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FULL EPISODE: January 13, 2022

January 13, 2022

Visit Magic Wings in South Deerfield, an indoor conservatory that's home to thousands of colorful domestic and exotic butterflies. Featuring rare body adornments and textiles from the pre-Hispanic period, The Body Adorned is a bilingual exhibit currently on display at Springfield Museums.Learn about the history of the Cape Cod Canal, which has welcomed tourists and locals alike to the Cape since 1914. Through the power of theater and performance

Visit Magic Wings in South Deerfield, an indoor conservatory that's home to thousands of colorful domestic and exotic butterflies. Featuring rare body adornments and textiles from the pre-Hispanic period, The Body Adorned is a bil

Visit Magic Wings in South Deerfield, an indoor conservatory that's home to thousands of colorful domestic and exotic butterflies. Featuring rare body adornments and textiles from the pre-Hispanic period, The Body Adorned is a bilingual exhibit currently on display at Springfield Museums.Learn about the history of the Cape Cod Canal, which has welcomed tourists and locals alike to the Cape since 1914. Through the power of theater and performance

Visit Magic Wings in South Deerfield, an indoor conservatory that's home to thousands of colorful domestic and exotic butterflies. Featuring rare body adornments and textiles from the pre-Hispanic period, The Body Adorned is a bilingual exhibit currently on display at Springfield Museums.

Learn about the history of the Cape Cod Canal, which has welcomed tourists and locals alike to the Cape since 1914. Through the power of theater and performance art, the Performance Project strengthens communities and engages youth leadership in western Mass.

Visit Magic Wings in South Deerfield, an indoor conservatory that's home to thousands of colorful domestic and exotic butterflies. Featuring rare body adornments and textiles from the pre-Hispanic period, The Body Adorned is a bilingual exhibit currently on display at Springfield Museums.Learn about the history of the Cape Cod Canal, which has welcomed tourists and locals alike to the Cape since 1914. Through the power of theater and performance

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The Body Adorned Exhibit Opens at Springfield Museums

January 13, 2022

The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas.  The exhibition, presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February 27th at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. It features rare adornments and textiles made by artists working during the pre-Hispanic period. Some of the objects on display were crafted between 400 and 1500 C.E., and repres

The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas.  The exhibition, presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February

The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas.  The exhibition, presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February 27th at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. It features rare adornments and textiles made by artists working during the pre-Hispanic period. Some of the objects on display were crafted between 400 and 1500 C.E., and repres

The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas.  

The exhibition, presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February 27th at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. It features rare adornments and textiles made by artists working during the pre-Hispanic period. Some of the objects on display were crafted between 400 and 1500 C.E., and represent the ancient cultures of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Mexico. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Maggie North, Curator of Art at the Springfield Museums, to learn more about the exhibit.  

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled "The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas."

The exhibition, which is presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February 27th at the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts and features rare adornments and textiles made by artists working during the pre-Hispanic period. Some of the objects on display were crafted between 400 and 1500 CE, and represent the ancient cultures of Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and Mexico.

I spoke with Maggie North, Curator of Art at the Springfield Museums, to learn more.

Maggie North, Springfield Museums: This is a really special exhibition because it features artworks that are on loan to the Springfield Museums from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. So, they're pieces that we wouldn't otherwise be able to share with our audiences.

And the exhibition was really born out of a partnership between the Springfield Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, which is funded by Art Bridges. And through that partnership, the goal was really to share artwork and share collections. So by bringing these works of art to Springfield, we're achieving that and putting them in an exciting new context.

And it was so much fun to come together and to think about how traditions of body adornment in the ancient Americas resulted in the exquisite objects that are on view.

Zydalis Bauer: This exhibit explores the artistry and legacy of the ancient Americas, as you were just saying.

But one question that I had was, how is ancient America actually defined?

Maggie North: It's a great question, and I think that the term ancient Americas can be interpreted in a number of ways. In this context, and in art history, when we refer to the arts of the ancient Americas, typically we mean art that was created before the turn of the 16th century in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America. So, before any European contact. And really exploring and celebrating the Indigenous artworks that were being created during that time.

