Below are a selection of Lovecraft-era postcards from the shoreline at Newburyport, Lovecraft’s base model for the town of Innsmouth in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.
Mostly toward Joppa and Plum Island, the stretch of shortline that runs about a half-mile to a mile south-east of the main town, along the Merrimack River waterfront.
“Newburyport is one of the most hauntingly quaint towns in America [… it has a] spectral hush & semidesertion […] In Haverhill, 8 miles up the Merrimac [River], they call it ‘The City of the Living Dead’ [Among its other features, he noted] the unpaved sidewalks on pre-Revolutionary streets with rotting, half-deserted houses south of the Square. When I first saw Newburyport I mistook the central square for a mere neighbourhood shopping centre, & kept on the car (it was a trolley-car then) in the expectation of reaching some real ‘downtown’. Only when the line ended — at the ‘Joppa’ fishing hamlet — did I realise that the half-deserted square I had passed through was actually ‘downtown’!” — H.P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters IV, pages 259-260.
Lovecraft apparently got off at the end of the line, presumably toward the islands end of the Joppa stretch, and walked back to town. If he had followed the line further he would have found the route hooking around east and over to the islands resort area, such as it was, which was more to the east of the town as the crow flies. He probably didn’t step out to the Plum Island section except on postcards, or perhaps on another trip or from the train or bus. Though he did accidentally go to “the end of the line” on the tram on his first visit, that being out on the edge of Plum Island. He then walked back into town.
Also, the old railway track…
“Then I thought of the abandoned railway to Rowley, whose solid line of ballasted, weed-grown earth still stretched off to the northwest from the crumbling station on the edge of the river-gorge.” — “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.
For further details on Newburyport and Lovecraft, see Chapter 3 of David Goudsward’s book H. P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley (2013). Also the book Legends and Lore of the North Shore.
Want more postcards and a map? See my earlier Old Newburyport post of 2014, which also has couple more pictures of Joppa.