Isles of Shoals

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Isles of Shoals
Isles of Shoals Map.png
Isles of Shoals
Geography
Location Gulf of Maine, Atlantic Ocean
Coordinates 42°58′53″N 70°36′41″W / 42.98139°N 70.61139°W / 42.98139; -70.61139Coordinates: 42°58′53″N 70°36′41″W / 42.98139°N 70.61139°W / 42.98139; -70.61139
Total islands 9 (Maine - 5, New Hampshire - 4)
Major islands Appledore, Star, Smuttynose
Country
United States
States Maine and New Hampshire
Counties York County, Maine / Rockingham County, New Hampshire
Towns Kittery, Maine / Rye, New Hampshire
Additional information
Isles of Shoals
Nearest city Kittery, Maine
Area 145.6 acre
Built 1614
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 74000325[1]
Added to NRHP May 16, 1974

The Isles of Shoals are a group of small islands and tidal ledges situated approximately 6 miles (10 km) off the east coast of the United States, straddling the border of the states of Maine and New Hampshire.

History[edit]

Some of the islands were used for seasonal fishing camps by indigenous Americans and first settled by Europeans in the early 17th century. They became an important fishing area for the young British and French colonies. The Isles of Shoals were named by English explorer Capt. John Smith after sighting them in 1614.[2] The first recorded landfall of an Englishman was that of explorer Capt. Christopher Levett, whose 300 fishermen in six ships discovered that the Isles of Shoals were largely abandoned in 1623.[3]

"The first place I set my foot upon in New England was the Isle of Shoals, being islands in the sea about two leagues from the main," Levett wrote later. "Upon these islands I neither could see one good timber-tree nor so much good ground as to make a garden. The place is found to be a good fishing-place for six ships, but more can not be well there, for want of convenient stage room, as this year's experience hath proved."[4]

Childe Hassam. Isles of Shoals, Broad Cove, 1911. Oil on canvas. Honolulu Museum of Art.

The first township, Appledore, included all of the Isles of Shoals, and was incorporated by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1661. At that time, the province of New Hampshire and the province of Maine were both a part of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Starting in 1680 and continuing for several years, there was a general migration of the population to Star Island in New Hampshire, departing from the Maine (Massachusetts) Hog Island (now known as Appledore). In 1715 the township of Gosport was established by New Hampshire on Star Island.[5]

The Gosport community was fairly prosperous up until about 1778, when the islanders were evacuated to Rye, New Hampshire due to the Revolutionary War. Though a small population remained, the islands were largely abandoned until the middle of the 19th century, when Thomas Laighton and Levi Thaxter opened a popular summer hotel on Appledore Island. Laighton's daughter, Celia, married Levi at the age of fifteen and as Celia Thaxter became the most popular American female poet of the 19th century. She hosted an arts community on the island frequented by such luminaries as author Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Impressionist painter, Childe Hassam. Having executed his last drawing three days previous, the Boston painter William Morris Hunt drowned here in 1879, reportedly a suicide.[6] Hunt's body was discovered by Celia Thaxter.[7] The popularity of Laighton's Appledore House soon led to establishment of the Mid-Ocean House on Smuttynose Island, and the Oceanic Hotel, which is still in use today on Star Island.

Maine, View of Appledore, 1879, William Morris Hunt, charcoal on paper

Appledore Island[edit]

The Appledore House in 1901

Appledore Island, in Maine, is the largest of the Isles of Shoals, at 95 acres (38 ha). Formerly known as Hog Island, and prior to that as Farm Island, it is approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from east to west, and 0.6 miles (1.0 km) from north to south. It was home to a large hotel, The Appledore House, during the 19th century. Built in 1847 and opened the following year, the hotel was lost to a fire in 1914. According to Celia Thaxter, as late as 1873, "Philip Babb, or some evil-minded descendant of his, haunted Appledore."[8] Today, the island is the operating station of the Shoals Marine Laboratory, run cooperatively by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. The island is mostly owned by the Star Island Corporation.

Star Island[edit]

Gosport Chapel in 1905

Second in size at 46 acres (19 ha), Star Island is located in New Hampshire within the borders of the town of Rye and is the only island served by a commercial boat from the mainland. It is a religious conference center, owned by the Star Island Corporation, which is affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. During the summer, the island hosts a number of week-long and shorter conferences which make use of the Oceanic Hotel, Gosport House, the 150-year-old chapel, and several buildings dating back to the original village. Short-term day visitors are also welcomed, although that may depend on the boat schedule. This is also a popular destination for sailboats wishing to tie up overnight in Gosport harbor.

Smuttynose and Malaga Islands[edit]

Smuttynose Island, at 25 acres (10 ha), is the third-largest island. It is known as the site of Blackbeard's honeymoon, later for the shipwreck of the Spanish ship Sagunto in 1813, and then for the notorious 1873 murders of two young women. The latter is recalled in the story, "A Memorable Murder", by Celia Thaxter, in the 1997 novel, The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve (and in the film of the same name), and in the song, "The Ballad of Louis Wagner" by John Perrault. There are two small houses on the island. One of them, the Samuel Haley house, was once believed to be the oldest structure in the state of Maine.[9] Smuttynose is not populated today.[10]

Malaga Island is a diminutive island just to the west of Smuttynose, connected to it by a breakwater. That breakwater was built around 1820 by Captain Samuel Haley, who is reputed to have paid for its construction with proceeds from four bars of pirate silver that he found under a flat rock on the island.

Other islands[edit]

White Island Light c. 1910

Other islands include White Island and Lunging Island on the New Hampshire side of the border and Duck and Cedar Islands on the Maine side. White Island features one of the two lighthouses on the New Hampshire coast. Lunging Island, formerly Londoner's Island, was the site of an early trading post for codfish. Today, it is privately owned.

Duck Island lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north and once was used as a bombing range for the US Navy. It has been sold by the Star Island Corporation to the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust and is kept as a wildlife sanctuary. It is home to a seal colony and has never supported a human population.

Cedar Island is connected by breakwaters to both Smuttynose Island and Star Island and is privately owned.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ John Smith, Captain (1616). "A Description of New England". Digital Commons@University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ J. Dennis Robinson (1997). "Isles of Shoals: A Capsule History". SeacoastNH.com. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  4. ^ Samuel Adams Drake (1875). Nooks and Corners of the New England Coast. Harper & Brothers, New York. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ Parsons, Langdon D. (1903). History of the Town of Rye, New Hampshire, from its discovery and settlement until December 31, 1903. Concord, New Hampshire, U.S.A.: Rumford Printing Company. pp. 231–234 (Chapter XIII, The Isles of Shoals pp. 227–244). 
  6. ^ Death of William Morris Hunt, New York Times, Sept. 9, 1879
  7. ^ Norma H. Mandel (1999). "Celia Thaxter Timeline". SeacoastNH.com. 
  8. ^ Celia Thaxter, Among the Isles of Shoals (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1873), p. 170-173.
  9. ^ J. Dennis Robinson. "Misty Legends of Sam Haley". SeacoastNH.com. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ J. Dennis Robinson (July 14, 2001). "The Smuttynose Diary (Part One)". SeacoastNH.com. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 

External links[edit]