History

View of Straits Pond over the rooftop of the old Black Rock House.

Straits Pond was originally a tidal marsh extending from the Weir River. The pond’s main opening to the ocean was at the east end near Black Rock Beach. The tidal marsh was dammed and used as a reservoir for the operation of a grist mill built near the existing outlet on Nantasket Avenue in Hull (near the current gate at West Corner). The grist mill was destroyed by a fire in 1800.

Records indicate the tidal flat produced cord grass and salt-meadow grass. Local farmers used the salt hay made from these grasses to feed their cattle. Capitalizing on the popularity of salt hay, in 1810 the Proprietors of the Straits Pond Flats organized and purchased a large amount of marsh land on the Cohasset side of the pond. The salt hay was harvested in the fall for use as winter mulch and animal feed. Sales of grass existed for at least the period from 1810 through 1828.

The opening at Black Rock Beach was apparently closed off in the mid-1800’s. [Ed. Note:  Have not been able to establish exactly what year, but at one meeting on the Pond the timeframe given was “about 1888”.]

According to an entry in King’s 'Handbook of Boston Harbor', Atlantic Avenue “…was laid out in 1873, and leads from the beach to Nantasket Lake, thence connects with the road to Hingham.” This also ties in with references from the Narrative History of Cohasset written by E. Victor Bigelow, which indicate from 1876-1886 new roads were built, including Doane Street, Forest Avenue, and Atlantic Avenue (from Beach Street to the Cove). Forest Avenue was designed to open for summer residence a large area of land between Straits Pond and North Main Street where King Street enters.

No history of Straits Pond would be complete without at least passing reference to the Black Rock House. The original hotel was built in 1707 as depicted in early paintings. About 1840 a branch line of the stagecoach line went the way of Jerusalem Road. The Black Rock House was a welcome stop for stagecoach passengers, especially for summer visitors who were getting in the habit of coming to Cohasset. After about a century the original Black Rock House burnt to the ground. [Ed. Note:  A second building bearing the name Black Rock House was built sometime after the original burnt down and existed until the final Black Rock House was built.] In the 1890’s a new hotel bearing the same name was built at the east end of Straits Pond 100 feet inland of the original site (or what is the present address of 555 Jerusalem Road).

Prepared by C. Anne Murray December, 1999Update by Nancy E. Kramer, June 2004.

Bibliography: Bigelow, E. Victor, Narrative History of Cohasset, West Hanover, Mass., Halliday Lithograph Corporation, 1898. Straits Pond Flats Account of Sales, 1810-1828, Harvard University’s Baker Library Historical Collections. Sweetser, M.F., King’s Handbook of Boston Harbor, Boston, Mass., Moses King’s Corporation, 1888, p. 67. Weeks, Edward, Black Rock House, New England Journeys-Number 3, 1955, p. 63.

Excerpts

From King’s ‘Handbook of Boston Harbor’

“Close at hand on the west is Nantasket Lake (until recently known as Straits Pond), a singular lagoon two miles long, on which boat and tub races and other aquatic sports are often conducted. This rather pretty sheet of water has been suspected of malarial influences; and the contiguous towns spend considerable sums upon it yearly, in the interest of sanitation. In old times it was known as Lake Galilee, and Atlantic Hill bore the name of Mount Zion; certain reverend pilgrims, returning from the Holy Land, having reported that the hills of this region bore a singular resemblance to those of Palestine.”

From the 'Narrative History of Cohasset' by E. Victor Bigelow

"One of the public industries taking place in the Cohasset vicinity, which promised a large food supply, involved a fish weir at the stream towards Cohasset which thereafter was called Weir River. A herring monopoly of that stream was granted in April, 1637. The men were granted the “river called Lyford’s Liking to build a weare to take fish.” Since the river became Weir River, the name Lyford’s Liking has been applied to the marshy waterway between the mouth of the Weir River and Straits Pond. Lyford was a preacher from Ireland who came to Plymouth in 1624 but was dismissed on account of his treachery. He was a settler at Hull (Nantasket) in 1625, before Hingham was planted. The pioneers called the outlet of Straits Pond a falls “although it is scarcely more than a tumble when the tide is low.”