Briggs House // c.1850

This tiny half-cape house in Marion was built in the mid-19th century for Timothy Hiller Briggs (1822-1877), a whaler. Based on the Federal/Greek detailing on the house, it is also likely the home was built much earlier for Timothy’s father, Silas, a sea captain, and was willed to his only son upon his death in 1833. Timothy died at the young age of 54 and his widow, Josephine, maintained the cottage until her death in 1924! The home is a half-cape as it has an off-center door with two bays of windows at the facade. A full-cape would be symmetrical with a central door and two windows on either side. The central chimney would provide heat to all rooms in the cold winter months.

Henry C. White Estate // 1913

White Estate, c.1970, taken by Wayne Andrews

Henry Cooke White (1861-1952), the patriarch of an extremely artistic family, purchased undeveloped land on a coastal part of Waterford, Connecticut in 1891. When passing through the area he found a vantage point overlooking the water, he was overwhelmed by the panoramic view of Long Island Sound, writing in his memoirs, “…I was convinced that this was my Promised land.” Not long after, he built a summer cottage on what became known as White Point the following year. The Whites wintered with his parents in Hartford until they built a year-round home in Waterford in 1913, designed by Wilson Eyre, a Philadelphia architect, after he was inspired by Charles Lang Freer’s home in Detroit. The rustic Shingle style house was constructed of ashlar stone masonry with shingles above, which is sited perfectly on the rocky shoreline. Also on the site is a boat house and garage (which I could photograph from the street) in similar detailing. Henry‘s son and grandson both followed his footsteps: Nelson Cooke White (1900-1989), who was born at White Point, and inherited his father’s love of the sea, became a noted marine and landscape painter; and Nelson Holbrook White (1932-) who was taught by his grandfather and later studied in Italy how to perfect his painting.

Mary English Cottage // 1911

This shingled beach cottage on the southern tip of New London, Connecticut sits in the Neptune Park community, which was laid out by real estate speculators as summer homes, primarily for local families. The Post Hill Improvement Company made up of professionals, purchased the beach and the surrounding land for $25,000 and began selling off the land adjacent to the beach. Then, once developable lots were sold and many cottages were built, they sold the beach alone back to the City for the same sum of $25,000. Like many such developments, deed restrictions were placed on properties, and ensured that only a dwelling house, with a minimum value of $2,500 if not waterfront and $3,000 if waterfront, could be constructed on the lots. This formerly Colonial Revival cottage was built in 1911 for Mary R. English, and would have cost at least $3,000. The shingled home was later given the tower and other details, but retains much of its charm.

Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse // 1905

Ram Island, about a mile offshore from Portland Head near the entrance to Portland Harbor in Maine, is surrounded by dangerous ledges. For as long as ships have been navigating Portland Harbor, they have crashed into the rocky shore, losing supplies and lives. Because of this, a Congressional act on June 28, 1902, authorized the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal on Ram Island Ledge, to work together with the Portland Head Light to guide ships through the treacherous channel. The next year, the federal government purchased Ram Ledge from two Cape Elizabeth families for $500, to erect a new lighthouse. Before the lighthouse could be constructed, at least two ships, the Glenrosa and the Cora & Lillian schooner sunk in the bay. As the ledge was underwater for much of the year, a stone tower was required. Granite from Vinalhaven was shipped in and a crew of 25 men built the tower which was complete in 1905. The iconic double flash of light has guided sailors ever since. The lighthouse was manned by multiple keepers until the late 1958, when an underwater power cable was laid between Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge, allowing the ledge lighthouse to be automated. In 2008, the structure was deemed “excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard” and auctioned off. After a bidding war, a local doctor from Maine purchased it for an estimated $190,000.

Joseph Spencer Brock House // ca.1910

Located on the rocky north shore in Rockport, MA, the Joseph Spencer Brock Summer House sits perched high upon a hill with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Joseph Brock lived in Philadelphia and was the President of the Feister-Owen Press and served in official roles at many other corporations in the city. As President of the printing press company, he oversaw the production of millions of large texts including medical almanacs. The production dwindled by the time of WWI and the company subsequently closed. At least he still had his summer home in Rockport to watch over!

Whaleback Lighthouse // 1872

Located off the coast of the Portsmouth Harbor, the Whaleback Lighthouse actually is located within the boundary of Kittery, Maine. The light seen today is actually the second Whaleback beacon that was located on the rocky island off the coast. The first was built in 1829 and was so poorly built, keepers often wondered during storms if the entire building would collapse into the sea. The reason for its poor construction was that when the new construction went out for bid by the Federal Government, the contractors under-bid all other interested (and more qualified) contractors. By law, Congress was forced to accept the lowest bid with no regard to the bidder’s qualifications or competence, and somehow, the structure survived intact for over forty years.

Due to mounting concerns for the former lighthouse to fall into the sea at any moment, a new lighthouse tower was finally erected in 1872 for $75,000. The new 50-foot tower, 27 feet in diameter at its base, was constructed of granite blocks. General James Chatham Duane, an engineer, was involved with the design. The granite came from Biddeford, Maine. In 1878, a metal structure was built on the side of the tower to house a fog signal which ran on coal power. During the winter of 1888 (a very poor weather season), the fog signal was in operation for about 974 hours, consuming 16,895 pounds of coal. The fog signal structure was painted red by the light keeper assistant regularly.

Ca. 1950 image courtesy of US Coast Guard.

In June 2007, Whaleback Lighthouse, deemed excess by the Coast Guard, was offered at no cost to eligible entities and was awarded to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) in November 2008. Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a chapter of ALF, manages Whaleback Lighthouse and raised funds for its restoration.