FHS Launches Bicentennial of the Old Stone Dock

The following story appeared in the Falmouth Enterprise on Friday, 04/14/17

Fifty Falmouth High School students gathered in the school’s auditorium last Monday, 04/10/17 to start a town-wide commemoration of the 200-year history of the Old Stone Dock on Surf Drive Beach. They were encouraged by an equal number of town leaders and members of the Old Stone Dock Association as they begin their research for their spring workshops.

The Old Stone Dock, built in 1817, has continued to serve the town for 200 years, according to Mr. Kevin M. Doyle, the President of the Old Stone Dock Association. First, as a center for commercial activity and then as a recreational asset serving day sailors and finally beach goers.  It is currently used as the “Kiddie Pool” at Surf Drive Beach.

In his talk, “History, Heroes, and Hurricanes,” Mr. Doyle explained how the founders of Falmouth came from Barnstable in 1660 and settled in Wampanoag fishing grounds along Mill Road. As the town grew towards the Village Green, the merchants continued to rely on packet ships, sailing to ports from New York to Boston, to conduct commerce.   It is likely, though not readily verifiable, that wooden docks and piers served the settlers until the Great Gale of September 1815 destroyed the strongest dock, built from palm tree trunks.  That was when the town decided to build a dock with a massive granite base that would quell the waves around the pilings.

The courage and pride of Falmouth citizens was exhibited on the shoreline during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812 when Falmouth resisted landings and endured a cannonade from HMS Nimrod rather than succumb to British rule. The role of the militia in the Revolutionary War was commemorated by a Bicentennial reenactment on Surf Drive Beach in 1979.  The Town Hall mural by J. Downs depicts the actual attack, and a painting in the Selectmen’s chambers by Karen Rinaldo celebrates the reenactment.

The lecture was heavily illustrated with vintage postcards from the Robert C. Hunt collection, donated to the Falmouth Public Library. Also used, were photographs from Mr. Donald Fish’s unique collection.   A sequence of images showed the evolution of Falmouth Harbor after Deacons Pond was dredged and Clinton Avenue was cut off to create the opening to the harbor in 1908.

After the lecture, senior Annie Marshall said that she “learned some history of the town that I never knew before.” Classmate Rita Sherwood agreed saying, “It was fascinating to learn about the unseen history of our town.”   Student Jack Doyle (no relation to the speaker) was interested to learn more about the British attacks on Falmouth and the pride of the citizens in defending their town.  Perhaps most representative of students’ reactions was Lizzie Bressoud who simply stated, “All my life I never knew that the rocks were once a town dock!”

Students from art teacher Mrs. Jane Baker and English teacher Mrs. Lauren Kenny’s classes will collaborate to create an artwork known as Haibun, which pairs prose and haiku poetry with a graphic depiction of an object or sentiment.   The students will be given free choice about how to celebrate the Dock’s history, from the establishment of landings along the shore, to the abandonment of the dock as rail roads and steam boats moved commerce to Woods Hole around 1900.   When completed, their artwork is planned to be displayed at Falmouth High School, Highfield Hall, Falmouth Art Center, and the Museums on the Green.

Among those attending to encourage the students were Town Manager Julian Suso, Historic Society Director Mark Schmidt, Preservation Alliance President Barbara Weyand, Art Center Director Suzy Bergman, Falmouth Library Director Linda Collins, Nobska Lighthouse Committee Member Barbara Meissner, historical artist Karen Rinaldo, and longtime historical resource Bill Swift.   Also lending support were Deputy DPW Director Peter McConarty and Highway Superintendent Jim Grady who have been instrumental in the maintenance and beautification of Surf Drive and the area near the Dock.

High School Principal Mary Gans, also a member of the Old Stone Dock Association, was very complimentary of her students and staff for pursuing this initiative and thanked the many attendees for their support.