The Newport Map project, historic maps for one of Lovecraft’s favourite places.
Incidentally, just to save someone time in future, apparently Newport’s Fort Dumplings — at first sight a very likely Lovecraft haunt — was demolished by 1907.
17 Saturday Dec 2022
The Newport Map project, historic maps for one of Lovecraft’s favourite places.
Incidentally, just to save someone time in future, apparently Newport’s Fort Dumplings — at first sight a very likely Lovecraft haunt — was demolished by 1907.
12 Monday Dec 2022
Posted Historical context, Maps, Scholarly worksin
A map of early Providence by Richard F. Barlett, from Arthur E. Wilson’s popular history of early Providence Weybosset Bridge (1947). The combination of cover view and map allow one to orient oneself in similar pictures that look down on the very early bridge in Providence. Such as the 1762 one Lovecraft was enamoured enough to ask for a copy of, when he visit the private Shepley Library and Museum in Providence. Such views lack almost all modern landmarks and so are difficult to place. There are starred numbers on this particular map, and the key is found in small lettering on the ornate title plaque.
28 Friday Oct 2022
Posted Maps, Picture postalsin
Lovecraftians are well aware that Newport, Rhode Island, was one of the master’s favourite local places. Many will also recall that this old coastal town was only readily and affordably accessible to him by occasional passenger-boat, especially when discounted day-trip tickets were on offer. Though as you can see from this map from the same era, there was a back automobile road to it from the north. But presumably he found the boat preferable to taking a series of stuffy summer buses and juddering trams from Providence. Possibly the big bridge seen on the map also charged a toll.
So far as I recall he always departed the town at the end of the day. Mythos writers may spot an opportunity in that fact, for a new story explaining why spending a night in Newport might be a fearsome thing. I’ve found some ‘night in Newport’ visual prompts for such a story.
This is quite possibly a dusk view that Lovecraft knew, seen from the stern as the passenger boat eased from the passenger docks at Newport Harbour and ran out past the Goat Island light. In some instances, the cheaper boat he favoured went back later than the more expensive one. In the picture one can see the rounded sterns of two docked passenger boats, beyond Goat Island Light.
Above is the same view but in a fine early silhouette picture. I recall he did at least once visit the town in winter, so an evening departure might well have displayed such a scene. The lights seen on the right are of docked passenger boats, rather than the town rising behind them.
Here are a few others of Newport by (painted-in) moonlight…
And finally a delightful card which some Lovecraftian RPG artist will surely want as a picture-reference, though it is not of Newport.
This is Bristol, which sits on the same coast but is some miles above Newport. Lovecraft visited Bristol in 1933 during a long visit by Morton…
we walked south to Bristol, another quaint 18th century seaport.
When Moe’s son visited with his car in 1935, Lovecraft showed him…
the quaint little seaports down both sides of Narragansett Bay – Warren & Bristol on the east shore
Lovecraft also appears to have passed through as a venturesome eleven year-old in late 1900, since that was when the new electric trains first went to Warren and Bristol and Fall River. It appears to have been winter, judging by the “delightfully witty poem” (Joshi) that Lovecraft wrote based on the journey…
One winter’s morn, when all man kind did shiver, / I took a train, directed toward Fall-River.
The new-fangled “monstrous car” (i.e. train carriage) appears to run on electrickery rather than steam, and quickly turns into a train disaster as it ceases to run. Thus Lovecraft alights and cadges a ride in the frozen twilight, from a…
willing yokel with an ox-drawn cart
…and thus he presumably reaches and passes through Bristol. He spends the night in Fall-River, and returns the next day by the safer and more reliable route of a boat journey back to Providence. The poem is “H. Lovecraft’s Attempted Journey” (1901). It seems he did actually take the trip, and the imaginative poem was likely his comic evocation on the delays and problems encountered on the first run of the new service.
Bristol obliquely appears in his story “High House” as Bristol Highlands, this being a bright new coastal resort development where the professor later takes a placid summer-house. Presumably located on the heights above Bristol.
Overall, I get the vague impression that Bristol was too “quaint” and placid for Lovecraft’s tastes, and perhaps had been overly gentrified and made twee and touristy.
