Tag Archives: Tablet Rock

Stage Fort Park | that darn grass and topics galore for proposed plans

Scenes from last Thursday’s public display and discussion about proposed plans to Stage Fort Park, held during the Cape Ann Farmers Market.

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The plans are similar to ones you may have seen over the last year, though it is always something else to inspect them in person, walk through a site, and hear feedback, input and questions. I’ve considered the plans before, but had not realized that the parking lot was going to be shifted and expanded double wide at the top abutting the dog park. Some neighbors liked the idea of an altered viewshed, others not so much. People talked about cleaning up the broken glass, trash management (great praise for DPW dealing with this every day), repairing the stone steps, the beach, bringing back some of the fanciful playground elements, trees and maintenance. There was pretty much universal praise for the Rotary and the farmers market. I was told there was mention of altering the Tablet Rock plaque, which does not need it, though I did not hear any. I was there for the duration of the meeting and even a tad beyond as Steve Winslow was kind enough to lead a tour into the field and perimeter afterwards. A great challenge is maintaining the meadow expanse which many feel is ragged around the gazebo while serving crowds. The proposed plans center about the gazebo and parking lot, and did not cover the area along the harbor (across from the cupboard) where the annual Waterfront music festivals occur as well as elements listed above.

In case you missed the Mayor’s Facebook page, here is a summation from the evening and invitation to join in.

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Stage Fort Park three nights later plus historic photos 

Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park is spectacular | historic photos and summer concert series

Here are some scenes from July 23rd  during the 4 Ever Fab Beatles nicely played tribute band evening sponsored by Cape Ann Savings Bank, part of the 2017 line up for the annual Stage Fort Park summer concert series at the Antonio Gentile Bandstand. See the full 2017 schedule here  The crowd brought chairs and blankets. What a venue!

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Stage Fort Bark summer concert series beatles tribute band July 2017

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We walked to Stage Fort Park from City Hall and could hear 4 Ever Band on the approach from the Boulevard, and later Tablet Rock where we settled in with a picnic dinner. The band sounded great!

Here’s Stage Fort Park in 1901 with it’s grassy meadow expanse.

Thomas Warren Sears stage fort park!

 

When you zoom in you can see the big ‘Battery K’-  for the Civil War 1861 to 1865 Fort Conant.

detail battery k

 

And this weekend.

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Here’s a gorgeous aerial photo from the 1907 Tablet Rock dedication. There are several modes of transportation by land and sea. The well worn road was ground in from years of steady use, carriage trade and automobiles in this picture. The road is still prominent today.

tablet rock gorgeous

Note the tents in this one.

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Here’s another angle and a closer picture from the ground

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John Hays Hammond, Sr. with his daughter Natalie (not looking happily back at the photographer). She pulled back the cord for the reveal. Hammond orchestrated and compelled the press coverage.

I’ll go into more details about the commission with Part II.

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Here’s a detail of the plaque in 1907

detail from 1907 opening

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Boulevard Public Works stunner | Gloucester is an early client for the Harvard and Olmsted trained landscape designer Thomas Warren Sears. His 1908 photos are a must see!

 

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The Gloucester Daily Times published this image in 1923 with the photo caption: “Now Under Construction on the Southern Side of Western Avenue, this Project When Completed Will Give Gloucester one of the Finest Approaches of Any City on the Atlantic Seaboard.”  The meticulously hand drawn credit within the drawing itself caught my eye as much as the drawing: “Proposed Treatment of Waterfront, Gloucester, Mass. Thomas W. Sears Landscape Architect, Providence RI”. Thomas W. Sears was a remarkable 20th Century landscape designer. The modern Boulevard work completed in 2014-17 gracefully carries out and returns to the original dreams for the Western Avenue highway and park that are more than a century in the making.

 

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photo caption: Boulevard construction progress © Catherine Ryan, December 2016 

Thomas Warren Sears (1880-1966) preliminary designs for Gloucester’s future Boulevard

Thomas Warren Sears was born in 1880 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and grew up in this modest family abode at the corner of Beacon and Charles Street. This black and white house portrait was shot in 1897.

