Collections The Nahant Historical Society

The Nahant Historical Society was founded in 1975 because of our community’s vital need to collect, preserve and interpret the history of Nahant and its people.  The Society continues to work with the ever-expanding collections to given better museum storage and provide access. 

Our latest efforts have been focused on creating a digital catalog using PastPerfect museum software, used by over 10,000 history museums across America. This process is not yet complete but so far we have documented over 16,000 archive files and artifacts.  

In the meantime, the Society wants to give you a glimpse into our work by telling you a unique tale in the chronicles of Nahant. There is also a pdf showing the research inventory developed to tell that story. We look forward to sharing other accounts with you.

Remembering The Valiant: A Community Launches A Dream


This program was funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Society is most grateful to the generosity of Ralph Lowell, Jr. This program was made possible by the support of the Palombo and McClain families, and many other Nahanters involved with the Valiant, many other volunteers and the Society’s loyal members.

Valiant owners Palombo and McClain with neighbors and E. H. Hines

Photograph by Pulitzer-prize winning press photographer Roland Oxton, gift of his son David Oxton; Nahant Historical Society collections.

The Valiant Research Inventory is the result of many Nahanters’ effort to preserve the memory of the backyard construction of the Valiant, an 80 foot, 90 ton dragger, and how the community helped to make that dream come true.  The last professional off-shore fishing vessel built in Nahant, Massachusetts was constructed between 1955 and 1963 by owners and neighbors Raymond Palombo and Francis “Swede” L. McClain, Jr. in the narrow space between their houses with their “silent partner” Charles Baxter. Both men were native Nahanters with extensive fishing experience. Palombo had built four other fishing boats, but none so large. However, he wanted to pioneer offshore lobster fishing for a better living. His partner McClain was an oil burner serviceman who needed more income to sustain his family. Using surplus and recycled materials to construct the hull and desk with traditional shipbuilding techniques, Palombo and McClain even managed to raise and restore another fishing vessel’s massive engine, left as salvage in a recent wreck. Despite bank loans, both families suffered severe economies during the construction.  But somehow building went on because it grew into a community endeavor. Other Nahanters pitched in to build this American dream over eight grueling years. Young to old volunteered around their own work schedule elsewhere, gave a casserole or just “passed the hat.” 

Finally, the Valiant was laboriously moved from her backyard building site between the Palombo and McClain homes on Forty Steps Lane down to the Tudor Wharf. It took three days from October 14 to 16, 1963 because moving an 80 foot, 90 ton vessel was no task for the fainthearted.  Palombo and McClain hired the specialized services of E. H. Hinds house riggers at a cost of $5,000. Crowds of Nahanters and others of all ages followed her every move.  Properly christened with champagne, she slowly floated off her cradle during the evening high tide on October 16th. Within the week, Valiant was towed to Gloucester for her final outfitting to join the offshore fishing fleet, her value then $125,000. 

Unfortunately the Atlantic is cruel to fishing vessels. In June 1967 Valiant stuck a submerged object while offshore fishing and sank.  Thankfully Palombo and his crew were rescued by another fishing vessel and the US Coast Guard cutter Active. But the heroic story of the Valiant continues to resonate today as one of the legends of Nahant, demonstrating the courage, the fortitude, and the community spirit of her people.

Research Inventory PDF with the following restrictions: The Valiant Research Inventory is accessible in PDF form for study purposes only. Any other use requires written permission from the Nahant Historical Society. 


Current Exhibits


The Bicentennial Quilt
Now On Display
Hodges Room

Our current short-term exhibit in the Hodges Room is focused on the Bicentennial Quilt and other quilts of Nahant.  Thanks to generous donors, the 1976 Bicentennial Quilt was recently conserved and restored to its original beauty. It currently hangs in the 41Gallery site on the second floor of the community center. 

After hanging in the Library for 40 years, the quilt is now back home in the Society’s collection. We have numerous Nahant quilts on display, both in the Hodges Room and upstairs in the lobby. Some of these date back to 1850s! Stop by and view the incredible handiwork of Nahanters, both past and present.

The Lowland Buddha
Now On Display
Community Center Rotunda

Nahant celebrates the anonymous restored gift of the Lowland Buddha, a Jizo Bosatsu. This work of art once graced the famous gate of the 1867 estate of George Abbot James and his wife Elizabeth “Lily” Lodge on East Point in Nahant. Learn how this gate guardian inspired the Lowland Medal of Nahant schools.

Jizo Bosatsu was first introduced in Japan from China during the Heian period (794-1185) and, according to the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, became “immensely popular as a protector of children, patron of travelers, and guardian of community thresholds.”Probably it is no coincidence that George Abbot James used the Lowland Gate with its guardian as the inspiration for his endowment of the Lowland Medal for proficiency in mental arithmetic in Nahant Schools.