24 Friday Jun 2022
Posted Maps, New discoveries, Picture postalsin
This week in my ‘Picture Postals’ series of posts, more follow-on from my recent successful search for Lovecraft’s “John’s” in Brooklyn.
1) Here are two Photoshop-combined sections of Sanborn’s 1904 Brooklyn Atlas, showing 7 Willoughby Street (John’s) in plan and context.
We can see here that No. 7 (“John’s”) had a large isolated yard and sheds out back. This is possibly of relevance re: it being a suitable-looking site for prohibition hooch-brewing in the back yard, something which we know went on regularly at the main branch of John’s. Note the adjacent cigar making, carpet cleaning and gas-fitting. Alcohol fumes from the stills might have been well cloaked by the neighbouring pongs. Possibly there was also a back-entrance to the yard, for small trucks using the insalubrious Union Lane. Looks to me like a perfect site for prohibition brewers in 1925.
2) In my recent search for Lovecraft’s Clinton St. grocery, I can now discount the store on the ‘bank’ corner of Atlantic Avenue – Clinton Street. You’ll recall there was a savings bank on one of the four possible corners, a bank that had departed the area in 1922. A 1927 picture shows that a corner store there, visible on that corner in the early 1940s, was not yet in existence at 1927. This discovery further confirms that Lovecraft’s grocery store was at 156 Atlantic Avenue, on the corner with Clinton.
In the same set of pictures there is a 1935 picture of 156 Atlantic Avenue. This is in one of the same set of Sperr pictures, Brooklyn: Clinton Street – State Street. But this picture has been confusingly titled. Its title implies that it shows State Street but it does not, as the label on the back indicates. It is merely “south from State Street”, i.e. made at a point south ‘on the map’, but with State St. behind the cameraman. To someone who knows what they’re looking at, this April 1935 picture shows Lovecraft’s Clinton – Atlantic Avenue corner, as seen from the waste-ground of the demolished Fougera apartments. Thus Lovecraft’s grocery is partly visible behind parked cars, on the very far right of the picture…
Regrettably this is one of the Sperr pictures that the NYPL hold hostage for their expensive “fine art prints” racket.
3) Also in the Sperr pictures, I found a better angle in a picture that looks down Clinton Street. Brooklyn: Clinton Street – Atlantic Avenue, early June 1927. A date which was little more than a year after Lovecraft had returned to Providence. The druggist (chemist) is on the corner with its awnings up against the sun, and Lovecraft’s Clinton St. is falling away at the left of the picture, as seen below. Lovecraft’s room at No. 169 is on the far corner, slightly obscured by a nearer lamp-post. Sperr’s label on the back has a description and the “June 1927” date. I think this may be the first time this particular picture has been identified with No. 169, and it’s very close in time.
Sadly it’s another of the Sperr pictures that the NYPL hold hostage for their “fine art prints”. Online it is very low-res, but apparently the NYPL do have larger as a very expensive “art print” — and seemingly with no actual guarantee that the image quality will be any better. You might end up with a $150 blur.
However, discovering that the corner building had once been the “Brooklyn Atheneum” aka “Athenaeum” opened doors to new data, and I found more or less the same view on a Brooklyn Eagle postcard…
Late 1890s. The Brooklyn Historical Society hold the plate.
We can see “Heyder[eich?]” the druggist was there on the corner in the late 1890s, as he was in the 1935 and 1940 pictures of the same corner. He appears to have been there all the way through, circa 1890s-1940.
What of the Atheneum? The Atheneum had once been a large concert hall, assembly rooms and then a private mercantile subscription library, and there was indeed a druggist on the corner (a chemist shop, as I had suspected). Its heyday as a modern venue was the 1850s-70s, and later as a theatre and lantern-projectionist forum in the 1880s. Nothing is heard of it after that as a regular cultural venue. But there was an attempted mass-meeting of East Coast anarchists there in 1901, as a result of which… “police closed down the Athenaeum”. The building was then swiftly leased by the New York Court of Special Sessions (of the Second Division, meaning Brooklyn, Queens and Richmond). “The Second Division the Court of Special Sessions is now held at the corner of Atlantic avenue and Clinton street” at “171 Atlantic Avenue”. Rather too swiftly occupied, since the officers complained for several years about the badly leaking roof, until the place was eventually refurbished. The Court’s lease was renewed in 1922, the year when the building was sold to a new owner by what a real-estate trade-paper called the “old” Athenaeum. The new owner appears to have been making a long-term investment on the corner site rather than the creaky old building — it was listed for demolition as part of “slum clearance” and abruptly demolished in 1942.
