Friday, June 25, 2010

Web 2.0 & New Bedford Belgium Block

Besides my meeting with Mathieu Plourde about Web 2.0 possibilities & doing a little bit more reading in "Patina of Place," I didn't really accomplish too too much. However, I did think a lot about how I might want to set up my thesis & what it might entail.

My Web 2.0 meeting went really well, there are so many possibilities on the web &, in my mind, they all constitute low-impact development that could assist in adding more numbers to the tourism count of the city. All my online research has provided a mixed bag & I'll be using that as part of my argument. There needs to be connectivity & more web presence. During a presentation Mathieu made while I was in PEMCI, he said something along the lines of "people are always going to be talking; it's up to you to decide if you want to be part of the conversation," which really set me off thinking about online content for towns & how this hurts or helps tourism.

While reading "Patina of Place" I came across a mention of a particular building material being discussed in the context of the industrial development of the North End. Kingston Heath states: "Unlike the unsightly dirt roads surrounding Wamsutta's tenement blocks, the major thoroughfares surrounding the Grinnell Mill Village were paved with New Bedford Belgium block (a granite, brick-shaped paving stone imbedded in sand)." {page 82}

I had never heard of a New Bedford Belgium block, but I did know that cobblestones had been used to pave the New Bedford Whaling National Park in the late 1990's. I was immediately curious about whether or not these could be New Bedford Belgium blocks. It would be wonderful if they were since it would mean that the city made an effort to incorporate not only a historic building material, but also a local one.

I did some digging.

I found a report from 1998, by Christine A. Arato & Patrick L. Eleey, entitled: Safely Moored at Last: Cultural Landscape Report for New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park {I also posted a link to this in the Online Resources section}. It had great information on anything & everything related to the physical state of the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park. Here's a selection from this report on Belgium Blocks, which it turns out are used in the National Park {yay preservation!}:

"Within the New Bedford Whaling NHP, the streets and side-walks are constructed with a limited variety of materials. These include granite, brick, flagstone, cobble, and asphalt. Granite Belgian blocks, cut to a dimension approximately 4 by 10 by 6 inches and originally used as ballast on merchant ships returning to the New World from Belgium, constitute the surface paving for most streets in the park. The blocks differ in size, color, and spacing. The variances in their appearance range from small sharp-edged blue granite to larger rounded-edge granite with a high iron content, resulting in a warmer, browner color. These warmer-colored stones tend to be slightly larger than the blue ones. Blocks that had been used previously as paving material in the nineteenth century have been reused, wherever possible, when roads were repaved. These previously-used stones were cleaned before being re-laid. The age of the pavers is quite obvious when compared to the contemporary stones; their smoother edges show more signs of weathering. Belgian blocks serve a variety of uses in the park. Most streets are paved with Belgian block in a running bond pattern, as are curb cuts for parking lot and driveway entrances.... "

{Taken from page 75 under the section entitled SURFACE MATERIALS}

"Street paving, begun in the 1830s and completed within two decades, employed cobblestones. Granite curbing and flagged sidewalks served a largely pedestrian traffic, while granite runners spanned many of the intersections in order to facilitate moving large casks from the harbor to the various processing centers in the area. The introduction of horse-drawn street cars in 1872 required repaving some sections of William, North Second, and Middle Streets along which the tracks were laid. Belgian blocks subsequently replaced the worn cobblestones of many streets, providing a smoother ride for carriage and, after 1900, automobile traffic. During the 1970s preservation efforts restored a running bond pattern of Belgian blocks to streets that had been paved with asphalt during the early decades of the twentieth century. Flagstone panels constitute the majority of paving materials installed in the property’s sidewalks and crosswalks. Ornamental borders consisting of various combinations of cobblestone, Belgian block, and brick bracket the sidewalk flagging. Extant circulation features that probably date to the period of significance are limited to the overall street pattern, a series of bluestone panels in the sidewalk that fronts the Double Bank building on Water Street, and the eastern section of the granite runners lining the southern side of Centre Street..."

{Taken from page 93 under the section entitled CIRCULATION & SURFACE MATERIALS}

Isn't research great! It's almost like a form of free association with one thing leading to the next & on to the next, sometimes I can't remember how I got on one track from the previous!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sustainable Tourism Thoughts

So, amidst the glorious weather that was today I read about 100 pages of "Patina of Place"....pretty proud of my progress so far! I'm loving the book, it's giving me all kinds of thoughts, specifically about how I want to go about defining sustainable tourism for my project.

