Clas­sic New Eng­land: Five for the Road

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOSTON’S SOUTH SHORE - By Lawrence Lind­ner

W hen my wife and I took two young nieces to see the Goldie Hawn-Steve Martin flick “Hous­esit­ter” some 15 years ago, one of them asked if that was a real town we were see­ing on the screen. “No,” my wife an­swered. “How can you tell?” the girl pressed. “It’s too per­fect,” my wife, the New Yorker, said. “They could only cre­ate that on a Hol­ly­wood set.” Three years later, by pure serendip­ity, we found our­selves liv­ing in an an­tique house with a wooden roof just a few miles from where the movie was filmed. The set­ting is Bos­ton’s South Shore — a string of soul-restor­ing, clas­sic New Eng­land vil­lages set along the coast be-

tween Bean­town and Cape Cod. No one ever sees them. Ev­ery­one’s al­ways try­ing to get from the Hub to the Cape as

quickly as pos­si­ble on Route 3.

All the bet­ter for you. It leaves the by­way nearer the coast pretty much un­clogged for tak­ing in the views of coastal New

Eng­land.

Five towns in par­tic­u­lar are feasts for the eyes. In cer­tain ways, all are of a piece, with houses dat­ing to the 1600s and

1700s nes­tled against var­ied shore­line — ocean, bay, back river and cove. But each comes with its own dis­tinc­tive charac-

ter. It’s pos­si­ble to see them all in a day, but a long week­end is bet­ter for ap­pre­ci­at­ing not only their at­trac­tions, but also

their nu­ances and tem­per­a­ments.

Hing­ham

Hing­ham, about 20 miles south of Bos­ton, has the ti­di­est look. The spine of the town, five-mile-long Main Street, is lined with proud Colo­nial and Vic­to­rian houses. Eleanor Roo­sevelt called it the pret­ti­est Main Street in Amer­ica.

Hing­ham has a rep­u­ta­tion for snob­bi­ness. True, there has been an in­flux of new money, but in the main, the town prides it­self on its friend­li­ness. Even strangers say hello on the street, and my wife likes to tell the story of the time she bought a bag of chips at a con­ve­nience store at noon­time and the clerk ad­mon­ished her, “That’s your lunch?”

THE TOUR: At one point, Main Street widens to ac­com­mo­date car­riage roads that flank it, and al­most ev­ery house set back along that stretch — called Glad Tid­ings Plain — is painted white with dark shut­ters. (The pris­tine white church sprout­ing the tall spire was built in 1742.) Just be­fore you reach Hing­ham Square, you’ll pass a string of par­tic­u­larly mag­nif­i­cent Colo­nial, Fed­eral and Vic­to­rian homes.

Park and start walk­ing. A few blocks to your right on North Street, you’ll reach Hing­ham Har­bor, which leads to Bos­ton Har­bor and the At­lantic Ocean. That stretch of trees across the wa­ter from where you’re stand­ing is World’s End, a na­ture re­serve with easy walk­ing trails.

Turn­ing back to­ward town, stroll the streets off Hing­ham Square. A more sat­is­fy­ing col­lec­tion of 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-cen­tury homes you’ll be hard-pressed to find — and with no tourist bus­loads.

Don’t miss the Old Ship Church. Built in 1681, it is the old­est church in con­tin­u­ous use as a house of wor­ship in North Amer­ica. The ceil­ing, made of great oak beams, looks like the in­verted frame of a ship. Towns­peo­ple and new­com­ers both still sit for ser­vices, speeches and cham­ber mu­sic in the wooden pews, ac­cessed via gates. Be­hind the church is Hing­ham Ceme­tery, with grave­stones dat­ing to the 1600s.

EATS: Brewed Awak­en­ings (19 Main St., 781-741-5331) has pas­tries, soups, sal­ads and sand­wiches; noth­ing costs more than $8. Hing­ham Lob­ster Pound (4 Broad Cove Rd./Route 3A, 781749-1984), a take-away shack, has in­cred­i­ble fried clams (whole bel­lies or strips), lob­ster rolls and scal­lops. En­trees start at about $10. The Snug (116 North St., 781-749-9774) is Hing­ham’s an­swer to Cheers. Din­ner en­trees are $10 to $15. Tosca (14 North St., 781740-0080) serves world-class Ital­ian­in­spired food in a 100-year-old gra­nary. En­trees start at $23.