Certainly the word pre-Hispanic can also be used to define this era. And within the exhibition, visitors will find works of art that were created during this period, including nose rings, pectorals, objects that were made of textiles or fabrics that were handwoven and were incredibly valuable to the cultures who created them.

So it's an exciting exploration of this time period, which is quite long, chronologically. We have works that are over one thousand years old and works that were created in the 1500s.

Zydalis Bauer: I understand that there are 16 works of art in this exhibit, and as you were saying, they provide a glimpse into that pre-Hispanic era of the ancient Americas.

What did we learn and what have we learned through these artifacts about these people that lived in those times?

Maggie North: One of the wonderful parts of this exhibition is that we learn how these works of art were not just decorative, they weren't just jewelry as we might think of jewelry today or clothing as we might think of clothing today. In fact, they often served a cultural or social or spiritual purpose.

We know, for example, that some of the textiles that are in the exhibition, a Wari hat, for example, would have been worn both in life and in death. So it may have allowed somebody to express their culture, both within their daily life and in the world beyond or to the gods. And so these are really important windows into the lives of these people.

Often within the adornments, we also see representations of Zoomorphic or animal like forms, and we can learn a lot about how the cultures that are represented valued these animals.

For example, we have a wonderful jaguar pendant, which was made in Costa Rica. And we know that the jaguar was an incredibly important animal thought to be an excellent hunter, a powerful and fierce animal. And so, when an individual donned that pendant, they might take on the attributes of a jaguar.

Zydalis Bauer: When I was walking through the exhibit, the first thing that immediately struck me was how old and how well-preserved these artifacts were. And one of my favorite pieces was a nearly fifteen hundred-year-old Peruvian tunic made out of these vibrant, colorful feathers. I was just amazed how rich the color still was after so much time.

You were just talking about the jaguar, but what are some of your other favorite pieces part of this exhibit?

Maggie North: That feather work tunic you mentioned, it's just amazing. I think of that piece as sort of one of the showstoppers in the exhibition: you walk in and it just grabs your eye. And it would have been created by really tying or weaving feathers onto plain woven cotton backing. And so it's amazing that these feathers survive.

And as with so many of the pieces in the exhibition, I love thinking about how that work would have looked like on the body, how it would have shimmered in the sunlight, how it would have moved along with its wearer.

One of my favorite pieces in the exhibition -- I mentioned briefly earlier -- is in that same gallery. It's a hat that was created between 700 and 900 CE, and it was also preserved in the arid desert climates of Peru. Represented on the hat, is a four cornered hat, and it's also on the cover of our exhibition catalog, which folks will see when they go to see the exhibition, are animal-like figures that are reminiscent of llamas or alpacas. And in fact, the hat would have been made from hand-spun wool that was sourced from llamas or alpacas.

And I think it's a great example of the way in which the exhibition speaks to the artistry, the incredible talent and skill of these makers. Not only has it survived, but it's just in pristine condition, and the design would have been thoroughly planned before it was executed.

Zydalis Bauer: This exhibit is unique in many different ways. It's one of the only exhibits right now that is fully bilingual in English and Spanish, as well as encourages guests to interact through a variety of hands-on activities. Usually when you visit a museum, it's hands off, don't touch! But this one you're encouraging people to touch.

Why were these important elements for you to include?

Maggie North: Indeed, we have interactive stations in the exhibition that allow visitors to really engage. For example, we've printed a 3D replica, 3D printed replica, of an Aztec stamp that's on view in the exhibition. The stamp would have originally been used, perhaps on textiles, perhaps directly on the body, and we allow folks to come in and actually take a rubbing of that stamp so they can see what that impression would have looked like.

We also have a weaving station and a tactile station where our visitors can touch materials like the ones on view. It was really important to us that this exhibition, though it looks to the past, is invested in our visitors, is invested in the future.

By making it bilingual, we hope to make it accessible to that many more people, especially in the Springfield area, where we have a thriving Latinx population that we really want to serve. And so we're excited to bring in these elements.

