Sunday, October 2, 2011

Josiah Dennis Manse Museum


Missed this house museum by one day on my first visit to the Cape this June and you may have visited before me if you read the July 26 post to this blog. The Josiah Dennis Manse Museum held its grand reopening after the town of Dennis completed a 2.7 million dollar five year restoration. So the home was a must see on our September return trip to the Cape.

The incredibly well informed guides held our attention with stories about the home, its inhabitants, and maritime life on Cape Cod. But there was one particular story that we all focused on.

Floating lighthouses were once used to keep ships safe from shallows,reefs and other treacherous waters. They were in use between 1820 and 1985 with the heyday being 1909. At least initially they were without they're own power and were hauled out to the site by another boat. They were eventually replaced by buoys, LNB's(large Navigational Buoys)or Texas Towers.

Back in 1918 the Cross Rip Lightship with 6 crew members on board was towed to its post in the Tuckernuck Shoals. After a long winter the boat became encased in a frozen sea. The First Mate walked a long 3 miles back to shore to ask permission to abandon the Cross Rip before the boat was washed out to sea as the granite anchor had been pulled loose in the melting ice.

The owners refused permission to abandon the ship reminding the mate of the lightship creed "You have to go out; you don't have to come in." Chilling!

And they didn't come in. A few months later a rudder and American flag from the Cross Rip lightship washed ashore.

Want to tour a lightship? There's one berthed at Jack London Square in Oakland,CA that's open for weekend public tours. Or maybe you'd rather read about them. Try Lightships: Floating Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast by Wayne Kiklin published in 2007.

One of the best parts of my visit was the discussion in the car on the way home. Mostly I just sat and listened to my 3 companions discuss what they really enjoyed and what was most remarkable about our visit. It was energizing to see others get excited about this house museum. It happens to me all the time.

Here's a little check list for your tour. If your guide doesn't tell you first then be sure to ask about:

* What's strange about the shadow box portrait of Nathan Stone Jr?

* How many other US towns are named after its first minister?

* Why both young boys and girls learned stitchery?

* Why Lulu the pony sailed the seas on a clipper ship?

* Why smoking pipes were made to be broken multiple times?

* How one slept tight on a rope bed?

One more question to June or Nancy. Can you tell me something about the beautiful front step or round stone? I saw something similar, though not as grand, at another Cape house museum.

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