Windham Life and Times – September 11, 2020

The End of Summer

Charlie Donahue and His 1954 Chris-Craft Sportsman

I know the calendar says that summer continues on until September 22nd, but come on, once Labor Day hits, the lush, warm, and brightly lit interlude to New England’s chilly, dark attitude comes quickly to an end. This summer was especially sweet, given the derepressing presence of Covid-19, the violence and looting in America’s cities, and the endless churn of political nonsense.

    So as you know, I have been a little obsessed with boats this summer. One of the boats I wrote about was a beautiful mahogany Chris Craft that appeared about mid-season. The boat’s owner was kind enough to write to me and tell me a little about the boat and his family. On Labor Day, I had the pleasure of taking a ride in the boat on a glorious summer day that had just a hint of Autumn in the wind. What a  classic American boat, riding just above the waterline and crafted out of mahogany. The Chrysler inboard engine was marketed under the Chris-Craft brand name and the sound it makes on the water is just the best!

    The owner of the boat is Charlie Donahue and he is a twenty year old student who is on his way to a freshman year at Dartmouth. His family has been coming to Cobbett’s Pond for over 50 years. The first family member to enjoy Cobbett’s shores was his mother’s uncle John “Binky” Walsh who rented a cottage next to the former Duncan’s beach in the late 1960’s. “Later he purchased a place on Fish Road—my grandparents Charles and Mary McGongagle then followed suit— and today 42 of our extended family members now summer across six different cottages. I am about to turn 20, and Cobbetts has been a wonderful place to grow up. Earlier this summer I fulfilled a dream of many years and purchased a 1954 mahogany Chris Craft. I have been enjoying it almost every evening on the pond…”

    Charlie explained to me that the Chris Craft Sportsman was the company’s entry into more of the mass market after World War II, when America was full of optimism and the expectation was that every returning veteran would have a home, a car and a boat as well as the possibility of a cottage on a lake.   

Charlie also educated me about wooden boats and the fact that a Chris-Craft like his gains many hundreds of pounds of weight when put into the water.

     As I took that Labor Day spin, in that incredibly beautiful boat, in the company of Charlie and my own son Matt, all my apprehensions about what the future holds for America, finally faded away. My children’s generation has what it takes; I see it in their friends, I see it in them, I see it in Charlie, and they will meet the challenges to come, just as the generations that came before them did.

Windham Life and Times – August 21, 2020

Over the past few weeks I’ve discovered a lot about classic boats. There have been more beautiful boats turning up on the pond including a gorgeous mahogany inboard, an interesting “Lumie” with a Bimini, and a nice hydroplane boat with a mid-century modern Evinrude. It might be a Minimost. I remember several of these being on the lake back in the day.  One of the most incredible discoveries I made was about the history of the AristoCraft boat and the Atlanta Boat Company. In my opinion, they made one of the most distinctive, mid-century modern, wooden boats ever built. I think there was one of these boats on Cobbett’s when I was a kid, but I couldn’t track down who might of owned it. What I remember was a white mercury engine on the back and the distinctive green windshield. If you know who owned it or have a photo please let me know.

    According to the AristoCraft website, “Atlanta Boat Works began manufacturing AristoCraft boats in 1946 following Claude Turner’s return from service in World War II. Production began with five employees at a downtown Atlanta location. These early days saw the production of an open fishing-type boat which was replaced in 1947 with the models that AristoCraft is known for. The Typhoon, a 12′ 2-seater runabout, was introduced, followed by a 13′ Torpedo that had a barrel stern. In the late 1940’s, AristoCraft even produced racing boats that included a bullet-nosed boat called the racing smoo. With the arrival of the 1950’s, AristoCraft engineered numerous changes. A cabin cruiser was marketed for a short while, introducing to the market a transom-mounted outboard motor bracket. In 1953, AristoCraft was being marketed through Western Auto and Montgomery Ward as the Wizard and the Sea King. Although hundreds were sold, this was phased out by 1954 to be sold through dealers only.” Here is the most incredible part of the story. They are still manufacturing these classic boats today. AristoCraft says, “New remanufactured boats are crafted by hand just like their predecessors of the 1950’s. Following the original design, the same screws, glues, jigs, machinery, and equipment to include band saws, planers, and polishers are used. Additionally, boats incorporate Z-Spar Varnish, and have Coast Guard regulated flotation, steering, and lighting.” These boats retail for not that much more than a Whaler of the same dimensions.

The classic 12 foot Torpedo shown above being built and which is available to be purchased from the Atlanta Boat Company for $12,500. A 14 foot Torpedo is $14,500. The 16 foot Torpedo has a price new of $16,500. You then have to add the cost of an outboard  motor, but quite an incredible boat for the price. AristoCraft is still a family business in Georgia and they will also customize details and colors and offer a customized trailer that compliment the boats.

Check out all of the AristoCraft boats currently in production and the company’s history of turning out beautiful boats at https://aristocraftboats.com/

Windham Life and Times – July 24, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Modern

Perspective drawing of the Gilbert Bucknam house, Windham, N.H., by Charles H. Crombie, updated. Royal Barry Wills Associates Archives. Courtesy of Historic New England.

