The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Fashionable Watering Places and How to Reach Them ... in 1879

“Within a few hours’ ride from the metropolis are sections of country and seaboard, which in variety of character, loveliness of climate, and grandeur of scenery, are unsurpassed by any of the celebrated and more distant watering places on the continent,” wrote the unknown author of an Old Colony Railroad Company publication entitled, “Southeastern Massachusetts: Its Shores and Islands, Woodlands and Lakes, and How to Reach Them.” Having spent a few weeks utilizing the Old Colony Railroad system to travel throughout southeastern Massachusetts, the author wrote a guide for other adventurous vacationers in what is essentially a wonderfully descriptive, 49-page advertisement. The pamphlet lists more than 70 destinations, including traditional summer locales such as Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket and the less exotic locations such as Taunton, Foxboro, and Attleboro.

The author lays heavy praise on Newport, Rhode Island. “In Newport, however, the walks are probably more sought after than the drives. Foremost among these is the Cliff Walk among the sea bluffs, on which the pedestrian may continue his rambles to Easton’s Beach and round the southern point of Fort Adams.” Of course! The famous Cliff Walk of Newport is listed within the guide and is still as popular today as it was in 1879. Our Cliff Walk is dotted with gilded mansions. What might that scenic “ramble” have looked like in 1879 before these remarkable homes -- Rosecliff, the Breakers, Marble House, Ochre Court, and Rough Point, to name a few --peaked over the cliffs?

The author directs the reader from a distant third-person narration, a change from the way many guidebooks are written today. Yet the suggestions of what to do at Monument Beach inspire today’s reader just the same. “From Monument Beach, a boat sail to Burgess Point, a distant about a mile and a half, or across to Marion, some six miles, or along the eastern shore, can scarcely be equaled. The bay is studded with gems of beauty.” Monument Beach is located within Bourne, MA near Phinney’s Harbor for all those interested vacationers reading this blog.

Though one might find the author’s descriptions fascinating, the pamphlet existed to  advertise the Old Colony Railroad. It concludes most helpfully with a list of hotels near the Old Colony Railroad’s stations to aid the traveling vacationer.

While the Old Colony Railroad no longer traverses southeastern Massachusetts as it did in 1879, parts of the system are still used today by modern commuters. Planning a summer get away? Why not get inspired to plan a trip to southeastern Massachusetts this summer? Visit the library at Massachusetts Historical Society -- no sunblock required, but reading glasses are suggested -- to check out this publication and others on early tourism in Massachusetts.

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 3 July, 2013, 1:00 AM


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