Harborfront Signs Will Depict Part of Hingham’s Rich History

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May 13, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer

Harborfront signs depicting some of the rich history of the waterfront will be installed and then unveiled to the community this summer.

"The idea is to convey what has happened at the harbor since 1635," Bruce MacAloney -- a member of the Harbor Development Committee Hingham Harbor Signage Subcommittee involved with bringing the project to reality -- told the Selectmen recently. Chris Daly represents the Bathing Beach Trustees on the subcommittee, which also includes HDC Chairman William Reardon.

The first three signs -- depicting the Inner Harbor's former lumber and fishing industries and its 19th-Century steamship wharves -- will be installed at the Bathing Beach Grove, at the end of Whitney Wharf facing toward North Street, and at Veterans Memorial Park. Each sign will also incorporate the town seal.

The signs will feature photos, illustrations, maps, and explanatory text, designed using a color palette that Hingham Graphic Designer Karl Thompson selected from the natural tones present on today's harborfront -- the water, sunset, sand, wharves, and the greenery of the grove. Thompson volunteered his time for the project.

Assistance from many

Historical Commission/Historic Districts Commission Administrator Andrea Young; Hingham Historical Society Executive Director Deirdre Anderson; Hingham Historical Society Registrar Michael Achille;  Project Assistant Resident Geri Duff; volunteers and interns who are in the process of digitizing the John P. Richardson Collection housed at the Hingham Heritage Museum and other paper-based collections in the Hingham Historical Society's archives; and others also played a key role in bringing the first  part of a larger planned project to reality. The Engineering Department also provided assistance.

The first three of a potential 10 to 15 weather-resistant signs that the subcommittee hopes will be installed leading up to Hingham's 400th anniversary in 2035 were paid for with a Greenbush Historic Preservation Trust Fund grant awarded to the HDC and Bathing Beach Trustees.
The purpose of the fund is to preserve and maintain historic assets and streetscapes along the Greenbush commuter rail right-of-way and the surrounding area to enhance downtown Hingham.

"From the time the Bathing Beach Trustees first applied for funding to begin construction of the harborwalk [now in place, with plans to extend it even further], Trustees Chair Alan Perrault and others have been considering adding some signage to educate visitors about the harbor's fascinating history," said Eileen McIntyre, a member of the Hingham Historical Society Board of Directors, who worked on the artwork and text for the signs on a volunteer basis. "The Inner Harbor was, afterall, where the Town of Hingham began with the landing of a band of Puritans led by Peter Hobart in the 1630s."

Treasure trove of materials

McIntyre, also a member of the Hingham Land Conservation Trust, assembled a treasure trove of historic photos and maps of the Inner Harbor waterfront to kickstart the project.

"This will be a good opportunity for people to buy an ice cream at the snack shop [that will be part of the new bathhouse/concession stand/community room now under construction at the Bathing Beach], take a stroll along the [new brick] harborwalk, and learn something about Hingham's rich history at the same time," MacAloney said. "Hingham Harbor is not just a daytime beach place or the location from which to view the Fourth of July fireworks," as enjoyable as these are.

The opening of the new bathhouse building could coincide with the installation of the signs. The plan is for these and other interpretative signs to eventually be installed from the Hingham Lobster Pound area to Steamboat Wharf.  The subcommittee liaised with Boston Harborwalk organizers and others for advice on how to develop the Hingham signage.

"We have the template, size, colors, materials, and structure all figured out so it will be easier to make more signs in the future," MacAloney said. "I'm excited about the project and have learned so much from it."

Approval process

Before the signs can be ordered and installed, a member of the subcommittee will talk with the town's senior planner to determine if zoning board of appeals approval is necessary and to get a sign-off on the project from the building commissioner. The Selectmen supported the project recently contingent on these approvals.

The Historic Districts Commission, Conservation Commission, and the Hingham Historical Society also reviewed the plan.

It's hoped that a link on the Town of Hingham website will be created detailing the history of Hingham Harbor and the signs, including photos and anecdotes.

For further information about the harbor, check out the Harbor Media recording of the April 5 Hingham Land Conservation Trust's Inner Harbor history presentation at its annual meeting, "Evolution of the Hingham Harborfront into a Park, Beach, Boating and Recreation Area" at www.hinghamlandtrust.org.

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