Nauset Coast Guard Station // 1936

Located at one of my favorite beaches in New England, the aptly named Coast Guard Beach, the Nauset Coast Guard Station is an imposing Colonial Revival structure perched upon the bluffs providing sweeping views of the shoreline. The Nauset Coast Guard Station was built in 1936 to replace a late nineteenth century Coast Guard Station which had stood further eastward and north, on land which has been eroded away by the ocean. The present structure was reportedly commissioned after Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morganthau Jr. and his fellow picnickers were driven in 1935 by a summer thunderstorm to seek shelter in the old and antiquated Coast Guard Station, built after the Civil War. Construction of the new station was authorized several weeks after this incident as Morganthau, who spent summers on Cape Cod, took a personal interest in the building’s construction, visiting the site during the summer of 1936.

This area of beaches has had a tradition of assistance to shipwrecked sailors. In 1802, the country’s first all volunteer life saving organization, the Massachusetts Humane Society, erected a hut on this beach. It was replaced by a larger one in 1855 and by the Nauset Life Saving Station in 1872. The building was added on to and moved twice before it was replaced by the present structure in 1936. The building was occupied by the Coast Guard as a station until 1958. It now is home to an education center as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Coolidge Corner Theater // 1933

Believe it or not, the iconic Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline was originally built as a church. In 1906, the church was constructed as the Beacon Universalist Church and designed by C.Howard Walker. The new church building included four stores on the ground floor to both provide income for the building via rent and service the bustling Coolidge Corner area of Brookline. There was a central entrance to gain access to the church itself for partitioners. By the 1930s, the commercial character of the area overtook the need for a church, and the building was sold.

In 1933, after many years of trying to get a moving picture theater at Coolidge Corner, this building was converted at an estimated cost of $75,000 into an Art Deco movie house. Architect Ernest Hayward was hired to design the extensive remodel of the church into a theater and public hall. When completed it was called “The Brookline” and was the first theater built in the suburban town of Brookline. The movie house originally seated approximately 1,000 people, with about 700 seats on the main floor and 300 in the balcony. Most of the original fine Art Deco details still remain, notably ceiling decorations, bas-relief sculptures, and various lighting fixtures both in the lobbies and on the side walls of the auditorium. As with many smaller theaters in America in the 1970s, large cineplexes with over ten screens overtook the business of smaller, more historic theaters and the Brookline Theater was sold, but never closed!

Beacon Universalist Church ca. 1910, courtesy of Brookline Historical Society.

In 1989, the Brookline community successfully rallied together in a grass-roots campaign to save the theater. Today, the Coolidge Corner Theater Foundation runs a diverse program of art films, popular films, independent films, first-runs, local filmmaker showcases, and children’s matinees and is a great asset to Brookline and the greater Boston community.