The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Brief Trip to Revere Beach

Last summer, I wrote a post for the Beehive based on my exploration of MHS materials relating to Lynn Woods, an outdoor public space I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime that I wanted to look at through a different lens. I decided to continue with that theme this summer by looking at another North Shore recreational area, Revere Beach. The MHS holds a handful of materials relating to the beach, including some of the Arthur Goss photographs. These photos, taken in 1912, provide brief but interesting snapshots of the Revere Beach landscape of the time.

"Revere Beach," from the Arthur Goss photographs, 1912.


When I looked through these photos, I was struck by the number of rides and attractions that lined the road along the beach. One photo includes the sign for a merry-go-round, and multiple photos include a ride of some sort that looks like a miniature mountain. In Boulevard Landmarks: America’s First Public Beach, a book of postcards edited by Peter McCauley and the Revere Society for Cultural and Historical Preservation ([Revere, Mass.?: s.n., 1996]), this ride is referred to as the Thompson Scenic Mountain Railway.

"Revere Beach   Bath House," from the Arthur Goss photographs, 1912


The Toronto Harbour Commissioners sent these photographs to the MHS in 1987. Their earlier provenance is not clear, but the Chief Engineer for the Harbour Commissioners, Edward L. Cousins, visited Massachusetts in 1912, the year in which the photos were taken. The waterfront development in Toronto was influenced by beach setups in Massachusetts, including Lynn Beach and Revere Beach.

From the cover of the “Wonderland” score, words and music by Thos. S. Allen (Boston, Mass.: Walter Jacobs, 1906)


Additionally, the Revere Beach area was once home to the Wonderland amusement park. The experience of a night at the park with a date was the subject of a 1906 waltz song by Thos. S. Allen. The cover of the published score includes an illustration of Wonderland, which is billed as “The Largest Amusement Park in the World.” 

"Revere Beach = (Rests)," from the Arthur Goss photographs, 1912


A 2003 MHS publication, Faces of Community: Immigrant Massachusetts, 1860-2000, edited by Reed Ueda and Conrad Edick Wright, includes a chapter about Revere Beach. In “Lines in the Sand: Ethnicity, Race, and Culture at Revere Beach,” Mark Herlihy chronicles the development of the Revere Beach Reservation as a public park in the 1890s by the Metropolitan Park Commission (MPC) and the rise of recreational amusements along the beach shortly thereafter. He then explores the dynamics of ethnicity and race over the years at the beach, including the strong roles played by immigrants (mainly Jewish and Italian) in the development and use of the beach environment in the early decades after its conversion into a public space, tensions between immigrants and longer-established residents as well as among different immigrant groups, racism at the beach (including racist attractions along the boardwalk and at Wonderland), and difficulties as well as successes Black beachgoers experienced as they began to use the beach in greater numbers after World War II.

From the Arthur Goss photographs, 1912


The MHS holds some other items relating to Revere Beach. Revere Beach Chips: Historical Background from the Revere Journal, compiled by McCauley (Revere, Mass.: Revere Society for Cultural and Historic Preservation, 1996), includes transcriptions of Revere Journal newspaper articles relating to Revere Beach, with the earliest article in the book being from 1881 and the latest being from 1974. “Revere Beach Reservation : bath-house, shelters and beach” ([Boston: Metropolitan Park Commission, 1898]), removed  from the Metropolitan Park Commission Report, January 1898, depicts a crowded beach scene (this item was recently featured in a Beehive post by Lindsay Bina and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook).

From the Arthur Goss photographs, 1912


If you would like to catch a glimpse of Revere Beach in earlier periods, these materials are available for research here in the MHS library

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 12:00 AM


Aug 30, 2018, 5:48 pm

Bob Upton

Find out more about Revere Beach Then & Now at See

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