Nahant Historical Society

41 Valley Road, Nahant Massachusetts 01908 781-581-2727

Our mission is:
“To acquire, preserve and interpret artifacts of Nahant, Massachusetts, illustrating its history, prehistory and that of people associated with it, for the enjoyment, education and enrichment of the public. ”

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Last updated
28 sep 2015/csb


photo by melinda hatfield

life saving station, photo by melinda hatfield

Late September 2015

The school year has started. Our Nahant students are filling the Johnson School, heading on buses to Swampscott, or off to college. The weather is still so warm and summery that we’re looking forward to a nice Indian Summer. The Society will be open this Sunday October 4th from 1 to 4 pm and we invite you to come and visit us. We have several new items in the shop and new acquisitions on display.
Save the date: Annual Paterson Lecture on October 25 by Nicholas A. Basbanes, discussing Henry & Fanny Longfellow, and a New Year’s Eve “Snow Ball” party to ring in the New Year.
We also remind you to renew your membership if you have not yet done so. Your annual support is what helps us care for and preserve Nahant’s historic legacy. Use the links to the right to renew online or by mail, or visit our membership page for more details.

The 2015 Paterson Lecture
Cross of Snow: The Love Story and
Lasting Legacy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

with Nicholas A. Basbanes
SUNDAY, October 25,th 2015 at 2 pm
Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA

Nicholas A. Basbanes Mr. Basbanes, author of nine works of nonfiction, will give an illustrated lecture on his work-in-progress for Alfred A. Knopf, to be titled “Cross of Snow: The Love Story and Lasting Legacy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” including Longfellow’s many years as a Nahant summer resident. Mr. Basbanes was recently named a recipient of a Public Scholar Research Fellowship in support of this project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This lecture is free of charge and open to the public. Limited on-site parking; shuttle van service will be available to & from the St. Thomas church’s lot (248 Nahant Road) between 1:30 and 4:00 pm Light refreshments will be served.
The Museum Shop will be open on the first floor!

Come visit us and see our new acquisitions and don’t forget to browse in our gift shop,
and shop either online or in person.

new to our collection
our shop

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Members are the lifeblood of our organization. We invite you to join the Society or renew your membership today to enjoy another benefit of living in our beautiful town by the sea. Use the links below to renew online or by mail, or visit our membership page for more details.

Membership Levels
Special Instructions

If you wish to donate a different amount please use the button below.

This option will take you to a PayPal window where you can enter your desired donation amount.

If you wish to mail your payment please download our printable form (pdf) and make checks payable to:
Nahant Historical Society
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA 01908


Ellingwood Chapel
Concert Series

Visit the concert page for the latest schedule and related information.

Donate to Support the Series

Friends of Ellingwood
Special Instructions


Nahant Community Center

Come visit and learn about Nahant’s rich historic heritage in our quarters here at the Nahant Community Center, formerly the Valley Road School. We welcome researchers and urge you to visit our Hodges Reference Room and its library and archives facilities. We invite you to visit our premier major exhibition, entitled Nahant on the Rocks. This retrospective illustrates in a lively format the legendary and seldom told story of Nahant and its people. Nahant on the Rocks opened in 2003 to rave reviews. In 2004 this exhibition won one of the most prestigious museum awards: the Certificate of Commendation from the American Association of State and Local History.
History is fun! Come join us.

The Nahant Historical Society is a member of the following organizations:
American Association of State and Local History
New England Historic Genealogical Society
New England Museum Association


Sunday September 13, 2015, 4 p.m.

Island Sex...Tet
Solar Winds Quintet with guest Guy Urban
in The Ellingwood Chapel

Solar Winds Quintet

The Solar Winds Quintet with guest Guy Urban on piano will perform the Poulenc Sextet and the Beethoven Quintet in E-flat, opus 71, as well as music by Percy Grainger and Claude Arrieu.
In our last concert we showed how our acoustics can favor a soft, solo instrument but this time we’ll hear the other end of the spectrum. Guy Urban will play our new Tanglewood Piano along with the Solar Winds: Jill Dreeben - Flute, Charlyn Bethell - Oboe, Diane Heffner - Clarinet, Neil Fairbairn - Bassoon, and Neil Godwin - French Horn. The pure, unamplified sound created by these fine musicians will fill the Ellingwood Chapel.

