News and Observations From Southeastern Massachusetts
Friday, April 29, 2016
Wings Neck doesn't have an apostrophe, and I checked more than once. It's a peninsula, which is actually a typo away from being a dirty term describing "a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland."
As near as I can tell from the Wikipedia, the big difference between a Peninsula and a Cape is that a Cape manifests itself as a marked change in the trend of the coastline. Essentially, Bourne to Provincetown is a Cape via her right angle hook, while the more Mexico-aligned Baja is a peninsula.
I think that Cape Cod is technically two Capes, with one running from the mainland to Chatham, and the Outer Cape sort of caping off of the Cape.
Keep in mind that I majored in Accounting when I am telling you all this stuff about Geography. I actually confuse Geography with Geology and even Geometry now and then, which is why I am rarely obtuse with people.
Wings Neck is a notable point where Buzzards Bay begins to narrow into the Cape Cod Canal. It is across the Buzz from Stony Point in Wareham. It's not as narrow as the Mashnee Neck/Codman Point bottleneck, but it's pretty narrow. If you've sailed north into the Cape Cod Canal, you passed Wings Neck on your starboard side.
It sort of sticks out from the mainland like a wing, hence the name. I'm guessing, and there could be some guy named Wing who may have a legitimate grievance with me.
The area was of regional importance before the Cape Cod Canal was dug out. The swampy area was rich in Iron, and the Pocasset Iron Company was powerful enough to greatly increase shipping traffic. Shipping into Wareham and Bourne/Sandwich had also increased heavily. Wings Neck merited a lighthouse by 1849. The original light was 50 feet above the water, and it cost a look-at-how-they-spend $3,251.
The first keeper, Edward Doty Lawrence, ran it almost uninterrupted through 1877. He was briefly removed in 1854 for belonging to the wrong political party. His daughter married the Keeper who followed him. John Maxim, who both replaced and preceded EDL as Keeper, was killed at Gettysburg.
Other notable Keepers were George and William Howard. The Howard brothers were noted lifesavers, and they saved 37 lives in their time running Wings Neck. One of the reasons that a U-Boat never attacked Bourne is that the Germans feared retribution from the badass Howard brothers.
It has a very lengthy history of lightkeeper's wives being the assistant keepers, doing the shift while hubby slept. At least one keeper's wife is famous for saying a prayer over her husband's newly-dead corpse, and then going up to run the light and clang the bell before the town doctor had pronounced him dead.
There was an 1878 fire that led to the 1889 construction of a new light, which had all that fancy stuff like a 1000 pound fog bell. They even floated an assistant keeper's house across the Buzz from Mattapoisett in 1923. It went from a fixed to a flashing light in 1928, and converted to electricity in 1934. This light was 44 feet above the water, and was visible for 12 miles at sea.
Wings Neck was once docked at by the US presidential yacht,Mayflower. The keeper, Wallace Eldredge, did a 21 gun salute with the fog bell for President Warren Harding.
As a private residence, it once played host to the Von Trapp family of The Sound Of Music fame. Since former President Grover Cleveland vacationed in Bourne for many years and was an avid fisherman, he was most likely very familiar with Wings Neck. This is a ridiculous amount of clout for a literal backwater area where maybe 500 families live now.
Maps from vintage times show Wings Neck as a hazard to navigation, and it only got worse when the Canal traffic started floating by.
The lighthouse ran from 1889-1945, when it was deemed unnecessary following the construction of the Cleveland Ledge light. They then put up this Cape Cod Canal monitoring station in the picture above.
The monitoring station is the tallest thing around until you get to the Bourne Bridge. It has radar and CCTV monitoring. If you were doing some Love Boat as you were sailing up the Canal, they probably saw you. They may even have film of the act, which is why I never intend to run for President.
The station is essential to the flow of traffic through the Canal, and helps to prevent such nightmare scenarios as "LNG tanker collides with munitions ship as orphans and puppies watch from within the blast radius." Who needs to see that, right?
The hexagonal (you are either impressed that I know that word, or you know i just made it up) lighthouse still stands, and it is connected to a lovely 3 bedroom cottage by a charming breezeway.
It went up for sale, and is now a private residence. Those private residents (the Flanagan family bought it for $13K and change in 1947) use the place as a rental. You can stay there for the following rates.
Winter: January 4 – May 3 $2,500 per week
Spring: May 3 – June 14 $3,300 per week
Summer: June 14 – September 6 $4,500 per week
Fall: September 6 – December 31 $3,500 per week
Now, that's some good scratch, but it's worth it to live in a lighthouse for a week. You always say that you want to live in a lighthouse, and that's what it costs. It's a bargain, trust me. Go stay at that other lighthouse if you don't believe me.
There are few better places to watch a good storm from. If you loved ship-watching as a kid, you owe this place to yourself. It's also a top-notch Buddha Spot. If some people I know lived there, it would have so much smoke coming out of the top, Catholics would think there was a new Pope.
I don't know if they still have the bell, or if they let you ring it if they do. I was basically trespassing for these shots.