When Lovecraft was living at No. 169 this corner of Clinton and Atlantic was thus a court for the trying of petty crimes. Crime that merited either a fine, or some days in jail or a youth reformatory. It may not have sat as a court every day, but its presence would often have ‘flavoured’ the surrounding sidewalks with a seedy and anxious atmosphere.
The Athenaeum’s final days are seen here, photographed circa 1941-42 by Irving Kaufman, with the demolition placard on the front…
Old Brooklyn Athenaeum / Second Division of the Court of Special Sessions, before demolition. Also Clinton Street and No. 169. Photo by Irving Kaufman (1910–1982). Kaufman’s son Phil Kaufman was until a few years ago able to provide prints. But Phil Kaufman’s website has now gone, and at the time he posted these prints he did not know where they had been photographed. Just that they showed large Brooklyn buildings that were declared for demolition.
Here the old corner druggist has gone at last and the store has become an opportunistic grocer, “American **st Grocers(?)”, for a year or so before demolition. But this is long after Lovecraft’s time there. Still, it gives us another new picture looking down toward No. 169 Clinton St. and we get a feel for Lovecraft’s walk up to his Syrian tailor’s and to the corner, before crossing Atlantic to reach his usual grocery store.
In a further Irving Kaufman picture we can also see the immense ‘Fouguera’ apartments building that loomed opposite Lovecraft in Clinton St. This picture shows the other side of the street, and a distinctive corner of the druggist’s frontage can be seen in the bottom-right (it has a ‘pig snout’ moulding that can’t be mistaken). Comparing the styling of this frontage, just visible enough, with the 1935 and circa 1940 pictures to show that it it not yet the grocer’s seen in the circa 1941 picture. In that latter picture the grocer has re-tooled the signage boards somewhat. This ‘Fouguera’ photo must be earlier than circa 1941. Indeed, it must be circa 1934-35 because 1934 was when the ‘slum clearance’ demolition boards went up on the building, as noted by the Brooklyn Eagle. These boards can be clearly seen on the building.
We can also more clearly see the nature of the corner shop at the ‘Fouguera’. It was a furniture store with what seems to be an antique bric-a-brac wing with a show-window on the corner.
To summarise, my search for Lovecraft’s grocery has found the store, and has also established several other useful facts along the way. Lovecraft would have walked toward the grocers on Clinton/Atlantic through a ‘canyon’ like street, with the immense ‘Fouguera’ on one side, and the old Brooklyn Athenaeum on the other. If he walked from his room into this canyon during the day he might have encountered many people going to or from the Second Division the Court of Special Sessions, Brooklyn’s court for petty crime that was held in that building. Such anxious or hard faces cannot have raised his general assessment of the immediate area. Culture and thrift was fading away. The old Athenaeum had gone, the Saving Bank on its opposite corner across Atlantic had departed in 1922 (and seemingly also the artists who had some sort of informal studio colony above it). The once proud ‘Fouguera’ was (in the eyes of the city) now becoming the slum that would condemn it in 1934 and with a seedy-looking furniture store and a seedy cafe below. The old druggist on the Athenaeum corner, “Heyder[eich?]”, kept up the tone. The grocery at No. 156 Atlantic Avenue was worth patronising and affordable, and presumably friendly. But the area was obviously going downhill despite a superficial aura of fading quality, as Lovecraft’s letters also evidence.
Map showing Lovecraft’s room at 169 and the four corners of Clinton/Atlantic. Clockwise: ‘Fouguera’ and bric-a-brac shop; Athenaeum (now the petty-crimes court for Brooklyn) and Druggist; the old Savings Bank (lower part not a store until after 1927); and then the grocery at 156 Atlantic.