And one aspect of the exhibition that we haven't talked about is actually the inclusion of some modern artworks by William Spratling, who is a jewelry designer who was inspired by the artwork of Mesoamerica, especially the indigenous and ancient American works.

And so with that in mind, we can explore how these works of art continue to live on, how the motifs are still being represented in the 20th century and how they live on today. And how we can all interact with these works of art in a tactile sense, in a sensory way, and by creating this dialog between the eras.

Zydalis Bauer: Absolutely! I mean, just seeing the stamp for myself and thinking about how we still use stamps to this day, and it's like, here we are seeing that this was used the ancient Americas. It was amazing to actually see.

There's so many details that go into curating an exhibit, from the colors on the walls to what pieces are included to even the fonts that you use. What do you enjoy most about this type of work?

Maggie North: This exhibition was especially fun because it was so collaborative. We had a number of curators putting our heads together. We also relied on our community and an exhibition designer and our installation staff to make this happen.

And my favorite days of the year, I'll tell you, are the days when the objects are here. We have the cases set up and everything comes together. As you said, there's so much planning that goes in -- from the setup of temporary walls to special lighting in the cases to making sure that our text is readable and understandable.

And so, the days when we get to see all of that come together are really rewarding, and I think that the other curators would share that sentiment with me.

Zydalis Bauer: What questions, feelings, and or even connections do you hope that this exhibit will spark inside visitors?

Maggie North: One of the pieces that we decided to include, from an interpretation standpoint in this exhibition, is a map that shows the modern locations of where the ancient pieces would have come from. So, connecting some of our Peruvian textiles to the places in which they would have been made. And I hope that visitors come in and they can come away with a better sense of the amazing works of art that were being created in these locations, in the Americas.

So often when we talk about American art or we talk about art of the Americas, I think that we think of the United States. But the story is so much broader, and so I'm excited to bring in this expanded look at the arts of the Americas and to think about the way in which those artistic traditions do endure and have become an integral part of the story of art history.

The Springfield Museums is currently presenting a new bilingual exhibit entitled The Body Adorned: Artistry and Legacy of the Ancient Americas.  The exhibition, presented in English and Spanish, will be on display through February 27th at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. It features rare adornments and textiles made by artists working during the pre-Hispanic period. Some of the objects on display were crafted between 400 and 1500 C.E., and repres

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The Performance Project Fosters Community Engagement, Youth Leadership

January 13, 2022

Initially conceived as a limited series of theater workshops offered at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still going strong over twenty years later. Through various performances, projects and visual arts created and inspired by the young participants the program strengthens youth leadership in western Mass communities. And the Performance Project also actively encourages its members and audiences to engage w

Initially conceived as a limited series of theater workshops offered at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still going strong over twenty years later. Through various performances, projects and

Initially conceived as a limited series of theater workshops offered at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still going strong over twenty years later. Through various performances, projects and visual arts created and inspired by the young participants the program strengthens youth leadership in western Mass communities. And the Performance Project also actively encourages its members and audiences to engage w

Initially conceived as a limited series of theater workshops offered at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still going strong over twenty years later. 

Through various performances, projects and visual arts created and inspired by the young participants the program strengthens youth leadership in western Mass communities. And the Performance Project also actively encourages its members and audiences to engage with community and social justice issues. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with the co-directors from the Performance Project to hear more about their work. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Initially beginning as a limited series of theater workshops at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still around more than 20 years later, strengthening youth leadership in our communities.

Through various performances, projects, and visual arts created and inspired by the young participants, the Performance Project is engaging its members and audiences by bringing awareness to social justice issues and community engagement.

I spoke with the co-directors from the Performance Project to hear more about their work.

Julie Lichtenberg, The Performance Project: I was invited by the Hampshire County Jail to co-lead a workshop. It was a dance and theater workshop for men who are incarcerated at the jail. And it was initially supposed to be a 14 week workshop, culminating in a performance. And the audience was both the inside audience of men who are incarcerated at the jail, and the general public.