Royal Barry Wills Contemporary on Cobbett’s Pond

The architectural firm, Royal Barry Wills was known for their beautiful colonial revival architecture found in many homes designed for the upscale suburbs surrounding Boston MA. The Gilbert Bucknam house is among the firm’s few contemporary designs. Of course, the spectacular, natural hillside of 6 plus acres overlooking Cobbett’s Pond in Windham, NH, was a perfect spot for a contemporary. It was designed in 1954. Mr. Bucknam was a prominent Nashua businessman and according to his obituary  “was Comptroller at Improved Machinery Company in Nashua and prior to his retirement in 1991, he owned and was president of New England Steel Fabricators in Milford NH for many years; Past President of Nashua Country Club. He also served as a director of the former Nashua Trust Company.” He had three sons and three daughters. His wife Elizabeth passed away last year at the age of 101. The house itself was a “T’ shaped ranch which sprawled along the top of the hill providing spectacular views of the lake out of  the rows of window-walls. There was a great-room with massive fireplace. Two swept back wings included owners room and bedrooms for the children, Anne, Martha, Rodger, Allen and Richard. The Bucknams purchased the land in 1954 from George and Dorothy Butterfield. The Butterfields had acquired the land from Lillian Andrew which was once part of the Searles estate, Stanton-Harcourt. The Bucknams sold the house to Wayne and Marge Carter on December 22, 1964. Of course today, this is the location of the five homes at Granite Hill. More information and the archives of the architectural  work of Royal Barry Wills Associates can be found at Historic New England.

First floor plan of Gilbert Bucknam house, Windham, N.H., by Warren Rohter, 9 June 1954, Royal Barry Wills Associates Archives. Courtesy of Historic New England

East elevation of Gilbert Bucknam house, Windham N.H., by Warren Rohter, undated. Royal Barry Wills Associates Archives. Courtesy of Historic New England.

North and South elevations of Gilbert Bucknam house, Windham N.H., by Warren Rohter, 3 June 1954. Royal Barry Wills Associates Archives. Courtesy Historic New England.

View from the property approximately 50 years prior to the construction of the Bucknam house.

View from the site 50 years before the construction of the Bucknam house when the property was part of Edward Searles’ Stanton Harcourt estate.

For more information at Historic New England about the Bucknam house and the Royal Barry Wills Archives:

Windham Life and Times – July 17, 2020

Cobbett’s Pond

Wooden Boats & Canoes

We’ve been marveling at the boats on Cobbett’s Pond lately. $180,000+ for a boat! You could buy a condo for the same amount of money. What is the total assessed value of the boats on the lakes in Windham anyway? There’s a certain blue and white Chris-Craft Launch that looks good on the water at Cobbett’s Pond but what we’ve really enjoyed this summer is the sudden appearance of several old aluminum boats; many still powered by mid-century out-boards. Of course, back in the day before fiberglass, most all boats on the lakes and ponds were wooden. They were often built by hand by the people who owned the cottages. Then there were also the canvass lined canoes with their beautiful wooden interiors. The wooden inboards have always been stunning, with the mahogany gleaming in the sun. I had my windows open and I  was listening to boats on the lake, in bed the other night; I’ve decided there is nothing as distinctive as the sound of an old inboard engine, rumbling across the water.

Some of the photos include Joe and Mary Anne Alosky with their mom in a classic, wooden row-boat with outboard.

A gorgeous wooden sailboat that was once kept at a cottage on North Shore Road.

Johnsons in boats and canoes.

The Aloskys again in a wooden boat on Cobbett’s.

George Dinsmore Sr. and his daughter Dorothy in a wooden canoe.

The “East Shore of Cobbett’s Pond.”

In the fifties and sixties there were hundreds of black and white wooden row-boats, clogging the small pond, filled to the brim with passengers, rented at Dunkin Beach.

Finally, My mom tells the story that she and her sister Lal could out paddle my Dad’s power boat in a canoe when they were kids

Windham Life and Times – July 10, 2020

Cobbett’s Pond

Photographs of the Unknown.

There is no way of knowing who these people were or why they were at Cobbett’s Pond. Why do people create beautiful photograph albums and not write down who is in them and why? Whoever they were, they were well off, considering they had also just sailed to Bermuda. It was the roaring twenties after all! Imagine wearing a suit and tie on Bermuda!

Windham Life and Times – June 19, 2020

Windham Mid-Century Modern

The New Hampshire Sweepstakes

ABOVE: Salem N.H.— State police of New Hampshire flank the large drums containing the first-in-the-nation sweepstakes tickets, as they arrive at Rockingham park in Salem from drawing on July 15th.

RIGHT:  Second Sweepstakes Drawing— Judy Morrison of Dover, N.H., hands tickets to Dave Rubinstein at the second drawing of the New Hampshire Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park, in Salem, N.H., July 29. The New Hampshire Sweepstakes is the country’s first legal lottery since the Louisiana lottery closed in 1894. Winning tickets are guaranteed a minimum $200 to $300. They will win more if their horses enter the September race. The payoff will crest at $100,000 for tickets held on the winning horse. A third drawing will be held in early September.

     If you are interested in the subject there is a great book titled, “American Sweepstakes” by Kevin Flynn. It tells the story of “how one small state bucked the church, the feds, and the mob to usher in the lottery age.”