I have only briefly tackled this aspect of my thesis, by gathering a small portion of the multitude of definitions of what sustainability is & what sustainable tourism encompasses. Now, I'm not an environmental scientist, that is definitely not my forte, so I'm trying to stay away from ways to effect certain percentages of change in the contamination of soils, waters, etc, since I would have no idea about that sort of thing!

However, I have decided {well, as of now} that for New Bedford a certain definition of sustainable tourism might be more appropriate. For cities like New Bedford, and really, all other places that don't have copious capital to put forth, development really needs to begin on a smaller scale. There are a lot of changes that can be made without a lot of effort. Things like connecting with your desired audience using Web 2.0 platforms {Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Flickr, etc} is a great way to get started. Encouraging and supporting local businesses that use local food and products is another way to support economic development starting on the inside. Low impact development, like creating bike lanes, for example, is another part of sustainable tourism.

I had plenty of other thoughts today that I keep voraciously writing down in a notebook. Tomorrow, in addition to reading more of "Patina of Place" & having a lunchtime meeting with Mathieu Plourde {over @ this blog & this blog} to discuss usage of Web 2.0, I would really like to start doing some writing of the thoughts I have so far!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Patina of Place"

I took Patina of Place: The Cultural Weathering of a New England Industrial Landscape by Kingston Heath out of the University of Delaware library today. I'm not terribly far into it, but I wanted to share some thoughts - well, one thought really {so far that is} -that we both seem to heartily agree on.

"I contend that the story of this leading whaling port and textile city should not be seen as ending with the eclipse of its two 'golden ages.' Instead, through the record of ongoing change in the face of industrial decline and demographic shifts, New Bedford's evolving regional character within New England is further revealed."
  • Heath, Kingston Wm., Patina of Place: The Cultural Weathering of a New England Industrial Landscape (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2001), page xviii

There is so much more of the story to tell than economic decline - there is so much hope for this city & it has so much character to share....well, in my opinion at least!

Save This House

Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE {W.H.A.L.E} is taking donations to save the 1834 John Howland Jr. House on 38 South Sixth Street!

"This rare, brick mansion reminiscent of the magnificent architecture built during the whaling era was ravaged by fire in 2005 and has been exposed to the elements for more than five years causing severe deterioration. Making matters worse, its owners improperly removed structural support beams in the house when clearing out debri. As a result, the Howland house is in imminent danger and needs immediate intervention."

"Recognizing this fact and the property's historical and architectural significance, WHALE is purchasing this historic house for $237,000 to prevent its demolition and ensure its reuse."

About the House {all taken from link}

  • Built in 1834 for John and Sarah Howland Jr.
  • Exceptional example of transitional Federal/Greek Revival style architecture and the substantial wealth that was made in the whaling industry in New Bedford.
  • Contributing building in the County Street National Register Historic District.
  • One of a complex of three remarkable and extremely rare, brick mansions built for the Howland family on South Sixth Street.

About the Howland Family {all taken from link}

"The Howland family was among
New Bedford’s most prominent and wealthy families. A native of New Bedford, John Howland Jr. partnered with his brother James in “J & J Howland Merchants” on Middle Street and he was one of fifteen original trustees of the New Bedford Institution for Savings. The Howland family, unlike many of their Quaker counterparts, chose to build their grand mansions and fine homes along Sixth Street. The County Street Historic District Nomination states that:

Of the city’s wealthiest men, only members of two branches of the Howland family – George Howland Sr. and Jr. and John Howland Sr. and his sons John Jr. and James II – did not build on
County Street.

One of Howland’s relatives even “warned his children that building a house on County Street would expose them to ‘pernicious influence’.

This building is currently slated for demolition & is structurally unsound - check out the link to the site above to learn more about the house & family or to donate money to help save it.

parlez français!

My patrolling of the web for French Canadian history in New Bedford hasn't stopped & I just ran into this piece. {I also posted a link in the "In the News" section}

Richelieu Club keeps French going in New Bedford by Kim Ledoux is a great article that brings into question reasons or methods to keep your history going. This article goes on to say: "Years ago, New Bedford was a French-speaking city. Far fewer people speak French here today, so there is a need to find others who do," said Lynette Ouellette, vice president of the New Bedford Richelieu Club

My mother spoke French growing up & even into school & my Mémère & her both sang to me & my siblings & cousins when we were growing up, but as we got older a lot of our French speaking went away {although, we still love our meat pie, this isn't our recipe, but you get the idea!}. My father's side of the family also has strong French Canadian {& French-French} roots, although they settled in Maine, as opposed to southeast Massachusetts. We still maintain a little of the language, but it's a weakened form of franglais. It really upsets me sometimes, since it is my heritage afterall!