And it was so impactful, both in the participants' lives and in the in the audience's experience, that we were invited to repeat that. And the next time we did it, it was six months to create a performance and build up the performing ensemble, and that's how it began.

Zydalis Bauer: So, as you mentioned, this was supposed to be a very limited project, but now it has grown 20 years past the fact.

Who do you encourage to be part of this project now today?

Julie Lichtenberg: So, the overarching answer is that we encourage everybody to participate. We hold youth at the core of the work that we're doing in First Generation and Ubuntu arts community. But ultimately, we have family and community celebrations.

We want artists to come. We want the general public to come. We want scholars to participate. We want activists to participate. We want teachers to participate. And when we have our performances, we're really, you know, we're inviting the general public, as well.

So, holding our First Generation and Ubuntu youth at the center, we hope that it is a community-based initiative.

Zydalis Bauer: You mentioned First Generation and Ubuntu, which are components of the Performance Project. Talk to me about those programs.

How did they come about and who are they for and what -- where do the names come from?

Julie Lichtenberg: First generation evolved out of the work that was happening in the Hampshire Jail, and the the name of the the community is meant to encompass all identities.

So initially, we thought of first generation as being the first in one's family to be growing up in the United States and speaking English. The identity is expanded to a young person who can identify any first in their life.

So, it might be the first to be an activist. It might be the first in their family to be graduating from high school or going to college. They might be the first in their family to be incarcerated. They might be the first in their family to be a feminist or to break a silence. That's first generation.

Cristóbal Silva San Martin, The Performance Project: Ubuntu is named after the South African philosophy of Ubuntu, which really speaks to the interconnectedness of human beings and how we cannot exist in isolation.

It sometimes gets translated to "I am because you are" or how each one benefiting from, like, us coming together really makes us all thrive. So that's very intentional in how we come together in our mentoring and our being an existing with each other.

Zydalis Bauer: Some of the core values of the Performance Project are around intergenerational and intercultural mentoring, artistic training, social justice, and community engagement.

In what ways are participants being introduced to these core values throughout the program?

Cristóbal Silva San Martin: We focus on doing leadership trainings, and really focusing on connection among our young people. So preparing them with skills to be able to be there to support each other.

Also in our family and community celebrations, to bring in community in terms of artistic  -- artistic training and cultural activism, we work with professional artists to be able to provide that training leading up to the creation of performances. Really focusing on using the arts kind of as a vehicle for storytelling and tackling social justice issues.

And that also ties into our social justice and community engagement pillar, which is really having conversations around these issues, learning about community organizations and ways to get involved, examining the systems of oppression through the experiences of young people and current events, and through a wide variety of other mechanisms as well.

Zydalis Bauer: You briefly mentioned the First Generation program, which is a component of the Performance Project. And I know that that came about after hearing members commenting on how big of a difference this project would have made in their lives if they had it when they were younger.

What have been some of all of your favorite moments or most impactful moments of transformations that you've seen within individuals part of the program?

James Arana, The Performance Project: Just getting phone calls from people, from participants who are now in Europe or in graduate school or college students who are being successful and being challenged and having our young people in our Ubuntu community look towards each other and acknowledge that they are already mentors and how how good they feel being together in the way that we are supporting and nurturing each other.

Julie Lichtenberg: I would say that there was a moment in our Ubuntu Arts community, which is third grade through eighth graders who are mentored by high school and college students.

And there was a moment in one of our community circles where one of the eight -- third graders, who are eight years old said, "When do we get to be mentors?" And the other -- and a little girl sitting next to him said, "We're already mentors with each other."

That just gave me goosebumps because I felt like they completely understood what we were doing.

Zydalis Bauer: It came full circle in that moment. Absolutely.

Talk to me about some of the creative and artistic works that you do with the Performance Project and how that has been really helpful and beneficial to the members.

Julie Lichtenberg: What audiences see when they come to see the performances, are the final product of stories that are being told based on the personal experiences of ensemble members, of the youth.