20 Monday Jun 2022
03 Friday Jun 2022
Posted Lovecraftian places, Maps, Scholarly worksin
Along with the forthcoming mega-index to the completed volumes of Letters, it struck me that we could also use a companion volume containing maps. ‘Orienting’ maps, in outline but still somewhat detailed. Map that quickly tell readers where one place was in relation to another. I’d suggest the following:
1. Lovecraft’s Providence (the topography and places known as a boy)
2. Lovecraft’s Providence (post-1914).
3. Lovecraft’s College Hill and Marketplace (including tunnels).
4. ” Places near Providence (Dark Swamp etc).
5. ” Brooklyn.
6. ” New York City.
7. ” New England coastline.
8. ” Dots-on-the-map. A general ‘dot-map’ of Lovecraft’s excursion and trip destinations east of the Mississippi and up into Canada.
9. ” Florida and his southern excursions.
10. ” Circle locations (their origins, places).
11. ” Far-flung Empire (his interest in particular far-flung places, places used in fiction etc).
Appendix: Map and mapping sources known to have been owned, used, consulted by Lovecraft.
Appendix: Bibliography of maps known to exist, relating to the original Lovecraft material (i.e. not the wider and later Mythos).
Appendix: List of important addresses in Lovecraft’s life.
Might be done in a suitable period style…
20 Friday May 2022
Posted Historical context, Mapsin
Following on from yesterday’s “Black Noon” post, this week’s ‘Picture Postals’ looks at Durfee Hill and the adjacent Dark Swamp. Lovecraft attempted to reach these places on expeditions with Morton or Eddy respectively.
Here is the best I can do with approximating the Dark Swamp location, via juggling an overlay of a modern road map and two approximately adjoining old USGS maps…
Dark Swamp was and still is just over a mile west of Durfee Hill and also just a touch south. Some old sources say it was in Exeter, others in Glocester [aka Gloucester]. No roads lead into it, it seems, even today. But it’s now specifically encompassed as part of the Durfee Hill Wildlife Management area. It appears from the map that, in 1923, the Swamp would have needed to be approached by a completely different road than the one running down to and over Durfee Hill. Even then, one might not find trails down to it, unless one was a hunter who knew the safe ways in and out.
A 1990s Rhode Island guide offers a rather useful tip for Lovecraftians looking to visit the wider Durfee wildlife reserve area in the autumn…
This is a hunting area so you [as a tourist] should not plan to visit in the fall.
Lovecraft and Eddy would have visited, had they reached the place, in October. Not only would the heavy rains of that year have made the place treacherous with bog-sumps and the like, but it seems that roving hunters could have presented a peril had the pair entered the dense darkness.
As for the adjacent Durfee Hill it was then considered the highest natural point in the state, commonly stated as being 805 feet in height at the summit. Lovecraft anticipated climbing it with Morton on a visit planned for late summer 1926…
Mortonius, of course, must have his Durfee Hill — for which stiffish jaunt I purpose to keep faithfully in training.
Possibly Morton was a ‘peak bagger’ (i.e. one who seeks to climb all the peaks in a district or state), but I have found new evidence that he may have wanted to visit in his role as a professional geologist…
The peak was rich in minerals, and had even once had a gold mine along a quartz-vein through the woods. Presumably the mine, later flooded, and its tailings yielded the source of the mineral samples being cited here.
However, despite Lovecraft and Morton being prepared, they never actually reached Durfee in September 1926. Morton, though a very experienced hiker, took a wrong turn and they unexpectedly ended up in Pascoag. One will recall that Pascoag is where Lovecraft had his “The Horror at Red Hook” open, a tale written at speed in 1925 in New York City.
NOT MANY WEEKS ago, on a street corner in the village of Pascoag, Rhode Island…
Lovecraft had been in Pascoag in September 1923 and, as I’ve shown elsewhere, he accurately described the fateful corner in “Red Hook”…
encountering the compact section, [Malone] had turned to his left into the main thoroughfare where several modest business blocks convey a touch of the urban.