In my opinion, what makes New Bedford such an interesting place is its immigrant population. This is a city that has not lost its sense of place; the city feels different. However, if what makes a place different is not maintained, then it becomes boring - why would you want to go somewhere that looks & feels like every other place else. In the words of Sarah Delano, President of W.H.A.L.E from 1966 to 1982: "If you bulldoze your heritage, you become just anywhere." With the removal of bilingual education in small Catholic schools {where nuns spoke French} & the general acceptance of English at home & outside, as opposed to maintaining French inside of the home as a tradition - more & more people became fully assimilated & their culture faded away - I suppose, in a way, we are discussing the metaphorical "bulldozing" of our heritage.

The Richelieu Club, founded in 1958 in New Bedford, is trying to reach out to any and every French speaking immigrant or resident in the city to encourage people to speak the language to prevent it from dying out. Today, only 6% of New Bedford's population is French, & I would be sad to see any more of this culture disappear from the landscape.

French Canadians

As a person of almost all French Canadian ancestry - with much of it coming out of New Bedford - I'm really shocked that I cannot find any websites, organizations, etc dedicated to the history of these people who labored in the cotton mills. I couldn't find too many that discuss the history of contributions of the Portuguese people either. I'm not going to stop looking & if any out there has any suggestions, that would be very valuable. The main New Bedford Historical Society interprets the history of African Americans, Cape Verdeans, American Indians, West Indians, & other people of color in the city. While it is wonderful to include and study so many varied backgrounds of immigrant populations in the city, it leaves out the French Canadians & the Portuguese contributions to New Bedford!

Friday, June 18, 2010

History Lesson

As I stated in the previous post, this is my week to learn about the general history of New Bedford. Now, my project will really deal with the present, but, mostly, the future of this city. So, why all the history? I really believe that heritage tourism can be an effective cure for cities {& towns} looking to expand their tax base - who doesn't want economic growth? Since the tourism industry includes direct & indirect businesses in their definition, this also incorporates things like train stations, airports, cafes, shops, etc -really anything a tourist might do while on a visit. Adding the sustainability factor on top of all this economic growth can really be viewed as an interesting marketing approach -let alone doing something good for the environment.

Anyways, back to history. I have a really simplistic overview of the basic history of New Bedford, but I really want to know as much as possible for this project- & not just so I feel confident when I discuss it! The big picture history, such as whaling, industry, connections to the Underground Railroad are all things that can be used to define a city, but the smaller, more unusual aspects of its past can be used to garner repeat visitations & foster curiosity from outsiders, but more importantly from residents. A large aspect of sustainable tourism focuses on local, this is for many reasons, but in my opinion it's because while weekend trips from people 100 miles, give or take, away is a great thing to strive for, this is a once or a once in awhile visitor. Residents, in town or nearby, should be the main audience catered to since they can form a network of permanent patrons.

So, what did I learn about New Bedford's history this week? Well, for one thing, that there is a whole lot more to learn, but here are some highlights. All these tidbits, as well as the photographs, were garnered from the City of New Bedford website, under the Tourism & Marketing section {go here to read more}:

  • New Bedford's discovery by English explorers occured 18 years before Plymouth {!}
  • 3 major industries were whaling, manufacture of cotton goods, & general fishing -which still brings in money today {about $800 million/year}
  • Greatest whaling port in the world {surpassed Nantucket in this endeavor by the early 19th century}
  • Inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick
  • When petroleum gas was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, New Bedford began a state of decline since their economy rested largely on whaling & it's products {i.e whale oil} & by this time the whale had been hunted to near extinction
  • The first dedicated YMCA in the country {in 1891} was in New Bedford {NW corner of William & 6th. The original building was demolished in 1975, after a lot of public outcry. This loss started the historic preservation movement in the city.} {!}
  • After the cotton/fabric mills moved south {for cheaper production costs}, the needle trade {skilled stitching, fine clothing} remained. New Bedford remains the location for the production of some of the finest brands of men's suits.
  • Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1780. The nation abolished it, with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, in 1865. New Bedford had long before either of these dates eradicated the practice. It was known as a location for abolitionists & the Underground Railroad. Frederick Douglas lived here from 1838 - 1841.

