Beach Cottages of the New England Coastline
I recently had a potential collector ask about my photograph of this row of Beach Cottages in Wells, Maine. It’s interesting. From my perspective as a photographer, I was interested in capturing and creating in post processing a feeling of summers at the beach in a row of old beach cottages that could represent a lot of places up and down the New England coastline.
They wanted to know if it was Moody Beach or the beaches off of Atlantic Avenue. I had to check the map to figure out exactly where it was taken. Turns out it was Atlantic Avenue but for me it was just one leg of a fun road trip that started in Portsmouth, NH and meandered up the coast line stopping and exploring and ultimately leading to a great seafood dinner on the way home. Off season exploring and an especially warm October weekend.
Most of the cottages appeared to be closed up for the season but there were a few people walking around enjoying some last season sun before Mother Nature drops into an long cold winter.
To me the two people walking towards the sun on the left makes this photograph. Without them it would be a row of empty houses and perhaps have a more somber tone. With the couple walking along, enjoying the beach the image speaks more to memories of a place, perhaps one from your youth or from a treasured vacation moment.
My family had a cottage in a beach association just like this one. It wasn’t on the water but it was a nice walk down the street with a red flyer wagon full of inflatable rafts, towels, beach blanket, pails, shovels, sunscreen and a few bucks for the ice cream man.
My intent was creating an image that could represent anywhere and everywhere along the coast line where old fashioned non-existent zoning laws allowed cottages to be built right up to the water. Dunes and climate change be damned, these summer houses were build up right before and then with gusto, after World War II when lumber started to become available again after the war time shortages.
The hurricane of 1938 opened up a lot of lots along the shore front and human memory regarding catastrophic weather events is short lived.
Also called the Long Island Express, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was the most destructive storm to strike the region in the 20th century. The officially unnamed hurricane was born out a tropical cyclone that developed in the eastern Atlantic on September 10, 1938, near the Cape Verde Islands.
The cottage my grandfather built, to the size of a two car garage because that was all the lumber allowed after WWII, on a tiny lot , was about a half mile from the beach and the water from subsequent hurricanes and storms typically stopped at the house next door.
The houses directly on the beach at Chalker Beach, CT and other shoreline communities up and down the coast weren’t so lucky and a number were destroyed after Sandy. But two or three years later, they are rebuilt, bigger than ever. I guess good insurance policies or simply digging deeper into the bank account made sure of that. There always seems to be a new generation with more money to pump into a house built on sand but with a million dollar view.