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Nahant Historical Society

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


howe estate
Vignette: Nahant on the Rocks

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.

LL The Lowland Buddha Lives!
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. As an extra-special treat, Dr. Daisy Yiyou Wang, Curator of Chinese and East Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum, will share her new research on the history of collecting Buddhist art in the Boston area and beyond in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Why Buddhist art? How did a number of prominent individuals and institutions form their Buddhist collections?

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 info@nahanthistory.org.

LL The Bark Sarah
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 oceangoing Sarah, upon which he sailed in 1887.
Valiant Title Panel

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. http://www.masshumanities.org/

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 Photograph

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

Valiant Research Inventory

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.

Valiant Research Inventory
PDF Document

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.