  • From it's earliest days, New Bedford was a cosmopolitan city with immigrants from Ireland, Portugal {& it's many islands}, Cape Verde, French Canada, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Italy, Germany, Norway, Lebanon, Greece, Russia, & more
  • Great water connections. "...true wealth in the 21st century & its key to future growth, is its abundance of clean water, the quality & quantity of which is unsurpassed in all of southern New England."
  • As a result of the frequent onslaught of hurricanes, a 3.5 mile long stone barrier was constructed between 1962 and 1966. It cost $18.1 million & is the largest stone structure on the East Coast of the United States. It also made New Bedford the safest port on the eastern seaboard.
  • In November of 1996, the US Congress set aside 34 acres, consisting of 13 city blocks, in downtown to create the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park.
  • Tourism is a fast growing segment of the local economy. New Bedford is defining itself as the "city of art."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


After a discussion with my thesis advisor yesterday about the best ways to go about researching & writing, from a time management perspective, I realized that I needed to make an outline. This will mostly be for organizing my research process, not necessarily in the set up of the paper, yet.

This is what I have so far:

This week: History & some current events {by default of setting up a blog}
Next week: Organizations involved in tourist activities & historic preservation
Last week of June/beginning of July: Problems & positives {what's helping & what's hindering economic growth through tourism}
July: Oral History with Mémère & interviews with business owners
All throughout this time line: basic information on sustainable & heritage tourism
August: start seriously writing, although I hope to have some paragraphs regarding the above research in process. This is another reason why I think researching through a blog form can be beneficial, all hopes of public outreach aside, this will be a way for me to gather information, photos, thoughts, & news in one space.

I know it looks idealistic, but I can work really efficiently when I want to/have the time to! Fingers crossed.

{image: City Data, Palmer's Island Lighthouse}

New Bedford on Flickr

Whilst browsing the internet for images of Johnnycake Hill, so people not from New Bedford could create a mental image, I came across this great photo stream on Flickr by user MadChicken22. His shots are gorgeous! While only five photos in his Summer 2008 album are from the Whaling City, the rest depict equally beautiful New England scenes, from such places as Boston & Natick.

{all photos courtesy of Mad.Chicken on Flickr}

Monday, June 14, 2010

Research Launch

The semester has finished.
The PEMCI summer program is completed.
Now, there is nothing in my way of beginning the long journey of this thesis adventure.

I woke up feeling productive, went into work, & promptly went over to
Morris Library. I had the intention of dropping off some books on sustainable tourism I have been hoarding for a few months & to see if there was anything on the general history of New Bedford to get me going.

I was correct in my skepticism that the University of Delaware Library wouldn't have too much in the way of this topic; it's outside of the state after all. I have more hope that when I head home to Massachusetts I'll be able to find much more than this unbelievably heavy tome I have been lugging around with me: History of New Bedford and Its Vicinity 1602-1892 by Leonard Bolles Ellis (Syracuse, N.Y: D. Mason & Co. Publishers, 1892). It's a little ancient to say the least.

I was lucky enough, however, to check out a small, and in quite poor condition, reprint of the Diary of Rev. Moses How: An Epoch in New Bedford's Early History. Rev. Moses How was the "Pastor of the Middle Street Christian Church, New Bedford, from 1819 to 1826 and from 1837 until 1844. Chaplain of the Seaman's Bethel from 1844 until 1859" according to the first page of this booklet. There is not a date or location of publishing on this version, but the complete diary is available at the New Bedford Public Library, so I will be able to look into the remainder of the text at that location. The diary also contains fragments of Rev. How's son's journal, W.S.G Howe, dating to 1851. It was in this section that I, surprisingly, found this perfectly appropriate, excerpt:

Monday, May 24. "...At last the city authorities have commenced the sacrilegious act of levelling down 'Johnny Cake Hill.' The first charge on the ancient rock was made last Saturday afternoon. The time will not be far distant when all the landmarks so familiar to the present generation will, by the unsparing hand of Improvement be taken away from our view, and exist only in some ancient picture, or on the tablet of the brain, to be treasured up as memorials of former times...." {located on page 28 of this reprinted edition from the University of Delaware Library}

Interest in historic preservation dating back to 1851! W.S.G Howe, unknowingly {obviously}, aided in my New Bedford focused thesis 159 years earlier! I'm a huge advocate of preserving our local heritage, not just for reasons of tourism and economic development, but as a key to the empowerment of town residents. Not every town's history has to have a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln to be considered important & worthy of saving & appreciation. Although, New Bedford has some pretty heavy history in its corner!

{image: New Bedford Port Society, Our Community}

Stay with me on this adventure as I learn more about this remarkable city's history & how, I think, it can use it's heritage to its own economic advantage!

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