The First 250: Cohasset’s Earliest Houses & Places is the result of the collaboration between Cohasset 250 and the Cohasset Historical Society. Together they sponsored this special project, creating a beautiful coffee table book that chronicles the 250 oldest buildings in town.
Cohasset 250th Celebration
The year 2020 marks the Town of Cohasset’s Sestercentennial; the 250th year since its incorporation in 1770. Cohasset 250 set out to celebrate this milestone with events and programs throughout the year. While the year did not turn out to be one for celebration or social gatherings, it did become a time when the community came together in many unexpected ways. Although the 250th Committee was not able to execute most of their projects, a few important ones survived, The First 250 being the most ambitious of them all.
For its contribution to the anniversary celebration, the Historical Society chose to reimagine The Heritage Trail, a booklet of 94 of the town's earliest homes written in 1970 for Cohasset's Bicentennial. Since visitors to the Historical Society's headquarters most often come seeking information on their houses and buildings, it seemed a fine opportunity to increase the number of buildings to 250 in a book that would also feature new, contemporary photographs in color as well as narratives about each house or building and its owners. Heritage Trail had small black and white thumbnail photographs, the date the houses were built and by whom, but not much more.
The First 250 is a true celebration of our architectural heritage. It tells the story of the development of Cohasset through its early citizens and the houses and structures they built in which to live, worship, and conduct business. It contains bold current color photos combined with vintage images. Each location was painstakingly researched to bring to life the stories of the buildings we pass so often. The 160-page hardcover book is organized into nine districts throughout town, with an historic perspective on each. The book is bound with cloth embossed with the title, printed on acid-free paper, and has a dust jacket for protection. The design and typography reflects the historic nature of this well-researched book.
Lynne DeGiacomo began her career as an attorney in a Boston law firm but left the practice of law to pursue her love of history. In 2004, she became the Cohasset Historical Society’s first executive director, a position she has held for the last sixteen years. In 1998, Lynne fulfilled her dream of owning and restoring an antique house when she and her husband, Mark, and two sons moved to one of the 250 homes profiled in this book. While at times they bemoan the need for continuous upkeep and the drafty doors and windows, they love both the home’s unique features and sense of history that surrounds them.
Paula Morse, former co-president of the Cohasset Historical Society, has worked at the Isabella Stewart Gardner as archivist and editor of publications; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, where she was a co-author of the catalogue on American sculpture; and as an antique dealer with a shop in Concord. She has been chair of the Massachusetts State House Art Commission since 2004, the year that she and Lynne co-authored (along with David Wadsworth) Images of America. Cohasset.
Technology and access to historical data have vastly improved since 1970. The authors did not assume any “built in” date of building construction. Property research was thoroughly conducted online with deeds at the Norfolk County and the Massachusetts State Archives (the deeds to houses built prior to 1793 are stored there), along with assessors’ records, genealogies and other primary and secondary sources. Cohasset homeowners were solicited for vintage photographs and family histories, which often revealed how many of the original 250 homeowners helped to shape the growth of the town and the way we live and enjoy Cohasset today.
The next large undertaking was the gathering of images, both new and old. For the vintage photographs, the team had the benefit of access to the Historical Society’s large collection, as well as photos lent by homeowners. Every historic image was then re-photographed and restored digitally. The over 600 contemporary photos were taken by a team of local photographers over the last few years. The buildings were shot from multiple angles, resulting in a comprehensive photograph collection that will be added to the Historical Society's archives.
Keith Conforti is an award-winning photographer who has been photographing locations and landscapes throughout the country for decades. Generally, his camera is focused on vacant and disused spaces and places that have taken on new life through decay and abandonment. For this assignment, he turned his lens toward the beauty of Cohasset’s historic homes. Keith is a South Shore Art Center gallery artist and also a member of the North River Arts Society, Griffin Museum of Photography and the Photographic Resource Center of Boston. Keith Lives and works in Cohasset.
Each of the 250 buildings in the book is getting a new HT (Heritage Trail) numbered plaque. Similar plaques were given to the homeowners of the 94 houses in the 1970 booklet, many of whom still display their original plaques with pride. Each house description in the book ends with an icon displaying the building’s HT number. The directory in the back of the book is arranged numerically by HT number.