From the time when the first English settlers came to Nantucket in the mid-1600s until after the American Revolution, Nantucketers simply took the most convenient route from house to house, place to place, and when pressed, might describe the more-traveled ones as “the north road” or “the highway.” Then, during the presidency of John Adams, all towns in the United States of America were required to submit to the federal government a list of the streets in each town. To comply with the requirement, Nantucket’s assessor, Isaac Coffin, came up with exactly one hundred street names for Nantucket and described them in terms of abutting properties and dwelling houses.
Quaker Nantucketers were unenthusiastic about patriotic names such as Washington Street, Jefferson Street, Liberty Street, Federal Street, and the like, but the names stuck anyhow. Most of the 1799 streets and their names continue to this today.
There have been just a few changes over the centuries. Pearl Street became India Street. Angola Street remains as described by Isaac Coffin, but because of a mapmaker’s error, a parallel street next over became Angora Street for a while. Angora Street is now Candlehouse Lane. The in-town part of the old north road was North Street up until the construction of the Sea Cliff Inn, at which point—for purposes of promotion—North Street became Cliff Road.
By now, the 1799 streets have been joined by a great many new streets, roads, and lanes, but most of the street names assigned by Isaac Coffin are with us still.
Research credit: Frances Karttunen.
Photo: View of North Mill Street near the intersection of Angola Street, circa 1928. Gift of Dorothy H Boyd,P17888....
This basket was made by John H. Kittila Jr. (1918-1984) aboard a lightship in 1952. Kittila was Chief Warrant Officer of the Coast Guard and served for thirty years. Born on Nantucket, his time with the Coast Guard took him all around the country. During his service, he did a tour of duty as Commander on the South Shoals Lightship, thirty miles off the southeast of Nantucket.
In an interview with The Inquirer and Mirror, when asked how men passed the time during the long hours aboard a lightship, he replied, “the usual type of work – maintenance, repair, cleaning, and painting…each evening we always had a movie, followed by popcorn and a game before turning in…then, later we had television…in my spare time I made a 9x12 braided woolen rug, made lightship baskets and handbags.”
Happy Stroll Weekend! We may not have snow on the ground, but there is no shortage of holiday spirit and trimmings throughout town.
The Festival of Trees is now open at the Whaling Museum, along with our special display of Home for the Holidays featuring over 200 illuminated stained-glass houses and churches augmented with hand-made glass trees and animals.
We also have launched a new FIND A TREE resource for visitors to track down any tree they may be looking for, among the over 90 trees on display. It is also a great way to view the trees if you can’t make it in for a visit. Click the link in our story to explore more!
STROLL WEEKEND HOURS:
Friday, December 2: 10am–7pm
Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4: 10am–4pm
Photo: year unknown, gift of P.J. Cunagin in 2021 (Acc. RL2021.6)....
Today we highlight an exciting new acquisition to the collection, Herman Melville’s copy of Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket.
This book is believed to be the sole surviving souvenir from Herman Melville’s first and only trip to Nantucket. It is a first edition of Obed Macy’s 1835 History of Nantucket, given by Obed’s son Thomas to Melville. The title-page inscription reads, “Herman Melville / from his friend Tho. A Macy 7 1/m 1852”. Scattered pencil markings throughout the book are probably by Melville.
Herman Melville visited Nantucket just once, eight months after the U.S. publication of his novel Moby-Dick. He accompanied his father-in-law, Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, who had court business on island. “I wish [Herman] to see some of the gents at New Bedford & Nantucket connected with whaling,” Shaw wrote beforehand.
Judge Shaw knew Thomas Macy from previous island visits. Significantly, in 1851, Shaw had acquired a copy of Owen Chase’s Narrative of the Essex disaster from Macy to give to Melville while Melville was writing Moby-Dick. The Essex story was essential inspiration for the novel, and Melville appears to have worked from various second-hand accounts prior to obtaining Chase’s book. Naturally, Melville and Shaw called on Macy during their visit, and the gift of this book resulted.
Pictured here is a watercolor by Tony Sarg, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, with a scene of a turkey being surrounded by Thanksgiving and Christmas symbols.
Tony Sarg (1880-1942) was known popularly for his work as a puppeteer, illustrator, toymaker, window designer, and creator of the original Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Sarg began coming to Nantucket with New York friends in the early 1920s, and purchased a home on North Liberty Street in 1922.
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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.