But in September 1926 Lovecraft had a chance to more fully appreciate the place. Durfee’s loss was Pascoag’s gain, and he rhapsodised over “the early, half-forgotten, beautiful simple America” it presented, the America that Poe had known.
Their going astray may suggest to Lovecraftians that there was no opportunity to study large-scale USGS maps. Not even the well-provided Providence Public Library could, it would appear, furnish the expedition with the USGS sheets for a place so far out from Providence.
Interestingly the Durfee peak also has a part in Lovecraft’s famous “I am Providence” claim…
I am Providence, and Providence is myself — together, indissolubly as one, we stand thro’ the ages; a fixt monument set aeternally in the shadow of Durfee’s ice-clad peak!
Now… there’s an idea for the location of the homeless life-sized bronze statue of H.P. Lovecraft.
Given the ferocity of the New England winters his use of “ice-clad” was presumably no amusing hyperbole, but rather a matter of icy fact. Though curiously there never appears to have been a weather-station sited there. Nor any fire-tower that I can find, re: New England’s extensive post-1940s re-forestation.
The Cthulhu Prayer Society Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 7 (November 2011) has a relatively recent account of Lovecraftians trying to reach the actual swamp, but the expedition had to concede defeat even with motor-transport, maps and compass. Their article is titled “The 1923 Quest for The Dark Swamp, Revisited: By Car and Foot in Chepachet & Glocester”. This article implies that Lovecraft hymned the view from Durfee thus…
Far as the Eye can see, behold outspread
The serried Hills that own no Traveler’s Tread;
Dome behind Dome, and on each flaming Side
The hanging Forests in their virgin Pride.
The poem is not so titled in The Ancient Track and thus may not have been about Durfee, though the lines might seem to imply it. I am however still a little uncertain if Lovecraft ever actually managed to climb this peak. He didn’t manage it in 1926 with Morton, nor it seems on the Dark Swamp expedition. Nor did he ever return with Morton / Eddy for a second try at either Durfee or the Dark Swamp, despite their having located some of the correct paths and turnings. I can find no other evidence that he ever got up to the summit. Many others also failed to do so, judging by the lack of vintage photographs, postcards or even accounts of reaching the summit. One would have thought that some enterprising young buck in the 1910s could have made an artfully-angled postcard of the state’s ‘highest point’, and sold a bundle. But no. Everyone knows it is there but, like the Dark Swamp, no-one ever seems to reach it.
In one letter, arguing with Morton about the new “Einstein theory”, Lovecraft even imagines Durfee…
… removed from the present planet and differently environed in the continuum of space-time.
19 Thursday May 2022
“Letter to Weird Tales”, March 1924 (PDF). Lovecraft tells editor Baird of his new-found Providence pal Eddy, and their coming hike out in search of the mysterious Dark Swamp. Eddy had lingered in a corner-store in Chepachet and by chance overheard local lore about a vast ‘Dark Swamp’ west of Durfee Hill, which hunters said was always dark even at noon. And so…
Eddy began writing a story about it — provisionally entitled “Black Noon” — on the trolley ride home. Now we are both to see it … we are both to go into that swamp … and perhaps to come out of it. Probably the thing’ll turn out to be a clump of ill-nourished bushes, a few rain-puddles, and a couple of sparrows — but until our disillusion we are at liberty to think of the place as the immemorial lair of nightmare and unknown evil ruled by that subterraneous horror that sometimes cranes its neck out of the deepest potholes… It.
“Black Noon” was later partly written — although if from the original 1923 trolley-car draft/notes is unknown — by Eddy in 1967. He had earlier recalled something of the real Dark Swamp journey in his 1966 memoir (see Lovecraft Remembered). Eddy died before the “Black Noon” tale could be finished. It was however substantial enough to be published in…
* The Eddy collection Exit Into Eternity: Tales of the Bizarre and Supernatural, 1973, and 2000 reprint.
* The Robert M. Price edited miscellaneous anthology Acolytes of Cthulhu, 2001. Rights meant it had to be omitted from the later 2014 Titan reprint edition.
So far as I can discover, these are the only places it has been published. Derleth is said to have considered ‘finishing’ it as a tale, but didn’t.
