Winter Island (Salem, MA)

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Date Of Visit: February 2, 2019

Location: 50 Winter Island Rd, Salem, MA

Hours: Open daily sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is a parking area for about 20 to 30 cars at the park as well as street parking for about 2 dozen cars on Derby St before you arrive at Winter Island Rd

Handicapped Accessible: Yes.  However, some trails may be too steep

Dog Friendly: Yes

Size: 45 acres

Highlights: lighthouse, scenic views, military historical attraction, beach, easy trails, boat storage and launch areas, camping sites

Summary: Once the site of a fish drying and ship building location by the early settlers, Winter Island is now a haven for beach goers and boating enthusiasts.  Winter Island has easy trails with scenic views.  The most popular highlight of the park is Pickering Light which is located along the rocky shore.

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Ask anyone about Salem, MA, and you’re sure to hear about the House Of The Seven Gables, the Salem Witch Museum or one of the other historical museums, homes and shops that dot the city.  But, the best part of Salem may be miles (or more precisely a mile and a half) away from the historic downtown area.

Winter Island has a rich history as a shipbuilding area (a facility is still located there for this purpose) and as a defensive point for colonial and American forces during Queen Anne’s War and the American Revolutionary War.  It would continue to act in this capacity throughout the 19th century.  The area is also used to dry dock boats in the off season.  The area is used for people to camp in the RVs in the warmer seasons.  So the land is used year round.

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The lighthouse at Winter Island, Fort Pickering Light (aka Winter Island Light), was built to warn and protect sailors from the rocky coast.  Built in 1871, Pickering Light stands 28 feet above sea level,  It is built of iron lined with brick.  There used to be a bridge that connected the lighthouse to land.  I wish they had that there now!  Instead I had to walk down some rocks to get some photos up close.  The rocks can be slippery, especially this time of the year as it can be icy on the colder days.

There are also some military fortifications on display at the park.

From left to top left to bottom, Winter Island is a bunker installation and some markers in memory of those who were lost during war or other conflicts.

There is also a short trail that loops around park and offers some pretty views of the harbor.  Like most places, the best times to visit are during sunrise or sunset (or just before each time of day).  But, it is especially true here.  The orange, gold and blues help to accentuate the beauty of the park.  I spent quite a while at the park to ensure I could capture a few shots just before sunrise.  You gotta love those “golden hours.”

Don’t let the warm colors of the sunset fool you.  What looks like chunks of ice in these photos is actually ice on top of the lobster traps in the water.

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There are lots of ducks, seagulls and other birds at Winter Island.

There also seems to be a lot of reconstruction at the park.  This building looked like it was being gutted and perhaps renovated for future use.

A hidden gen within this hidden gem is Waikiki Beach.  The first sign you’ll see after you arrive at the entrance to the park is probably going to be the sign to Waikiki Beach.  While it may not compare to the beach in Hawaii that shares its name, it is a second close.

In the colder seasons you may find people skating or practicing hockey on the pond.

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The beach is usually packed with sun seekers and beach lovers during the warmer months, it is also a popular place for people to go and play with your dogs during the winter months.

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Rigby is a 5 year old mixed breed dog. His mom told me he had fun playing with Oliver at Waikiki Beach.  I have photographed Oliver in the past.  As his Instagram profile states he is a “good boy.”  You can find him here on Instagram or at oliverbestdog.

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Similar places I have visited:
(Hidden) Things to do in the area:

 

Hidden History – Whip City (Westfield, MA)

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Date Of Visits: January 25, 2019

Locations: Westfield, MA

Summary: The first and once leading manufacturer of whips in the United States, Westfield, MA, still retains the title of “whip city.”

As a new feature to my blog I am featuring a monthly historical account of one New England city, town or area.  But, my goal is to not focus on the obvious or well known historical aspects of certain areas.  Nor do I necessarily want to focus on the historically famous cities and towns in New England.  Rather, I am going to bring lesser known historical accounts of certain areas in New England.  Every area in New England has a hidden history and I hope these posts help to bring some light to these hidden pasts.

Whip City Music, Whip City Brew, Whip City Candle Company.  Why do so many places and shops in Westfield, MA have “whip city” in their name?

The short is because it is “whip city.”

Back in the horse and buggy days of the early 1900s (shortly before my birth), Westfield, MA, was the leading center of the buggy whip industry.  However, as automobiles became more affordable and accessible, the whip industry declined and many of the whip businesses closed shop.  Interestingly, the first car that was built in the United States (it was really a horse drawn buggy with a 4 HP, single cylinder gasoline engine) made its first run on public roads on September 21, 1893 in neighboring Springfield, MA.

The “whip city” brand still lives on.  Dozens of businesses from a siding and window installing company to a travel agency share the “whip city” name.  And the whip industry isn’t exactly dead.  Not yet at least.

People can still have whips made for whatever your purpose at Westfield Whip. The last remaining whip company in Westfield, MA, Westfield Whip was established in 1884.  Located at 360 Elm St, it is very easy to drive by the building and not notice its historical importance.  It may seem like any other old building in a city of old buildings.  But, it has a long history of industry and commerce in the city.  In fact it is such an important piece of history that it was placed on the National List of Historic Places on October 17, 1985.  The Westfield River runs along the side of the whip manufacturing building.  It was shuttered when I went to visit it Friday and it is only open by appointment only.

In 1872, Henry Martin Van Duesen formed his first partnership in Southfield and moved his business to Westfield in 1880 making it the first whip manufacturer in what would later be designated “whip city.”  Van Duesen began his career in the whip industry as a whip braider at the age of 11.  The building which once stood as the first whip building manufacturer was changed by Duesen to a factory to the production of lawn swings in 1925.  Stanley Hardware bought the factory in 1936 .  Now, it functions as an apartment building located at 42 Arnold St.  But it still retained the name of Van Duesen.

I did gain access to the front desk area and the friendly office worker allowed me to take a photo of the inside of the office area.  Just looking at the brick interior and the structure of the room you can see how it once certainly could have been used to manufacture goods.

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