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Nahant

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The American love of summering by the sea started in Nahant. By 1800, Nahant had already become a resort destination, with visitors boarding in farmhouses to enjoy the ocean views and the healthy breezes. Steamship service from Boston began in 1817. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, who built a cottage for his family in 1817, organized the construction of the Nahant Hotel in 1823 at East Point, inaugurating the era of hotel tourism. The following year, real estate developer Thomas Amory and architect Cornelius Coolidge purchased property along Swallow Cave and Cliff streets and plotted a master plan for development (see NH6). During the later 1820s and 1830s, Coolidge designed and built thirteen houses for summer residents. Nahant immediately became the summer destination for wealthy Bostonians; the first tennis match in the United States probably occurred in 1874 on William Appleton's grass court. By midcentury, however, a broader spectrum of Bostonians began to experience the advantages of summer in Nahant. In the 1860s, the Rally House and the Bass Point hotels were constructed at Bass Point on the southwest corner of the peninsula. This area became the haunt of middle-class and working-class day-trippers or temporary residents in tents, shanties, and cottages. Bass Point developed a midway atmosphere of dance halls and vaudeville shows, not unlike Revere Beach (RV1) across the bay. At the turn of the century, the end of steamer and trolley transportation brought the popularity of Bass Point to an end; the Metropolitan Park Commission acquired Seaside Park near the Lynn shore in 1901 and demolished most of the structures, and a major fire at Bass Point in 1925 eliminated much of the early middle-class cottage architecture. Although the hotels have long since disappeared, fine early resort cottages survive to tell part of the Nahant story.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Keith N. Morgan

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