This award has been given for almost 100 years since shortly before his death in 1917. Past winners of the Lowland Medal and their families are especially invited to this special occasion.

If you are, or know someone who is a Lowland Medal recipient, please contact the Society at 781-581-2727 or email

The Bark Sarah and her Maker
Now On Display
Community Center Rotunda

Learn the story behind this intricate large plank-on-frame ship model, a recreated “Tall Ship” in miniature. Find out about Winthrop Taylor Hodges, the man who spent ten years building this ship in model form based on a youthful memory. See rare photographs of the ocean-going Sarah, upon which he sailed in 1887.

Nahant On The Rocks
Now On Display
Lowell Room Gallery

In October 2003, we opened our first full exhibition, entitled Nahant on the Rocks, This is an interactive exhibit showing the history of Nahant from its early days as grazing land for Lynn livestock, through its days as a fishing community, its heyday as the Summer resort community for Boston’s wealthy, literary and scientific notables and artists.

Past Exhibitions  

Remembering The Valiant (2016)

In 1955, Ray Palombo and Frank “Swede” McClain had a dream to build a boat that would allow them to lobster off shore. Many thought it couldn’t be done.

However, in October of 1963, after eight arduous years of building in the tight space between their homes on Forty Steps Lane, enlisting the help of anyone who would lend a hand, an 80-ft 90-ton dragger came to life.

Its launch bringing everyone from the towns people to Life Magazine to an emissary from President Kennedy to watch and support the launch of the Valiant.

Drawn To Nahant (2008)
Serenity Room

Like Nahant’s unique geography, this exhibition of works on paper will be anything but flat, comments a Tufts University graduate student curator, Rebecca Dicks, on the newest exhibition to appear at the Nahant Historical Society. Opening May 10th, 2008 in the Nahant Community Center’s Serenity Room, Drawn to Nahant: Exploring Works on Paper will feature many rare works as diverse as 19th century chromolithographs, writings penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, contemporary watercolors, student art, and the recorded voices of Nahant’s current community.

Sacrifice of Self: Nahant in the Civil War (2007)
Serenity Room

The Society’s summer 2007 major exhibition, Sacrifice of Self, opened June 23, 2007. The Society completed over a decade of work to document how the people of Nahant coped with the far-ranging effects of the Civil War.

The story will be told through exhibit and book, chronicling soldiers’ experiences, the support from those left at home and also how Nahant took care of its own after the war.

The Society has created a fascinating presentation to bring this fascinating era to life, including rare images and artifacts, many never on public view before, as well as poetry and music.

Nahant: The Painted Shores (2005)
Serenity Room

Our picturesque town has been the subject of artists for well over two hundred years. This unique exhibition featured works of art in oil of the Nahant coast from the period 1800–1950, borrowed from public and private collections and never before exhibited together.

In fact, the majority of privately held paintings have never been on public view before. A first-of-its-kind community exhibition, along with a commemorative catalogue, was produced in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Nahant Historical Society in 2005.

Enlisting a Nation (2004)
Serenity Room

The Nahant Historical Society offered a summer exhibition of World War I posters and artifacts. Nahanter W. Donnison Hodges collected almost all the posters as a teenager during World War I. His son, W. Donnison Hodges, Jr. gave them to the Society in 2002. This graphically powerful exhibit commenced with a reception on Sunday July 18, 2004 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Serenity Room at the Nahant Community Center at 41 Valley Road. The exhibit ran from July 21th through December 5th.


Ellingwood Music Series

Photo: Megan Demit, NHS Collection

“This intimate stone hall, with white stucco and stained-glass windows, sits atop a small hill rising from Nahant Bay. It is an ideal setting for chamber music”
Alex Ludwig, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Ellingwood Chapel, in Nahant (unless otherwise noted)
email: or call Jim Walsh at (781) 367-2007

2018 Ellingwood Concert Series

April 7th at the Nahant Village Church
For Our Fathers Ute Gfrerer and Lisa Rosowsky

April 14th at the Nahant Town Hall
The Lorelei Ensemble

May 12th at the Ellingwood Chapel
1905—Beauty in Contrast Fin de Siècle String Quartet

June 17th at the Ellingwood Chapel
Maggie Cole and Haldan Martinson

July 28th at the Ellingwood Chapel
Viva Voice! Viva Viola! The Emily Morvash Trio

August 25th at the Ellingwood Chapel
Transfigured Night Musicians from A Far Cry

September 22nd at the Ellingwood Chapel
The Omer Quartet

December 15th at St. Thomas Aquinas Church
A Christmas Concert The Copley Singers

Friends of the Ellingwood Concert Series
We need the support of our friends.Become an ECC friend and Join the Friends of the Ellingwood Series. Admissions alone do not cover the full costs of our concerts. So please, be a Friend for $100, Player for $250, or best of all, an Angel for $500!

