Nahant Beach Reservation
If Revere Beach Reservation became the playing ground for Boston’s working class during the early 20th century, Nahant Beach was Revere’s direct opposite. The increasing patronage at the bathhouse at Revere Beach led to the acquisition of Nahant Beach by the Metropolitan Park Commission. Unlike Revere Beach, the architecture of Nahant Beach Reservation is ostentatious and highly sophisticated, reflecting the social classes of the beach’s surrounding towns.
Located in Essex County, Nahant Beach catered to the upper class residents of Boston’s distinguished North Shore who were building their lavish estates in Beverly, Manchester by the Sea and other coastal communities. The architecture of Nahant Beach reflects the influential wealth associated with these people as well as the influence of New York masters like McKim, Mead and White and Carrere and Hastings on Stickney and Austin.
When the Metropolitan Park Commission took possession of the Nahant Beach Reservation, it contained a high number of privately owned properties which sacrificed the beauty of the beach. These proprietors were notified to vacate their buildings in order to demolish or removed them and “convert the land into a public park.” Nahant “was the most popular resort on the coast, and was the home of so many distinguished men that visitors to the [Nahant] hotel were attracted from all parts of this country as well as from foreign lands.”
William Austin designed “an attractive building for the Lynn-Nahant Beach Bathhouse” which was completed “in time for use during the summer of 1905.” It opened “as a branch of the Revere Beach Bathhouse” and “excellent service was maintained…and the patronage was generally satisfactory, considering the coolness of the month of August [of 1905].” The scale of the Bathhouse is grand and its importance and opulence is emphasized in the Beaux Arts tradition of Carrere and Hastings. The building’s core activities are organized around two hipped roofed towers each flanked by an arcaded loggia following in the footsteps of Carrere and Hastings’ 1887 Ponce de Leon Hotel and 1888 The Alcazar Hotel, both in St. Augustine, Florida.
Other buildings in Nahant Beach include the Refreshment and Waiting Room, the Men’s and Women’s Sanitary and the Police Station. The Police Station at Nahant Beach recalls McKim, Mead and White’s Naugatuck National Bank of 1892-1893, in its brick and limestone trim, both a simple rectangle with bold decorative details at the windows and cornice. The scale these buildings in contrast to the Bathhouse for Nahant Beach is significantly reduced to emphasize the grandness and importance of the Bathhouse which like Revere Beach, must have been the focal point of the Reservation.
The architecture of Stickney and Austin for the Metropolitan Park Commission played an important role in reflecting the ideals and social classes of the time in Boston. It remained democratic in the sense that the poor and working class could relate to the surroundings and the architecture as is the case of Revere Beach. By examining the driving influences behind the work of Stickney and Austin for Nahant Beach Reservation, the case speaks in favor of Boston’s upper class for whom the architecture reflected the opulence, pomposity and grandiosity present in the works of McKim, Mead and White and Carrere and Hastings. Stickney and Austin proved with their work for the Metropolitan Park Commission that they could design in a variety of architectural styles capturing the vision of Charles Eliot of designing buildings and their surroundings as one harmonious composition.