and art history as “the most often-painted building in America.” The original structure was built in 1840 and destroyed in the Blizzard of 1978, but an exact replica was constructed that same year.
Built in the 1840s as Rockport was becoming home to a colony of artists and settlement of fishermen, the shack became a favorite subject of painters due to the composition and lighting of its location as well as being a symbol of New England maritime life. Painter Lester Hornby (1882–1956) is believed to be the first to call the shack “Motif Number 1,” a reference to its being the favorite subject of the town’s painters, and the name achieved general acceptance.
In the 1930s, painter John Buckley used the shack as his studio. He sold it to the town in 1945, dedicated “In 1945, the town of Rockport purchased the Motif as a monument to Rockporters who had served in the Armed Services.” The town, recognizing its iconic value, has taken pains to preserve both its structure and appearance, finding a red paint which appears weather-beaten even when new, and keeping the area clear of overhead wires, traffic signs and advertising.”
For me, Motif #1 was a primary reason for deciding to visit Rockport. Going out early in the morning virtually assured no tourist traffic, and if another photographer happened to be wandering around, we likely wouldn’t be in each others’ way. Over the course of several mornings and evenings the only people I saw were the few fisherman that were up and about even earlier than me.
I don’t think I came up with anything special or unusual in my compositions, but just like photos of the gondolas in Venice or the famous views of the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu, if you’re there it’s just something you have to do. And I’m very glad I did!
After our time in Hyannis we headed toward Rockport, Massachusetts. On our way there, we decided to stop in Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II. I’m pretty sure the rock is just a rock that someone carved a date on, but the Mayflower II is quite impressive. We didn’t go aboard, choosing to not take the time or pay the admission fee. So I just took a few photos from outside. We also stopped by train stations in Easton and Stoughton, and visited the Minute Man National Historical Park in Lincoln where we learned about the opening battles of the Revolutionary War.
Continuing with our small coastal town theme, we looked for a place to stay in a town that was walkable, scenic and situated in a location that was close to other things we wanted to do. We liked the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts, as it looked to be fairly quiet but located in an area with lots of choices. We eventually settled on Rockport.
The town of Rockport is situated at the end of Cape Ann, on Sandy Bay. When I saw photos of the iconic fishing shack called Motif #1, I was instantly drawn there as a photographic destination. It’s about as cliche as you can get, often referred to as “the most often-painted building in America.” But what the heck? I’ll do a separate post on Motif #1, because there is a lot more to Rockport than just one building!
As we planned our trip, I realized that we would be arriving in Rockport on the day before a full moon. A little research led me to identify several good spots to catch the rising moon over the town, on the night before the official full moon. As it turned out, the inn we selected for our stay there was directly across the street from one of those places. Sweet!
While we were on Cape Ann, and one of the reasons we chose to stay there, we booked a whale watch cruise out of Gloucester. Gloucester is a much more commercial-oriented town, likely due to it having a more protected harbor area as compared to Rockport. That’s part of the reason we chose not to stay there. There are a number of places we could have chosen, but the more laid-back vibe of Rockport suited our needs better.
One of the great things for me about Rockport was the ability to get up and out before sunrise, walking around the town to take advantage of the many photographic opportunities. Besides the full moon and Motif #1, there was plenty of other subject matter. Mostly boats and boat stuff, but that was perfectly OK with me.
The one surprising and perhaps disappointing thing about our stay in Rockport was that many of the businesses had gone to off-season hours or closed completely. This was purportedly due to the lack of staffing, and while most places we visited appeared to be struggling a bit but managing, Rockport seemed to be impacted more by the lack of seasonal help.
It was most irritating that businesses did not keep their signage or their websites up to date. One restaurant we wanted to visit said they were open, but on the day we wanted to go they were closed. But the next night they were supposed to be closed, we walked by and they were open but full. We stopped at a restaurant on another night nearly an hour before closing time, but were turned away because they were understaffed. Across the street, another restaurant that was open was still welcoming walk-ins an hour after they were supposed to have closed.
One morning while I was out walking around I had planned to stop at a shop that was known for its strudel, hoping to surprise Kathy with a little treat for breakfast. Their website and sign on the door said they would be open, but they were not. So we had to forego the strudel and make other plans. First world problems, I know. 😉
Rockport is a nice little town. Now that we have “done” it I probably wouldn’t need to stay there again. There just isn’t that much to do, and maybe that’s the point. 😉 After our stay in Rockport, we headed north to spend 9 days in Maine. I have a lot to say about Maine! 🙂
When choosing where to stay and what to do in Massachusetts, we decided to keep with the smallish coastal fishing village vibe as much as possible. We wanted to avoid the larger cities with their traffic and congestion, understanding that even though we were past the peak travel season, anywhere we went was likely to be busy. We really want to visit Boston, and in fact were scheduled to spend some time there last year before a cruise that was cancelled. It’s a destination in itself, and this trip was already shaping up to be a long one!
