Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Handsome Homes of Mystic

So as you may have figured out, I took a quick trip to Mystic last weekend. Way too quick, really, but my folks were driving up to New England to visit various friends & although it wasn't a time that I could take any time off, their first stop was in Mystic to visit some old friends from Navy days. The submarine community wasn't all that big, so you tended to find the same people popping up as neighbors in different places. This particular family, I remember well from Mare Island, Washington State, and La Maddalena. Them being in Washington was something of a godsend since I was one very depressed kid after that move (as I've probably mentioned too many times before, I actually asked to stay & had even looked into boarding arrangements with an Iolani staff member, but my folks said no & I didn't push the matter beyond that first request - Navy brats grow up going along with things & when my first-ever attempt to NOT go along was turned down, it simply didn't occur to me to argue the point) - but we got to Washington in the summertime & this family's kids were part of a group of officer's kids who were in that section of base housing. They called themselves "The Bored Club" & when they got bored, it was time for a Bored Meeting & that usually involved some anti-boredom activity. I was a bit younger than most of them but they took me along on some of their excursions & stuff, which was a much better alternative than holing up in my room & never talking to anybody again. We had a lot of fun in La Maddalena in Italy, too, a couple years later. We'd go running around to nightclubs and stuff - in fact, hee hee, they were the ones I was with when a few of us got roped into being in the Miss La Maddalena pageant! Oh, such regazzi, such crazy regazzi...boy, that was fun.

So anyways, long story short, these are people I always enjoy seeing.

And Mystic is such a fun little town to visit.

The way everyones' schedules worked out, we got there around 2 on Saturday, and I got dropped off to catch a train in New London on Sunday, so there wasn't time for a visit to Mystic Seaport (my folks were amazed when they saw that place - we'd lived in Gales Ferry when I was very, very young, early early 70's, and we'd gone to Mystic Seaport - I have the vaguest recollection seeing a big boat and thinking it was pretty neat; my folks remember that big boat as being pretty much the sum total of the Mystic Seaport attractions so they were blown away at how the place has developed in the intervening years) - but even just wandering around the town is fun.

The bridge pictures were from Saturday, when we took an afternoon stroll through downtown.

Sunday we went for another short walk around the neighborhood where our friends live. This is pretty interesting too; they live in one of the higher areas of the town, which is where a lot of the ship captains lived. The elevation of the area is high enough that there's a clear view of the Atlantic (or at least there was in the 1800's when the Mystic area was pretty much clear-cut). You may have already noticed that all of these houses have someplace good for keeping watch for returning sails.

That one's actually what I picture when I think of a classic "widow's walk" - but all the other varieties would work fine too, and in fact the enclosed cupola makes a lot of sense in these climes. These were sensible Yankee ship's captain's wives we're talking about, after all. Might be romantic as all get-out to stand up there with the wind blowing your shawl out behind you like a dark flag - but why suffer when you can keep watch from a nice warm cupola?

Oh, and actually it wasn't ALL captains up here. The houses in this area have signs showing their building date, the first owner & the first owner's form of employment. There were definitely a preponderance of skippers, but in our quick trip around before I had to leave, I also spotted the publisher of the town's first newspaper, and a ship's carpenter.

Granted, the carpenter wasn't quite as high up the hill as the captains were!

Captain Manwaring's home happens to still be occupied by a captain (USN, ret. but you still call him Captain).

I wonder what Captain M. would think if he could see one of Captain F.'s boats...

"Thar she blows!", maybe...

Anyways. One interesting detail Mrs. F. gave us during this visit was that for all the magnificence of these homes, there was a certain element of mass-production going on here. One builder put up 5 at the same time using a lot of the same materials (molding, frames, etc) in all of them. Our "insider" jokingly called it "Victorian tract housing". A cut or twelve above subdevelopments these days - not quite little boxes made of ticky-tacky, these - but still, interesting to hear somebody started in with that idea so early!

Although hey, come to think of it, my entire neighborhood (Ditmas Park) was really the same sort of thing.

Not all the sea captains wanted those, though. One eccentric captain thought that life would be best if lived in an octagon-shaped home.

Would pose some decorating challenges, but being quite fond of the non-squareness of my apartment, I think I can see where he was coming from.

This was just a nice house with the sun shining on it. Really turned beautiful in the afternoon. Right when I had to leave!

The oldest house in this part of Mystic. Sorry, forgot to ask what year, but clearly from an earlier era!

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