Sunday August 23

John Bigelow
Dueling Dialogues

4 p.m., The Ellingwood Chapel

johhn bigelow

The Ellingwood Chapel Concert series will present a performance by John Bigelow on two instruments, and he is master of both.
The first part of the program will feature music played on the lute. This Renaissance instrument, father to the plucked, stringed instruments that followed and heir to those first played, perhaps, in ancient Pythagorean Greece, has enjoyed a bit of a modern Renaissance. We welcome its rebirth.
The second part of the program will feature music played on the 11-string guitar. John Bigelow describes this instrument as follows: “Often people think when they first see (my instrument) that it is a twelve string guitar because they have heard of them but have never seen one. The “twelve string guitar” does exist as a conventionally manufactured instrument with six pairs of strings; the strings of each pair are close enough together so that the two strings are played simultaneously… My instrument, instead, has eleven individual strings, each tuned to its own pitch and played separately.” This design gives the “archguitar” an extraordinary range that John explores with skill and creativity.
Nahanters were privileged to hear John play his extraordinary instrument at Town Hall this Spring when he accompanied Sallee Slagle’s 40 Steps Dance Company. Personally, I think he will sound even better at the Ellingwood Chapel. We are calling this performance Dueling Dialogues. The conversation and the duel will be across the centuries with one clear winner…

Enjoy Summer by the Sea in Nahant
Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend
August 6-9, Nahant, MA

nahant weekendJoin us for a long weekend of period dance, and social events by the sea. The weekend is sponsored by the Nahant Historical Society to help preserve Nahant’s past as one of America’s first Summer resorts. Daily admission is available; period dress is not required.

Register for the
Dance Weekend!

Visit the event page for more information.

2015 Schedule Overview
more details will be added as they are finalized

Thursday, August 6
The weekend starts Thursday evening with a formal dinner at the Nahant Country Club, in the early Victorian mansion of Frederick Tudor. Enjoy a delicious period feast. (This event is sold out)
Friday, August 7
The dance and costume classes start Friday morning; in the evening we’ll enjoy a Seaside Soirée at Egg Rock, an elegant mid-Nineteenth Century estate.
Saturday, August 8
Saturday’s schedule will include daytime classes and we’'ll dancing into the night at The Grand Ball: An Evening In Vienna at the Town Hall. Spectators are welcome to come and watch the ball from the balcony at no charge.
Sunday, August 9
Sunday afternoon we return to our Summer estate, Egg Rock, to enjoy a concert followed by tea and dancing. The weekend will conclude with a promenade to East Point, once the site of the Nahant Hotel and a highlight of the weekend, where we will enjoy spectacular, almost 360 degree, ocean views.

Don’t be late for a very important date!
Mad Hatter’s Garden Party
Sunday, July 12, 2 p.m., 369 Nahant Rd., rain or shine

fireworks photo by katy bishop

Celebrate our 40th anniversary at our first headquarters, the Whitney Homestead, Nahant’s oldest residence, now the home of Tom and Cindy Costin who invite you to enjoy their garden for an afternoon of food, drink, and fun. Hats encouraged!

Register for
the Party Now!

Admission: $40 in advance, $50 at the door.

Register online, drop off a check at the Society, or by mail: Checks should be made out to the “Nahant Historical Sociey” and be sent to: 41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA 01908

SUNDAY, April 19th, 2 p.m.

Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA
Calantha Sears, Mary Morgan McCarl,
and Friends will present:
That the Future May Know the Past

Free and open to the public; light refreshments served. Parking is limited on-site; shuttle service will be available at St. Thomas church’s lot at (248 Nahant Road) one half hour before and after.


Created by town residents and presented to the Nahant Historical Society to celebrate the Bicentennial year.