1897 Thomas William Sears the Sears family home Brookline corner of Beacon and charles streets

Here’s a Google street view photo for comparison today.

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After being ousted from the New York City parks department, the ‘father of American landscape design’, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), launched his business a ten minute walk from the Sears family home.  The headquarters at 99 Warren Street was named “Fairsted” and was in operation until 1979 when it was declared a National Historic Site and transferred to the National Parks.

 

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photo caption: Frederick Law Olmsted Fairsted  © Jack Boucher, Library of Congress collection

Sears worked for the Olmsted Brothers immediately after receiving two degrees from Harvard– his BA in 1903 and his BS in 1906. (There may have been an earlier Brookline connection.) Rather quickly Sears left to set up his own firm: first in Providence, RI, when he did work for Gloucester’s Boulevard, and not long after in Philadelphia. In 1911 he gave a talk for the Proceedings of the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia 28 (April 1911):147-158., “The Functions of the Landscape Architect in Connection with the Improvement of a City” available online as part of an urban planning anthology compiled by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University.  I wonder if he shared his Gloucester photographs as part of his talk?

“There are two main approaches to cities: (1) On water by boat, and (2) on land by railroad. Along both of these lines of approach land should be taken for public use, and for very different reasons. Take first the use of water fronts: Unless some provision is made for the public, the whole water front, whether it be river or harbor, may be usurped by commercial enterprise and the public deprived of ever seeing the water except when aboard a boat. In certain cases, as in New York, where the water front must of necessity be utilised for dockage, a combination of commercial and public use may be successfully employed. There the docks are owned by the city and leased by the steamship companies; in this way their appearance can be controlled. At present it is planned to build on the tops of these docks huge recreation parks which may be used by the public.”- 1911 Thomas W. Sears

Mike Hale’s contemporary perspective shares a similar philosophy with Sears:

“An effort has been made in this paper to show clearly that landscape architecture is utilitarian quite as much as esthetic; that whatever one is designing, whether it be a city plan or any of the elements in a city, the design should be governed by use as much as beauty.” – 1911 Thomas W. Sears

By 1917 Sears was commissioned regularly and had a long, full career including notable designs for the Reynolda estate now part of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the wildly influential outdoor amphitheater for Swarthmore College, the Scott Outdoor Auditorium. His work in Gloucester is rarely mentioned.

Since the Gloucester drawing was marked ‘Providence’, I knew the drawing was done long before the 1923 construction. I tentatively dated the schematic ca.1910. Thankfully Thomas Warren Sears was a photographer, too. Turns out that this image is a Sears’ photograph of a lovely Sears’ design. The glass negative is dated 1908 which squares with his professional career timeline.

 

thomas Warren Sears rendering and photograph aag title a perspective drawing for the area along what is now stacy boulevard

ALL NEW LED LIGHTS

One of the modern design elements is the welcome ornamentation of lights. They feel like they were always here because line is such an essential part of design and they add the vertical visual interest. When I saw the new light bases I thought of the line of trees in the Sears drawing. I love the mix of natural and formal design in his rendering, but am equally gobsmacked by the sweeping open vista. Both are sensitive approaches and part of the context of the Boulevard’s build.

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photo caption: animation emphasizing new lights, late November 2016, ©c. ryan

BEFORE THE BOULEVARD- Sears photos

Thomas Warren Sears photographed Western Avenue for his preparatory work. See the homes along the beach that were later removed for the construction of the Boulevard; distant vistas to the Surfside Hotel (built after Pavilion burned) and Stage Fort park; and Western Avenue street scenes looking east and west before the road was widened.

 

Thomas Warren Sears seawall and park area1908 Thomas Warren Sears looking west along the seawall

Thomas warren Sears glass negative houses along the beach later removed for the creation of Stacy Boulevard

More photos and Gloucester designs:

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