Here are two U.S. Army Corps of Engineer record-pictures, part of a navigation improvement survey of the Seekonk in Providence. These pictures have inadvertently recorded two of Lovecraft’s places, albeit from a bird’s eye view. I’ve here colorised the pictures.
The first is from 1982 with College Hill on the right edge of the picture. It records the wooded bluff above York Pond, part of the long shoreline Blackstone Park. The bluff was where Lovecraft liked to sit in summer and write letters.
The boat-house can just about be seen. Around here were the sylvan faun-haunted woodland rides of his childhood, that ran down to the river’s edge. Here is a Whitman Bailey pen-sketch of one such, from 1916.
At the present moment I am seated on a wooded bluff above the shining river which my earliest gaze knew and loved. This part of my boyhood world is unchanged because it is a part of the local park system — may the gods be thanked for keeping inviolate the scenes which my infant imagination peopled with fauns and satyrs and dryads!
On a high wooded bluff above a broad river a mile west of my house — a spot unchanged since I haunted it in infancy.
Since I’ve long ago established that the bluff on one side of York Pond was heavily graded in the building of a better road, this can only leave the other side as being the untouched relic of his childhood years. In the 1930s it was likely not so heavily wooded as it was fifty years later in the 1980s, and a c. 1910 postcard and some 1930s WPA road-building pictures at the boathouse seem to confirm this.
The second U.S. Army record-picture is a few years later in 1986. It zooms into the first, and swings around a bit, to record the Twin Islands and the bridge above them…
I used to row considerably on the Seekonk … Often I would land on one or both of the Twin Islands — for islands (associated with remote secrets, pirate treasure, and all that) always fascinated me.” — Lovecraft in a letter to Rimel, April 1934.
The railway bridge seen here was not there when Lovecraft was rowing on the Seekonk. As, according to a blurb in the press, the bridge was only built in 1908 when Lovecraft was 18…
railroad drawbridge connecting the East Side of Providence to East Providence across the Seekonk River … built in 1908 to carry the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad line.
Interestingly, Lovecraft may have crossed the bridge as a passenger, since…
Until 1938, the bridge and tunnel were used regularly by passenger trains travelling from Providence to destinations including Bristol, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts.
Today the defunct bridge is scheduled to be removed, with demolition pencilled in for 2026-2027.
Below is another picture in which we look back the other way, at an earlier time. Perhaps the time of Lovecraft’s young childhood. Here one can see the Twin Islands on which the teenage Lovecraft would land, and one gets a better impression of the wide sweep of the Seekonk. The sweep of the water would have felt even wider from a low row-boat. In his landings in the sticky mud of the islands, amid the wide waters, there may well be the genesis of the later tale “Dagon” — and thus of the Mythos.