Friend $100 (2 complimentary tickets)
Player $250 (5 complimentary tickets)
Angel $500 (10 complimentary tickets)

“Friends” of the Ellingwood Concert Series will enjoy the satisfaction of sharing this music with the community, while supporting the ongoing restoration of the Chapel, and sponsoring special outreach concerts. Friends will be recognized on the program and with special events. Because so many of you support us, we are able to keep the the series going. Thank you!

Friends of Ellingwood
Special Instructions

If you don’t wish to pay online, you can download a printable donation form (pdf)
Please fill out the downloadable form and make your check payable to:
Nahant Historical Society Ellingwood Series and mail to:

Nahant Historical Society
Att: Ellingwood Series
41 Valley Road, Nahant MA 01908
If you work for a company with a matching gift program, please forward its matching gift form with your contribution.

For more information on the series, please contact Jim Walsh at (781) 367-2007
or email

A note from series organizer Jim Walsh: We offer free concert admission to all students accompanied by a parent or other adult. The Nahant Historical Society and its Ellingwood Concerts are committed to providing an opportunity for students to taste the fine wine of good music and no laws will be broken by sharing this wine with our young people.

Research At The Historical Society

Research Policy

The Nahant Historical Society maintains its collections, a research library and archives to preserve and share the history of the town of Nahant. The Hodges Room library has over one thousand volumes. These consist of Nahant’s history with some of Lynn, Boston and New England. In addition there are sections on maritime history, decorative arts and biographies of people associated with Nahant and American history. Material does not circulate but photocopying is available at the discretion of the Society’s staff. All photocopies, digital reproductions, and prints are provided at the discretion of the Society. We reserve the right to refuse any request. Reproductions are for research and study purposes only, unless written permission to publish is granted by the Society.
Download the Research Policy Guidelines and Request Form (pdf)
One Time Publication Rights
Please note that purchasing a reproduction does not grant the right to publish in any form whatsoever. All requests to publish images, text, or multimedia must be submitted in writing, and will incur additional fees.
The Library is open each Wednesday and Thursday and the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 p.m. except holidays.
Admission to the library is free. You may do your own research without fee after signing in. Staff will assist you with access to library volumes, archive files and object collections.
Photocopy Rates
Members and students .10 cents per page; non-members .20 cents per page
Photographic/Digital Image and Audio reproduction
Reproduction of any artefacts are handled on the basis of the status of each image and variable fees will apply because of the specifics of the reproduction method, previous access and level of fragility. Digital image and audio recording requests must be made in writing.
Research by Mail
General inquiries about our holdings and ready reference questions will be answered free of charge. Regarding more in-depth questions, there is no hourly fee charged for members. Fee charged to non-members is $5 per hour initially with any further charges depending on the research requested.
Research by Telephone or email
We are happy to answer inquiries about the collections and general questions, such as when was Nahant first settled or incorporated. For more in-depth questions, please do so in writing.
Postage/Handling Fees
$10 will be charged for each ten pages in addition to photocopying fees.

Volunteering and Internship At The Historical Society

Volunteer Opportunities

The Nahant Historical Society is a local history museum, dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Nahant. If we can learn from the past, we can do better in the future. Deeply rooted in our community, the Society owes its very existence to the work of its devoted volunteers. We need your help. The Society has extensive museum collections at 41 Valley Road in the Nahant Community Center - but a very small staff. If you can give us a few hours each month, the Society welcomes help with various tasks, such as cataloging, cleaning, filing, graphic design, and research, along with special event tasks.
The Society is especially looking for volunteers with good computer skills who are familiar with Microsoft Excel and Word. We offer specialized training in cataloging, data entry and proper artifact storage. Contact us at 781-581-2727 or email our Information Desk. with Volunteer in the subject line to set up a convenient time to discuss sharing your skills. We look forward to working with you.


The Society has had many mutually enriching internships with graduate, undergraduate, and high school level students. We welcome you to join our volunteers in a rewarding real world museum experience. The Society is focused firmly on the future. We are cataloging our collections with PastPerfect museum software, used by over 9,000 history museums across America. If interested, please send cover letter and resume including your contact information to Julie Tarmy, Director, Nahant Historical Society, 41 Valley Road, Nahant, MA 01908. For questions, you may contact us at our Information Desk. with Internship in the subject line.
Important: our internships are ongoing and unpaid. The position is available to undergraduate and graduate level college students for credit. It is open to high school students for community service. The number of hours worked is negotiable, depending on your educational institution’s requirements. The Society’s Curator will supervise you. We look forward to working with you.

  • Firm desire to learn more about local history
  • Strong interest in working in a museum environment
  • Possess good research, problem solving, and organizational skills
  • Strong grasp of Microsoft Excel and Word, a plus
  • Team player, especially with volunteers
  • Understanding of proper modern workplace attire

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