About Me

Growing up in a small New England town with a mother who was an antiquarian it was inevitable that I would be exposed to old things. After graduating from UMass/Amherst I lived in Connecticut, taught school, married, and raised three children in suburbia. A move to Newburyport MA renewed my interest in all things old. This background has now evolved into research, writing, consulting and all the things I love to do.

Prudence Fish

Monday, June 26, 2017



My blog has centered around antique houses of Gloucester, Massachusetts and some beyond recalling stories of other old towns in Essex County.

In the many months during which I have neglected my blog I did submit some stories to a local blog site called "Enduring Gloucester".

Here is one of my submissions from a year ago as I reminisce about coming to my house in the 1940s as a little girl for my summer vacation not knowing that I would ever own it or live here year 'round.   
This house is now one hundred and fifty four years old.  I never thought of it as being antique because it didn't have a big timber frame and it didn't have fireplaces for heating and cooking so in my opinion it wasn't much of an antique.   Now I think perhaps I should rethink my definition of antique house. It is an old house!

My introduction to this house was happenstance.  My mother was concerned about my summer cold that would not go away.  I was a preschooler when she took me to a doctor whose diagnosis and remedy was this; "She has hay fever.  Send her to the seashore."

So that is how I was suddenly shipped off to spend time with my mother's friend in the seaside village of Lanesville, part of the City of Gloucester.  And that was the pattern every year from then on.  

Now the house is mine and coming here to cure  hay fever, the best thing that ever happened to me. No one ever mentioned that the ragweed to which I was allergic likewise grows here in abundance! That little detail was never mentioned and never reared its head to spoil my summers in Lanesville.

Here are my recollections of those long ago summers at the sea shore posted here on June 26, 2017 after having first been  posted on ENDURING GLOUCESTER, June 29, 2016 just about a year ago.


Children on the Beach. Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)
Children on the Beach.                                Edward Henry Potthast (1857-1927)
The Boston and Maine trains played an integral role in my summer vacations in Gloucester.  Trains seem to have played a memorable role in the lives of many of my generation.
1Pru - Train Depot
Each summer my mother and I would take the train from my small hometown in central Massachusetts to rendezvous in Boston at North Station with “Auntie” with whom I would spend my long awaited summer vacation days in Lanesville and Folly Cove.
While in Boston we shopped at Jordan Marsh and Filene’s for a new bathing suit for me and a new dress and shoes for the first day of school in September.  Then if I was lucky enough we might visit Jack’s Joke Shop before riding the subway back to North Station and the Rockport line at Track 2. There I would say good-by to Mother and board the train to Gloucester with Auntie. In the early years engines were formidable, behemoth locomotives belching clouds of black smoke, later replaced by streamlined diesels.
2Pru - Train
My happy anticipation grew as we left the cities of Boston and Lynn behind and approached the Salem station.  At that point in our journey the lights were turned on in the passenger cars.  I knew what that meant. We were about to enter the tunnel.  How exciting that was to a four or five year old!
That event was followed by a sharp change in scenery.  After leaving the Beverly station there were glimpses of big houses, and blue ocean water.  And what was that funny sounding station…Montserrat? That stop was followed by Beverly Farms and Pride’s Crossing; then Manchester with sail boats in the harbor.
After passing the Lily Pond and the West Gloucester station, none too soon for me, the conductor would call out, “Gloucester, Gloucester.”
As we alighted from the train the familiar sights, sounds and smells left no doubt that we were really in Gloucester. Auntie and I then proceeded out to Washington Street to wait for the bus with me sitting on my suitcase in front of the Depot CafĂ© to wait for those big orange buses of the Gloucester Autobus Co.  We must watch for the bus that said “Lanesville, Folly Cove.”  That was very important. 3Pru - Orange busHeaven forbid that we get on the wrong bus!
While impatiently waiting on the sidewalk I stared at the big house on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and thought it was quite wonderful.  It was almost new then.  It is still wonderful but, like me, showing its age.
The landscape soon became more and more familiar.  As the bus made its way along Washington Street, Auntie, always a teacher, pointed out the old Ellery house and, on the opposite side of the road, the big yellow Babson house.  The construction of the rotary, Route 128 and the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge were still a distant idea.  Little did I know that these historical landmarks pointed out to me as a child would be so important to me as an avid preservationist many decades later.
Way down the road we traveled under the Riverdale Willows, saw the abandoned Hodgkins Tide Mill and crossed the causeway to Annisquam.  After a few more miles we passed the Consolidated Lobster Company at Hodgkins Cove. I was told with a slight tone of disapproval that their lobsters came from Nova Scotia and not as good as our Ipswich Bay lobsters.  Our lobsters would come from George Morey at Lanes Cove.
Shortly thereafter we went down one last hill and there was Plum Cove and the sandy beach!  Oh happy day! We’re almost there.
After stops in Lanesville the big orange bus traveled down Langsford Street until it approached Butman Avenue and Ranta’s Market.  It was extremely important to pull the overhead cord at just the right moment to tell the driver we wanted to get off, not too soon and not too late.
From there it was a short walk with Auntie dragging my suitcase (without wheels of course) up Butman Avenue to Washington Street after which it was downhill to Auntie’s house. The magic of my summer vacations was about to begin.
Every day was filled with fun at Plum Cove or Folly Cove.  Cloudy days were fun, too, with hikes through the woods on the Rockport Path to the Paper House in Pigeon Cove, picking blueberries, walking to Dogtown or a bus trip to Rocky Neck.  On Rocky Neck there was a wonderful shop that I loved called the La Petite Gallery.  Other trips to Bearskin Neck or shopping in downtown Gloucester filled the long summer days.  One trip to downtown each summer always included a stop at Gloucester’s vast City Hall so Auntie could pay her taxes.
It was with great sadness that at the end of August the trip by bus and train was reversed.  I huddled by the window hiding my face so no one would see my tears.  Next summer was such a long way off.
Every detail is forever burned in my brain.  Little did I know that Gloucester would become my permanent residence and that I would be living in Auntie’s house or that my children and grandchildren would also know the magic of summer in Lanesville.
Little did I know that in the warmer months I would be standing in the now so- called 1710 White-Ellery house, no longer across the road from the old yellow Babson house.  The ancient house is now located behind the Babson house and here is where once a month  in the summer I tell  visitors about the construction of the house and explain to them how it was moved across the road in 1947 to save it from demolition as Route 128 became a reality..
And that is where I was on the first Saturday in June as another summer on Cape Ann begins.  
(And that is where I will on the first Saturday of every month through October meeting and greeting people who have an interest in a three hundred year old house.)
Thanks for reading!


  1. Hello Prudence, I second Isabella's comment, and would like to add that I am replying late because I saw that this post would be worth taking the time to read with maximum enjoyment.

    I had no similar summer ritual, but we often drove down "old" Route 91 to Canton, Ohio to visit my grandparents, and there were a number of familiar landmarks we always looked for, from the falls at Munroe falls to the old stone pioneer houses that then dotted the highway.