We wanted to stay near or on Cape Cod, so we looked for places to stay that suited our preferences – centrally located, a selection of restaurants, not too urban, etc. We also wanted to be able to take a coastal cruise, either sightseeing or whale watching. And we also hoped to get over the Martha’s Vineyard. We settled on Hyannis, because it met those criteria.
But first, we managed to do a little sightseeing on our drive from Mystic. I mentioned in a previous post that we had encountered traffic in Newport due to the boat show. We lost some valuable time there, and that cut into our visit to New Bedford, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum. We spent a couple of hours in New Bedford before moving on. The drive ended up taking most of the day, albeit with some good stops.
Since we only had two full days to spend on Cape Cod, we had to choose wisely. We ended up deciding against Martha’s Vineyard, as it would have taken an entire day. We would have had a boat ride on the ferry, but would not have seen the sights around Hyannis Harbor and Cape Cod Bay. We had to make a choice and decided to devote a day to some time in town, a coastal cruise and then some driving down to Falmouth and Woods Hole. The second day was devoted to Provincetown, Chatham and Cape Cod National Seashore. Sadly, the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory was closed to visitors, so we did not get to visit. 🙁 We did, however, find some good clam chowder for lunch, so all was not lost! 🙂
Our coastal cruise was interesting, because it took us past a number of lighthouses, and houses built to look like lighthouses. The homes around the Hyannis Port Yacht Club include those once owned by members of the Kennedy family. We saw ‘Mya,’ the sailboat once owned by Ted Kennedy. It was moored in the harbor along with an unnamed sailboat that was moored to a mooring ball painted with the name “Kennedy.” No idea whose boat that was or who now owns Mya, but I’m guessing it is still in the family. That afternoon we visited Falmouth and Woods Hole, taking in a few more lighthouses.
Provincetown was an interesting place. A smaller version of Key West, perhaps. Funky shops, funky people and a real laid-back attitude. Probably not a place we would want to have stayed, but we were glad to have visited.
Along Cape Cod National Seashore, we made stops at the visitor center, Marconi Beach to see the remains of the original Marconi Wireless Station, Herring Cove, and the town of Chatham (more lighthouses!). No, we didn’t see any of the sharks reported to be making a comeback along the Cape, but we did see a few seals, which the sharks like to have for dinner! 🙂
Before returning to our hotel we made a stop at the John F. Kennedy Memorial. It was dark and cloudy and not the best conditions for photos, but I did manage to snap a few. The next day we headed up the coast, around Boston and on to Rockport. Stay tuned! 🙂
I posted this on Instagram yesterday but not everyone here would have seen it. One of a number of interesting scenes in Rockport, MA. I need to and will begin to highlight some of my more favorite photos from the various places we visited on our recent road trip.
I’ve edited and processed my photos through Massachusetts, but realized this morning that I have over 2500 from Maine! 🙂 Many of them are burst shots of waves and whales, but still. We were there for 9 days, so there was a lot of subject matter!
Photographers know this, of course. But for the few non-photographers who read my blog (and possibly even the photographers!) this might be interesting.
I took these two photos exactly 30 seconds apart. For the first one, above, there was just the right amount of light filtering through the clouds to provide some shape and contrast to the scene. In the second shot, below, the cloud has moved over the sun and the light has gone flat. Both of these photos are pretty nice, but to me the one with the shaping light and subtle shadows is the superior one.
Enroute today from Hyannis to Rockport, Massachusetts, we made a stop in Plymouth to see the Mayflower II. We didn’t go aboard, but got some good views from the shore. We also saw the so-called “Plymouth Rock.”
I wasn’t able to determine the significance of the photographs on the side of this building but will do more research when I get home.
Thanks to my lovely and talented research assistant, I was able to gather the following description:
“They Also Faced The Sea” installation was designed to keep the spirit and the presence of Portuguese culture alive by Ewa Nogiec, artist, publisher of iamprovincetown.com and owner of Gallery Ehva, and Norma Holt, photographer.
The installation of five larger-than-life black and white photographs of Provincetown women of Portuguese descent, mounted on a building at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf in Provincetown Harbor, is conceived as a tribute to the Portuguese community and its fishing heritage.
Norma Holt’s photographs from Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum collection of Almeda Segura, Eva Silva, Mary Jason, Bea Cabral and Frances Raymond, are meant to represent all of the women of Provincetown who over the years have been the backbone of this vital fishing village. They came from a long line of hard-working people, immigrating mostly from the Azores and mainland Portugal. Their families fished the waters off Cape Cod for over 200 years, built a major fish packing and distribution industry and made an important contribution to the history and culture of Provincetown.
Portuguese women faced the sea in many ways: as mothers, wives, sisters, friends and family of fishermen, as cooks, laundresses, nurses, teachers and telephone operators. They kept the culture alive, sang the songs, danced the dances, buried the dead, gave birth, cooked and kept the church at the center of their lives. Above all, they were resilient through good times and bad, their strength and courage easily matching and supporting that of their male seafaring counterparts.
More information can be found here: https://www.iamprovincetown.com/PortugueseWomen/
There is a large Portuguese population in Provincetown, and this artwork commemorates the contribution of the Portuguese women to the seafaring history of the area.