SLEEPS: Bare Cove B&B (235 Rock­land St., 781-740-1422, www. bare-cove-bnb.com) of­fers nicely ap­pointed rooms and a pea­cock that roams the well-land­scaped grounds. Dou­bles start at $125 a night; de­spite the name, break­fast is not in­cluded.

Co­has­set

THE TOUR: Co­has­set Vil­lage (head­ing east and south, Jerusalem Road be­comes At­lantic Av­enue and even­tu­ally Elm Street) is a scaled-down ver­sion of Hing­ham Square. Right out­side the com­mer­cial cen­ter, a lit­tle bridge spans a nar­row sliver of wa­ter that sep­a­rates the in­ner har­bor from the Gulph River.

Check out Co­has­set Com­mon, a block from the shops. First Parish church is the one in which Jack Ni­chol­son, cov­ered in feath­ers, coughed up

From Hing­ham, drive south for a few min­utes on Route 3A; turn left onto Route 228 north, then right onto Jerusalem Road. If Hing­ham looks tidy, Co­has­set looks a bit sleepy, more pas­toral, yet with a dra­matic shore­line rem­i­nis­cent of Maine’s rocky coast.

The ocean­front homes along Jerusalem Road and At­lantic Av­enue are a bit of a hodge­podge: an­tique, con­tem­po­rary, 1920s grand and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. But those views of the At­lantic stretch­ing to for­ever are a heady con­trast to the con­tained wa­ters of Hing­ham Har­bor. That light­house in the dis­tance is called Minot’s Ledge Light, and lo­cal lore says its 1-4-3 blink­ing pat­tern means “I love you.”

Sc­i­t­u­ate

cherry pits in the 1987 film “The Witches of East­wick.” There’s a nice pond and, in the sum­mer, Sun­day af­ter­noon car­il­lon con­certs from the bells of St. Stephen’s (across the com­mon from First Parish).

For a look at more beau­ti­ful old homes, take a one- to two-mile stroll down South Main Street. Back in town, even re­luc­tant mu­se­um­go­ers will en­joy walk­ing through the Cap­tain John Wil­son House on Elm Street.

Right next door is Co­has­set’s Mar­itime Mu­seum. In ad­di­tion to dis­play­ing the town’s his­tory as a ship­build­ing and fish­ing vil­lage, it houses ar­ti­facts from an Ir­ish ship that car­ried 122 peo­ple flee­ing the potato famine in 1849. Ninety-nine of them drowned when the ship crashed a mile and a half off the coast.

Near the two mu­se­ums, there are a num­ber of up­scale stores, in­clud­ing Ports and Co. for day and evening wear (think first-class on a transat­lantic cruise for a young but well-heeled set).

EATS: The Sil­ver Spoon Cafe (5 S. Main St., 781-383-8700) serves a pleas­ant break­fast or brunch for $6 to $8 a per­son. And French Mem­o­ries (60 S. Main St., 781-383-2216) has savory dishes along with sweets; $5.95 for a sand­wich or salad. Red Lion Inn (71 S. Main St., 781-383-1704) has an el­e­gant din­ing room with en­trees from $12 to $24. Bistro-style Bernard’s (107 Ri­p­ley Rd., 781-383-8300) has en­trees from $18.

SLEEPS: Red Lion Inn (see above), in a 300-year-old build­ing with gas fire­places in the rooms, has dou­bles start­ing at $215 a night. Co­has­set Har­bor Inn (124 Elm St., 781-383-6650, www. co­has­sethar­bor­re­sort.com) has dou­bles fac­ing the har­bor start­ing at $199.

Your 15-minute route to the next town over, Sc­i­t­u­ate (sih-chew-it), will take you past beau­ti­ful fields and stone walls, with lovely peeks at the At­lantic and seabirds loung­ing on rocks along the way. (Take Border Street from Co­has­set to Gan­nett Road, turn left, then right onto Hatherly.)

THE TOUR: Sc­i­t­u­ate is a lit­tle more real-world than Hing­ham or Co­has­set. And that’s much of its charm. It has the same kind of mu­seum-qual­ity Colo­nial and 1800s houses, and some chichi stores and bak­eries. But on vi­brant Front Street, you’ll also find trin­ket shops, conch shell sou­venirs, his-andhers sham­rock mugs and light­house Christ­mas tree or­na­ments.

