Historical canal photos, 1857 map to be displayed at Bourne Town Hall


BUZZARDS BAY The past is present again as photographs of the Bourne Town Hall opening and Cape Cod Canal construction go up on the re-painted gray-and-white walls of the red-brick seat of government at Perry Avenue.

The early 20th century, black-and-white images were first printed, enlarged and framed by town archivist Gioia Dimock for the 2014 centennial celebration of the 1914 canal opening. That year, Town Hall also opened next to Bourne’s Pond, 200 yards from the soon-to-be-world-famous canal.

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Dimock’s work is a signature archival effort. The photos, though not expansive or expressive, are distinctive in their clarity, tone and historical record. They represent community history.

Canal photos once displayed at Statehouse

The photos were prominently displayed at the Statehouse on Beacon Hill after the 2014 canal centennial celebration. That came at the invitation of former Senate President Therese Murray, the now retired Plymouth Democrat.

Historical photos of Bourne marking the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914 are on display at town hall, show above.

Historical photos of Bourne marking the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914 are on display at town hall, show above.

Then the photos returned to gather dust at the Bourne Archives on Keene Street. Now they are in a return still unfolding as town work crews paint the walls and hang a slice of town history for public consumption.

The public exhibit is filled with art, photography and history showcasing two slices of history when Bourne was 30 years old.

The decorating idea of ​​Town Hall staffers Jennifer Chisser and Kathleen Thut is not entirely new. The late Selectman Roland Dupont had included a small art gallery for the 1980s Town Hall makeover, but it was eliminated due to finances.

Chisser said the canal photography is remarkable and can dominate any such setting. But she said the Town Hall images are also important and that they showcase another segment of Bourne history and expected to please building visitors.

Centerpiece will be 1884 map

The central display image will be a map of the town when it was a group of villages that was part of Sandwich until 1884.

The 1857 map was authenticated and is being restored with Community Preservation Act funds. It was donated to the town by David Dimmick of Cataumet. Chisser said she hopes it can be placed in a commanding position inside the building entrance.

Town Clerk Barry Johnson said Art Rescue in Dennis is undertaking map restoration. The project includes framing, he said.

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One old Town Hall photo shot on opening day shows a classical-revival structure with no wings on the north and south sides, but featuring a distinctive cupola. The cupola is long gone. Searches for it and documentation about what may have happened to it have been unfruitful in recent decades. It remains one of history’s mysteries.

The building features brick pilasters and round second-story arched windows set beneath keystones. Chisser said it presents an impressive view from Kendall Rae Place.

The canal opening was a photographer’s delight. The waterway completely divided the town in half, where previously the community was split by two rivers with an isthmus in Bournedale. An 1824 map of the isthmus is now displayed.

The overall display highlights a transformative time for Bourne. The canal involved establishment of a new local business hub, political and local education re-alignments, the railroad moving across the waterway and drawbridges becoming a part of life.

“The town has the entire (photo) collection now. The display at Town Hall will give it high visibility,” Dimock said. “Otherwise, it’s just sitting here at the archives.”

Fred C. Small captured images of Bourne

Dimock said the photos were shot by the late Fred C. Small, a noted Bourne photographer at the turn of the last century. Some of Small’s 8-by-10 glass-plate negatives were rescued from his studio after the 1938 hurricane that flooded Main Street. They were cleaned and ultimately donated to the town archives and private Bourne Historical Society.

Small combined art appreciation with his technical skills. In a narrow perspective, perhaps, and away from the canal, he was a storyteller who preferred to work on location out in the open, Dimock said.

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“He carried his camera and tripod all over the Cape; he was Bourne’s Ansel Adams,” Dimock said. “His images are remarkable. We have many of his glass-plate negatives. And many images were digitized by the Boston Public Library.”

Canal layout options and construction phases are documented in the Cape Cod reference center at Bourne Public Library, Keene Street. It includes “Building of the Canal 1627-1914” with an introduction by US Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover in 1921.

A more recent update is available with the late Robert H. Farson’s book “The Cape Cod Canal” published in 1977 with a second edition in 1991.

Town Hall features as compiled by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in 1912 are also on file in the reference section. The building is on the US Register of Historic Places.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Restored photos of Cape Cod Canal on view at Bourne Town Hall

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