Back to Exhibits

Special Exhibits

A "day at the beach" conjures images of relaxation, refreshment and recreation--a chance to get away from it all, even if only for a day. And our ocean beaches have long beckoned to those seeking relief from the heat and humidity that accompanies the summer in Massachusetts. Our state boasts hundreds of miles of beaches from the North Shore to the Southeastern corner of the state. Of course, Cape Cod's National Seashore offers some of the most exquisite, pristine beaches found anywhere in the northeast. Revere Beach Reservation in 1900

Revere Beach has the distinction of being the first public beach in the United States. Revere Beach was established in 1895 when the Massachusetts legislature took ownership of a swatch of private coastline. In 1896, the Massachusetts District Commission (MDC) was given control of the land for development. The MDC hired Charles Eliot, a student of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the land that is now the Revere Beach Reservation, "for the best use by the public."

Revere Beach ReservationThe beach initially became a recreational destination during the 1800's. At that time, it was commonly believed that exposure to both the sea water and salt air helped to promote good health and to heal those who were ill. Coastal resorts began to develop in Massachusetts by the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the popular destinations initially were in Nahant, Swampscott, Lynn, and Cape Ann, including Magnolia, Gloucester, Manchester, and Rockport. The Medical Record (1896) provided physicians with a guide to best vacation destinations for people with a variety of medical conditions.

It said, in part: West Beach Pier, Beverly Farms, Mass.;The climate of the seashore in summer approaches, in a general way, closely to that of the ocean itself. As compared with the interior the temperature is apt to be lower and is much less liable to sudden variations; the air is dense, in consequence of the low level, and it therefore contains more oxygen. The air, moreover, is heavily charged with moisture and the quantity of ozone is greater than that contained in other air.

Long Beach, Rockport, Cape Ann, Mass.As regards the salt in seashore air it may be well to say that it has been demonstrated that salt exists as an ingredient of the air only in the immediate neighborhood of the water, where the wind catches up the finely divided spray of the breakers and carries it a short distance up the shore. It is questionable, then, if the salt in the air plays an important or even appreciable part in producing the therapeutic effects of seashore life. The dense air, the large proportion of moisture, the freedom from dust particles, and the equable temperature are probably the essential factors. To these, however, must be added the wonderfully stimulating effects of salt water and, more especially, of surf bathing..."

Dane Street Beach and Lyons Park, Beverly, Mass.Benjamin Arrington, in his 1922 book, Municipal history of Essex County in Massachusetts ..." noted that there were "twenty-one beaches along the shore of Greater Lynn. Of these, commencing at the east, are Phillips', Whale, Swampscott (Fisherman's) and Humphrey's (King's) in Swampscott; Lynn, Nahant, Stoney, Bass, Canoe, Bathing, Pea Island, Joseph's, Curlew, Crystal, Dorothy's, Pond, Lewis, Coral, Reed, Johnson's and Black Rock."

Beach scene, Lynn, Mass., 1928"Most of the beaches are of smooth sand and well adapted to the sea bathing for which this section of the 'North Shore' is famous in summer. King's Beach is, in part, within the limits of Swampscott and in part in Lynn, but its entire length, as well as a part of Lynn Beach, forms the outer border of the Lynn Shore Drive, which borders the ocean front of Lynn and is famous for its beauty." Continuing north, one encountered still more welcoming beaches, including Devereaux Beach in Marblehead, West Beach in Beverly, Singing Beach in Manchester, Pavilion, Niles, and Little Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, just to name a few."

Beachgoers on Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Mass. Day trips to the beach became popular among the general public starting after WWII. A day trip to the beach was feasible for people from all socioeconomic groups, though not always without discrimination. The beach was a destination open to almost everyone, provided they had transportation. Most people headed to the beach to swim, sun bathe and to socialize.

Saugus girls at Hampton Beach, NHBy the early 20th century, women's suits became more form-fitting and no longer covered every inch of skin. By the 1920's women began wearing one piece suits that resemble today's suits, though significantly more modest and plain. We all know what came next--two piece, stomach baring suits and, eventually, the bikini which still reigns supreme among most younger women. Despite warnings to limit sun exposure, for many, less still appears to be more when it comes to beach attire. We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have not only expanses of unspoiled, sparsely populated beaches to which to retreat, but also beaches located in larger towns and cities. "Urban" beaches, such as Wollaston Beach, Carson Beach in the Boston area, as well as Lynn Beach provide a cool refuge to those who appreciate their convenience and accessibility, as well as those who depend upon their proximity.

Share |