One of our fa­vorite diver­sions is buy­ing a slice of blue­berry cof­fee cake from the Silent Chef, the re­tail out­let of a lo­cal cater­ing com­pany, and walk­ing along the har­bor be­hind Front Street, perch­ing on a bench to watch the boats bob — very sooth­ing and sleep­y­mak­ing in warm weather, brac­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing in cold.

Sc­i­t­u­ate has its own light­house, which was used in the War of 1812 to help pre­vent the Bri­tish from sack­ing the town. Un­for­tu­nately, for­ays up the 50-foot tower are pos­si­ble only oc­ca­sion­ally (but the grounds are open all year).

The Law­son Tower also is rarely open but, like the light­house, is worth a drive-by. Said to be the most ex­pen­sive (and most pho­tographed) wa­ter tower in the coun­try, the 153-foot ed­i­fice was fash­ioned af­ter a 15th-cen­tury cas­tle tower on the Rhine to please the aes­thetic sen­si­bil­i­ties of one Thomas Law­son’s wife, who did not want to have to view an un­adorned wa­ter tower from her nearby es­tate.

Be­fore you leave Sc­i­t­u­ate, take a loop drive around what lo­cals call the First and Sec­ond cliffs by turn­ing left onto Ed­ward Fos­ter Road from Front Street. The houses aren’t ex­trav­a­gant, but the views of the ocean are.

EATS: Riva (116 Front St., 781-5455881) has good Ital­ian eats and a con­vivial at­mos­phere. En­trees are about $16 to $22. Mill Wharf (150-R Front St., 781-545-3999) has fresh fish dishes and a panoramic view of Sc­i­t­u­ate Har­bor. En­trees start at $17, pub menu spe­cial­ties $11.

SLEEPS: The Inn at Sc­i­t­u­ate Har­bor (7 Beaver Dam Rd., 800-368-3818, www.in­natsc­i­t­u­ate­har­bor.com), right in town, has dou­bles with har­bor views start­ing at $149 mid­week, $209 on week­ends. Ocean­side Inn (8 Ocean­side Dr., 781-544-0002, www. bn­bo­cean­sid­einn.com) has dou­bles with knock­out ocean views start­ing at $99 a night.

Marsh­field

As you make your way down Route 3A to Marsh­field, an­other 10 min­utes south, you’ll en­joy views of marsh and back-river trib­u­taries that feed off the At­lantic, and even a cran­berry bog or two. Marsh­field, more than any other town on this itin­er­ary, is a study in eco­nomic con­trasts, with fine old houses on acres of land in Marsh­field Hills in the north­ern part of town and win­ter­ized sum­mer cot­tages nearly fall­ing into the wa­ter over by Brant Rock.

THE TOUR: Take a right onto High­land Street soon af­ter you cross from Sc­i­t­u­ate into Marsh­field (a small ma­rina marks the di­vid­ing line), then an­other right onto Union Street. The views of an­tique homes with land back­ing up to the North River are worth the de­tour.

Re­trac­ing your steps, head for the Brant Rock area by con­tin­u­ing on 3A south, then veer­ing off to Route 139 east. Brant Rock has a honky-tonk feel, with restau­rants such as the Lob­ster Tale, Venus II and Cosmo’s Cafe. At the tip, late Vic­to­rian homes are piled to­gether across the road from open ocean. Have a meal on the deck of the Fairview Inn while you gaze at the lim­it­less At­lantic.

Don’t miss Winslow House, built in 1699 by Mayflower de­scen­dants. Vir­tu­ally un­touched by mod­ern­iza­tion, it was owned at the time of the Revo­lu­tion­ary War by physi­cian Isaac Winslow, a Tory loy­al­ist who em­braced the Bri­tish cause. (Prob­a­bly the only rea­son it wasn’t con­fis­cated from him was that he was beloved by his pa­tients.) Next to it stands the law of­fice of Daniel Web­ster, sec­re­tary of state in the 1840s.

If you should visit the town dur­ing the sec­ond half of Au­gust, and es­pe­cially if you bring the kids, don’t miss the Marsh­field Fair just off 3A (Aug. 1726 this year). An ex­trav­a­ganza that seems plucked from the 1950s, it of­fers 60 acres’ worth of rides, farm an­i­mals, fried dough, a de­mo­li­tion derby and plenty of sparkly, tacky at­trac­tions.