We would like to invite you to a lecture as part of our
commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812:

Fame: The Salem Privateer
with Captain Michael Rutstein
SUNDAY, November 16,th 2014 at 2:00 pm

Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA

the fame Capt. Michael Rutstein is the owner and operator of the privateer schooner FAME, a full-scale replica of one of the first American privateers to get to sea during the War of 1812. He is also the author of the Privateering Stroke, on War of 1812 privateering, which includes Nahanter Cornelius Coolidge.
This lecture is free and open to the public; copies of Capt. Rutstein’s books will be available for purchase. Light refreshments will be served.

Photo courtesy Michael Rutstein

The 2014 Paterson Lecture
Monuments Men
with Dr. Michael J. Kurtz
SUNDAY, October 5,th 2014 at 2:00 pm
Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA

mason hammond Dr. Michael J. Kurtz, visiting Professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies and formerly with the National Archives, will discuss how, during World War II, the Nazis plundered the great art treasures of Europe and what was done to save them.
Learn about Lt. Col. Mason Hammond who was the first MMFA specialist into Europe with the 1943 Allied invasion of Italy. A Roman scholar and Harvard educator, Hammond lived summers at Castlerock (405 Nahant Road), built by his family in 1829.

For more details see the Paterson Lecture page

See coverage of the Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend in
the August 17th New York Times!

See pictures from 2014 in the New York Times!

nahant dancers

Didn't get a Dance Weekend T-shirt?
Order one now (see image left)
$20 each (plus postage, US only)

Commemorative T-Shirt of the Dance weekend, with an image of dancers superimposed over the Nahant Quadrilles sheet music cover. Shirt is white. Shirts will be mail by USPS Priority Mail (postage is calculated automatically; excess postage will be refunded is necessary). Select size below then click "buy now" button.


nahant weekendThe weekend is sponsored by the Nahant Historical Society to help preserve Nahant’s heritage as a summer haven. It has been organized for the last 23 years by Katy Bishop and her husband Ben, with the assistance of their children and friends; without their help the events would not be possible. Some venues and services are donated to help keep the costs down so that everyone can afford to attend. We hope you’ll be able to join us this year!

Nahant Historical Society’s 39th Annual Meeting
Ralph Adams Cram by Ethan Anthony

SUNDAY, May 18th 2014, 2:00 pm
Ellingwood Chapel, Greenlawn Cemetery
(National Registry of Historic Places)
195 Nahant Road, Nahant, Massachusetts

howe estate

Ralph Adams Cram is now renowned as a designer of American university and church buildings. Although often remembered for his traditional work, such as Ellingwood Chapel, he created, among others, the Federal Building skyscraper in Boston in the Art Deco style.
Illustration: Ralph Adams Cram by Theodore C. Marceau, circa 1911, courtesy Library of Congress

2014 Nahant Calendar Now Available!


This annual favorite, contains memorable views of Nahant and its people. Includes rare images both old and new.
Price: $12.00

Keep the Character in Your Old House
a lecture by Jane Hennedy, preservation consultant

SUNDAY, November 3,rd 2013
Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA

howe estate

Illustration: The Thomas Howe estate on Little Nahant, designed by the Boston firm of Wait & Gutter, hand-tinted illustration from American Architect and Building News, November 27, 1880, collections of Nahant Historical Society.

Nahant Makes The New York Times!

The Annual Nahant Victorian Dance Weekend, sponsored by the Nahant Historical Society, was honored with two pages of photographs by Bill Cunningham in the New York Times on 18 August 2013.

The coverage can be found on
The New York Times website:
howe estate

The 22nd Annual Nahant Ball Weekend’s theme was An Evening in Vienna, with a Grand Victorian Ball on Saturday night at the Town Hall and Waltzing Through Time Concert with formal tea at the Community Center, and a Victorian promenade to East Point on Sunday. The weekend was organized by Katy and Ben Bishop and live music both days was provided by Spare Parts who can be heard on our CD: Dancing by the Shore. This was Mr. Cunningham’s first trip to Nahant and he enjoyed his time on our little penninsula immensely. Next year’s Dance Weekend will be held 8-10 August 2014.

