Friday, August 31, 2007

Peddock's Island

I went out Wednesday to visit Peddock's Island in Boston Harbor. Peddock's isn't the biggest island in the harbor in terms of area, but it has the longest shoreline. You could easily spend hours wandering the rocky beaches and exploring the island's very diverse topography.

The first sight you'll notice when you get off the boat is a boarded-up church near the docks. Except for the boards and the worn paint, the church looks as if it was transplanted from the rolling hills of Vermont. The church served Fort Andrews, which was built at the turn of the 20th century. The fort was abandoned after World War II, and there are numerous dilapidated brick buildings on the east head of the islands that are fenced off from the public. Probably the most notable use of Fort Andrews was that it housed Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War. Definitely an odd connection you wouldn't expect and one that's more interesting when you notice that the shape of Peddock's is fairly similar to Italy.

What gives Peddock's its unique character among the 34 islands, though, is its collection of summer cottages and islanders. Most of the summer cottages, which lack running water and electricity, are located in the middle part of the island. Follow the central visitor path from the Fort and it will bring you past the cottages. Some of the cottages are in tough shape, abandoned and falling apart. But you're also struck by the bright yellows, blues, reds, greens, and pinks (yes, pink) used to paint the well-kept cottages. And some of these "cottages" are bigger than I would have thought. Some are more like summer beach homes with porches, decks, patio furniture, and grills. (The outhouses, though, let you know you're not on the Cape.) The history of the cottages is as colorful as their paint jobs. The antecedents of some cottages date to the 1890s when Portuguese fishermen floated (yes, floated) their houses to the island after being forced to move from Long Island. There are stories of bootleggers during prohibition and many generations grew up on the island.

After you pass the Middle Head, keep going on the visitors path to the West Head. Soon the pathway takes you through a denser overgrowth. The pathway suddenly becomes a tunnel as you are enveloped by the green canopy. It's a pretty impressive sight.

Unfortunately, the public ferry to Peddock's only runs through Labor Day, but there are a few days left and the weather is supposed to be great. One piece of advice: show up at the dock at least 15 minutes early to catch the ferry off the island since it has a tendency to show early or confirm pickup with the ferry operator.

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