EATS: At Fairview Inn (133 Ocean St., 781-834-9144), en­trees start at $15.95, with ocean views much bet­ter than “fair.” If you’ve al­ready en­joyed the Hing­ham Lob­ster Pound, you know the drill at Green Har­bor Lob­ster Pound (131 Beach St., 781-834-4571) — su­perb take-away from a shack; en­trees $10 to $15.

SLEEPS: Dou­bles start at $200 at Fairview Inn (see above). Seven of the eight rooms have ter­rific ocean views.

Duxbury

About 10 min­utes farther south on Route 3A lies Duxbury. The town feels a lit­tle like Nan­tucket, the kind of place that makes you sigh long­ingly and con­tent­edly at the same time. Had the artist Carl Lars­son been Amer­i­can in­stead of Swedish, he would have lived in Duxbury and painted his fam­ily against al­lur­ing back­drops of the town.

THE TOUR: Duxbury has a num­ber of small his­tor­i­cal mu­se­ums in an­tique homes. It also boasts a great Art Com­plex Mu­seum on 13 acres of wood­land and open fields that fea­tures the un­likely com­bi­na­tion of Shaker furniture and Asian art.

But the most im­por­tant thing to do is just drive. Just about ev­ery­where you go, you’ll pass stretches of lovely homes, fronting or near the wa­ter. Wash­ing­ton Street, a stretch of vil­lage road a cou­ple of miles long, is es­pe­cially beau­ti­ful, with gor­geous old houses lin­ing both sides of the road. Go down any of the nar­row dead-end lanes to view the homes and tran­quil Duxbury Bay. Ship­yard Lane has a park­ing lot you can linger in.

At the north end of Wash­ing­ton Street, turn onto Pow­der Point Av­enue to be­gin an ex­cur­sion around Pow­der Point, a lit­tle knuckle of land that is the Duxbury of Duxbury. Let your car take you where it will. Weave in and out of streets with such names as King Cae­sar Road, Up­land Road and Rus­sell Road. You’ll pass the en­trance to Pow­der Point Bridge, the long­est wooden bridge in the United States, lead­ing to a pris­tine beach (with cold wa­ter that’s hard to ad­just to even in the height of sum­mer). All along, the mag­nif­i­cent homes and views of the bay will trans­port you.

Head­ing off Pow­der Point, turn onto St. Ge­orge Street. That will take you ei­ther to 3A for a leisurely and beau­ti­ful re­turn trip to Bos­ton, with the tall trees mak­ing canopies over the road in spots (fig­ure an hour and 15 min­utes if you get back on the high­way from Hing­ham) — or, a few miles farther along, to Route 3, which will have you back in Bos­ton in less than an hour, with­out traf­fic.

EATS: Win­sor House (390 Wash­ing­ton St., 781-934-0091, www. win­sor­hou­se­inn.com), in an 1803 build­ing, has an invit­ing in­te­rior, with dark woods and fire­places. En­trees start at about $18; pub menu from $11.

Sun Tav­ern (500 Congress St./ Route 14, 781-837-4100) of­fers el­e­gant din­ing in a 1741 house. En­trees from $22.

SLEEPS: Pow­der Point B&B (182 Pow­der Point Ave., 781-934-7727, www.pp­bab.com) is a lovely an­tique home with dou­bles start­ing at $165. Win­sor House (see above) has dou­bles start­ing at $150. Lawrence Lind­ner has two books out this spring: “Puppy’s First Steps: The Whole-Dog Approach to Rais­ing a Happy, Healthy, Well-Be­haved Puppy” (Houghton Mif­flin); and “Fight­ing Weight,” writ­ten with Khaliah Ali, Muham­mad Ali’s daugh­ter (HarperCollins).

BY EMILY D’URSO

A pond, a steepled church, cen­turies-old houses — could Co­has­set, Mass., be any quainter? Be­yond the com­mon, above, the town boasts an ocean shore­line.

BY LAWRENCE LIND­NER

One of the houses over­look­ing Hing­ham Bay. The town is home to a 17th-cen­tury church built to re­sem­ble a ship.

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