By Edward P. Guild.
The outline of Boston harbor somewhat resembles a very irregular letter C, with its open side facing to the north-east. The upper horn terminates with Point Shirley, in the town of Winthrop. The lower horn is a narrow ridge of land of varying width, extending four miles from the mainland, then abruptly turning to the westward for three miles. This peninsula is the town of Hull; the sharp elbow is Point Allerton.
The stretch of four miles from the point to the mainland is of greatly varying width, the harbor side being of most irregular and fantastic outline; but the side toward the sea is smooth and even, and forms Nantasket Beach,—one of the most popular watering-places on the Atlantic coast.
The development of Nantasket as a summer resort began a long time ago, although the era of large hotels and popular excursions began in the last few years. Forty or fifty vears ago people from Boston, Dorchester, Hingham, and other towns, when hungering for a sniff of unalloyed sea-breeze, or a repast of the genuine clam-chowder, were in the habit of resorting to this beach, where they could pitch their tents, or find accommodations in the rather humble cottages which were already beginning to dot the shore. That the delights of the beach were appreciated then is evinced by the habitual visits of many noted men of the time, among them Daniel Webster, who often came here for recreation, usually bringing his gun with him that he might indulge his sporting proclivities; and, according to his biographer, “he was a keen sportsman. Until past the age of sixty-five he was a capital shot; and the feathered game in his neighborhood was, of course, purely wild. He used to say, after he had been in England, that shooting in ‘preserves’ seemed to him very much like going out and murdering the barn-door fowl. His shooting was of the woodcock, the wild-duck, and the various marsh-birds that frequent the coast of New England.... Nor would he unmoor his dory with his ‘bob and line and sinker,’ for a haul of cod or hake or haddock, without having Ovid, or Agricola, or Pharsalia, in the pocket of his old gray overcoat, for the ‘still and silent hour’ upon the deep.”
Another frequent visitor—Peter Peregrine—wrote: “The Nantasket Beach is the most beautiful I ever saw. It sweeps around in a majestic curve, which, if it were continued so as to complete the circle, would of itself embrace a small sea. There was a gentle breeze upon the water, and the sluggish waves rolled inward with a languid movement, and broke with a low murmur of music in long lines of foam against the opposite sands. The surface of the sea was, in every direction, thickly dotted with sails; the air was of a delicious temperature, and altogether it was a scene to detain one for hours.”