17 Tuesday May 2022
As automobiles became more common, the modern type of general outline map of a city became needed. Here’s an early one for Providence in 1920, which also now has its uses for orienting Lovecraftians. The dotted line in the harbour also indicates the sailing route of the ocean-going passenger ships from Fox Point.
11 Friday Mar 2022
Posted Historical context, Maps, Picture postalsin
This week, not postcards but more postcard-like gems from the collection of the Boston Public Library. Here we see Providence’s imminent Blackstone Park, circa the early 1860s. The pictures were in a brochure proposing the establishment of the shore-front park. Blackstone Park was indeed established in 1866, but 40 years later it had become a delight for small boys — since the city had allowed it to fall badly… “into disuse and neglect by the early 1900s”. This was when the young free-range Lovecraft knew the place as a boy, and thought he glimpsed flute-playing fauns in its dappled depths.
I’ve colourised the picture. We have to imagine another 40 years of growth added to this, and trees consequently much larger above the grassy rides and rills. Perhaps some of these watery “brooklets”, as Lovecraft called them, were by then dried up in summer. Since drainage of College Hill and the adjacent shore-line was changed, as the city developed and the local ravines were filled in or blocked.
Here is Lovecraft on the Park, writing in 1918…
Scarce a stone’s throw from the house lie the nearest parts of that beautiful rustick reservation known as “Blackstone Park” — wherein I have been wont to wander some twenty or more years. Here Nature unadorn’d displays a multi-plicity of agreeable phases; ravines, groves, brooklets, thickets, & Arcadian stretches of river-bank — for the park borders on the wide & salty [river] Seekonk. … How beauteous indeed is untainted Nature as beheld in so idyllick a spot as Blackstone Park! … I think this park would explain why such a born & bred town man shou’d possess such a taste for rural musings & Arcadian themes!
Lovecraft occasionally took favoured friends there. Here he is in 1927…
the next day we [he and Cook and Munn] lounged about the Blackstone Park woods beside the Seekonk — agrestick haunt of my earliest infancy, and true genesis of my pastoral soul.
And in the mid 1930s he was sitting on the banks of the Seekonk… “Almost every warm summer afternoon” or else he took a short trip up in the “the fields & woods north of Providence”.
Below we see, from the same Boston collection, Blackstone Park’s grassy water-meadow. Most likely this is the “meadow” marked on one map as being roughly in the middle of the park, and located back across the road from the Boat Club house.
Above we also see the edge of the “meadow” area in winter flood, in the context of the Boat House and the shore road. The river Seekonk often flooded over, and thus the meadow would have been seasonally a boggy salt-meadow in its lowest section. It’s quite possible that this Boat House was the point from which the young Lovecraft set off on his solo rowing expeditions on the Seekonk. It was then a difficult and somewhat dangerous river to be out on in a small boat. Yet he became skilled enough with his boat and the river currents to land on the mud-squelching “Dagon”-like ‘Twin Islands’, so rarely shown on maps. Here is an exception.
This was the landscape of water and mud and washed-in sea-things which stirred his early nightmares of a drained Seekonk, and to which the genesis of his “Dagon” can be traced.
Modern seekers can note the boathouse and the site’s current drainage channel here on the right of the current map. It’s my recent composite of a 1972 bird’s-eye picture I found and a modern outline map of the Park. By 1972 the trees were crowding in. If the river’s salty winter over-wash has since been kept out, then I’m guessing they may have now fully colonised the old meadow.
12 Wednesday Jan 2022
In a 1934 letter to Rimel, Lovecraft remarks… “I didn’t get more than 100 miles from my home until I was 31 years old” (i.e. circa 1922), which provides a useful limit of what he might or might not have seen as a boy, if only from a passing train. No glimpse of the sinister and misty Catskills (“Lurking Fear”) from a Hudson Valley train, then, on a trip with his grandfather.
Drawing a 100 mile circle from his home does however suggest possible youthful visits to…
* the vicinity of Portsmouth and Rochester in the north, via Boston.
* north-west as far as the Berkshire Hills and the river-towns that lie to the east of them.
* south-west along the coast to New Haven.
23 Sunday Aug 2020
Posted Historical context, Mapsin
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