The 2013 Paterson Lecture
The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War
by Stephen Puleo
SUNDAY, September 29,th 2013 at 2:00 pm
Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center
41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA

charles sumner As part of the Society’s commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, we present The Caning—The Assault That Drove America to Civil War by Stephen Puleo. This features a longtime summer visitor to Nahant, Charles Sumner, the illustrious United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1851-1874. An acclaimed orator, Sumner used his talents to passionately advocate the abolitionist cause. On May 22, 1856 in the United States Senate Chamber, he was brutally attacked and beaten by the ardent pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks from South Carolina. Come and learn more about this astonishing story that accelerated our nation and Nahant into the Civil War.

For more details see the Paterson Lecture page

01908 art gala

The Society is honored to be this year’s beneficiary for the 01908 Art Gala on September 7th and the very generous donation received to be used for our vital services as Nahant’s small museum. We are most grateful to the 01908 Committee for this extra-ordinary festival, which attracted all ages. The Society sends deepest thanks to all the artists, attendees and volunteers who made this fabulous event possible.

Nahant Historical Society
cordially invites you to
our first Conservation Clinic:
Saving a President’s Gift & Other Stories

with Monique Fischer & Amanda Malkin

TR SUNDAY, June 9, 2013
at 2:00 pm

Serenity Room, Community Center, 41 Valley Road, Nahant
~After the presentation, the conservators will advise attendees on care of their personal photographs or documents as time permits~
Monique Fischer is Senior Photograph Conservator & Amanda Malkin is Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellow of the Northeast Document Conservation Center, Andover, MA
This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments served.
Parking is limited but shuttle service will be available at St. Thomas church’s lot at 248 Nahant Road one half hour before and after the program.

Our 38th Annual Meeting
SUNDAY, April 28, 2013 - 2:00 pm
Serenity Room, Community Center, 41 Valley Rd.
Elizabeth Cary Agassiz:
Ahead of her Time and of her Time

by Anne C. Bromer

1890s couple dancing Nahant author, scholar and rare book seller will share her work on a fascinating 19th century Nahant author, scientist and educator
This lecture is free and open to the public. Light refreshments served. Parking is limited but alternate shuttle service will be available at St. Thomas church’s lot at 248 Nahant Road one half hour before and after the presentation

The 2012 Annual Meeting
USS Constitution and the War of 1812
By Historian Margherita Desy
SUNDAY March 25th at 2 pm
For more details see the Annual Meeting page

Costume Workshops 2012
Regency Dressmaking, January 7
Fashions of the Titanic Era, February 25
Pre-registration is required.

The 2011 Paterson Lecture
The Spirit of Christmas Past:
Four Centuries of Christmas in New England
By Kenneth C. Turino
SUNDAY December 4th at 2 pm
For more details see the Paterson Lecture page

November 6, 2-4pm
Nahant Community Center

Annual Garden Party
Sunday August 14, 2:00 pm
Poetry by Nahant Bay
For more details see the Event page

Nahant Victorian Day Ball
An evening in Vienna
a Victorian Ball, Saturday, July 7, 2012!
featuring music from our own CD:
Dancing by the Shore: Victorian Music from Nahant
Spectators Welcome, there’s a great view from the balcony!

Music of the Titanic Era
with Live Music by Spare Parts

Sunday July 8, 2012
Serenity Room, Nahant Community Center

Nahant: A Garden of Art, 2012
Sunday, July 29th, at North Spring, 66 Ocean Street

September 25, 10am-3pm
Nahant Community Center

New Exhibit:Drawn to Nahant
May 14-August 31 2008
in the Serenity Room

August 24, 2008, 2-5pm, Cragmere, 211 Willow Road

Opera in Nahant
La Boheme

Saturday, June 28th 2008, 8pm Nahant Town Hall, 335 Nahant Road


October 21, 2007, 2pm, Nahant Community Center

Nahant: the Painted Shores was a wonderful success!

The 2007 Paterson Lecture Longfellow Redux by Professor Christoph Irmscher Sunday February 25
For more details see the Paterson Lecture page