Wednesday, March 09, 2016


This excerpt is from A Village at Lane's Cove by Barbara H Erkkila recently reprinted and available through Ten Pound Island Book Company. Barbara was the best chronicler of Lanesville and also authored the book Hammers on Stone-The History of Cape Ann Granite available in bookshops around Rockport and Gloucester, and The Cape Ann Museum giftshop.

Gurdon Saltonstall Worcester, psychologist and inventor, “found” his quarry pit while a college student. When he married Natalie Shipman in 1934, he ordered a summer home there, the first prefabricated house in the village. Andrew Pistenmaa, a neighbor, did the stonework, finishing it in 1936, and Louis Palelli, the carpentry.

Mr. Worcester majored in English at Harvard and ran a newspaper, The Roxbury Tribune, for a while. Then he decided he was much more concerned with people’s emotions and how they cause illness, prompting him to join his father, the Reverend Dr. Elwood W. Worcester of Emanuel Church in Boston, helping the mentally ill through psychotherapy.
About 1940 Mr. Worcester opened his own office at 3 Marlborough Street in the Back Bay section of Boston. But he and Natalie came to Lanesville in the summertime, entertaining their friends with outdoor concerts beside the quarry, and “modern” cocktail parties.

Mr. Worcester loved the unusual, the exciting and the thrill of astounding others as he did the day he fired off a rocket he had invented. Wreathed in trails of cigarette smoke, his brown eyes full of mischief, Mr. Worcester always had something happening. He had Mr. Palelli build a Chinese houseboat for him so he could float about in the quarry pit, feeding hamburger to his pet trout. In another pit across the driveway, he kept two sea lions, one named Tony. Sometimes, Tony wriggled through his fence, and then all High Street friends were called in to help search for him.

In the winter of 1962, with Natalie at the little portable on the kitchen table (she found the hum of electric typewriters intimidating), Gurdon Worcester dictated his children’s book, The Singing Flute, the story of Hilli, a Finnish girl who lived on the edge of Dogtown, Gloucester’s deserted village. He loved every new adjective and word just coming into use such as “panache.” As he dictated, his words flowed in beautiful prose with dozens of descriptive phrases as he paced back and forth across the wide kitchen. Silently, Natalie edited in Yankee efficiency as he talked, knowing he would like the end result. They knew each others’ literary skills so well.

Gurdon Worcester was a person with great charm, who always greeted people down at the grocery store with as much warmth as anyone of his friends from Beacon Hill.


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