The Performance Project Performer: We are laughing all the way to the world. And all the way home. And honestly, I love her.

Julie Lichtenberg: And those stories, the social justice piece, is that youth have spent time alone -- and together -- in writing and in conversation, really thinking about how their stories are not just their own personal stories, but really connect to the world at large, really connect to systemic issues, either in the United States or globally.

And...through that process, they have analyzed kind of where their places in the world and how there are -- you know, what the barriers are or what the support systems are that can help move them forward in life.

And  -- but the one thing that they haven't yet understood until they've performed their stories, is how people are going to appreciate receiving them and how the audience sees themselves in -- in the performances.

And it's very powerful for them, after performing, when audience members stand up and say, "You just told my story" or "I have never been through that. I'm not from Bhutan, I'm not from Nepal or or Ethiopia, but I have had a very similar experience." And so, there's a kind of a common humanity.

Zydalis Bauer: And you mentioned that a lot of these performances are based on their personal and true stories, so they really claim full authorship over their performances.

How important is it to offer people this creative freedom?

Julie Lichtenberg: That's a really good question! Youth don't have a lot of opportunities to be heard in our society, and they will -- they tell us on a weekly basis how they feel their voices are not respected or given weight or importance.

And so it's important, it's important to them, and it's really, like, a weekly, you know, lesson to us when they share how they feel heard and and they feel...the opportunity is there to grow because they can voice their opinions and their experiences.

James Arana: I think you hit the nail on the head. I think the opportunity for young people to experience being witnessed is what we provide because, in their daily lives, you know, they are part of just the background.

Even when they were in school or at home, they're not at the focal point. And when they come to us, the space is there for them to be seen, heard, and invited in a way that gets them to say like, "Oh, they're really interested me and what I -- who I am and what I have to say."

Zydalis Bauer: And yeah, and I think part of that environment that you all create is incorporated in another one of your values, which is that you all learn from each other.

So in that, what have been some of the things that you all have learned from the members and from these young people, part of the Performance Project?

James Arana: Young people and everyone will grow when we are consistent. When we hold them accountable, hold them in high regard, when we have high expectations, that magic happens.

So we learn that the more that we invest, the more that we bring in and expose everyone to ideas, thoughts, and feelings that everyone benefits from it.

Zydalis Bauer: And I know that part of the mission of your work-- and Julie, you mentioned it also -- is kind of sparking that dialog between performers and the audience and having that common connection for people to experience.

What is it about the creative arts do you think that provides this avenue for relationship and community building? And what conversations do you hope people begin having after they witness one of the performances?

Julie Lichtenberg: We hope that the audience experiences young people as teachers, when they're in the audience. And so, the power dynamic is flipped in that moment and the audiences have the opportunity to see the power and potential of youth.

James Arana: When we create a space through consistency, through nurturing, where caring words and phrases and...and just, you know, making the space for connection to happen, then our whole society benefits.

Initially conceived as a limited series of theater workshops offered at the Hampshire Jail and House of Corrections, the Performance Project is still going strong over twenty years later. Through various performances, projects and visual arts created and inspired by the young participants the program strengthens youth leadership in western Mass communities. And the Performance Project also actively encourages its members and audiences to engage w

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Portrait of the Cape Cod National Seashore (Digital Extra)

January 13, 2022

Cape Cod, or “the Cape” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a favorite summertime vacation destination for families across New England and beyond.  And this past summer marked 60 years of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which was established on August 7th, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.  If you’re dreaming of warm sands, sea, and sunshine during this frigid week and weren’t able make it there yourself this year, have no fear – Producer

Cape Cod, or “the Cape” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a favorite summertime vacation destination for families across New England and beyond.  And this past summer marked 60 years of the Cape Cod National Seashore, whi

Cape Cod, or “the Cape” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a favorite summertime vacation destination for families across New England and beyond.  And this past summer marked 60 years of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which was established on August 7th, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.  If you’re dreaming of warm sands, sea, and sunshine during this frigid week and weren’t able make it there yourself this year, have no fear – Producer

Cape Cod, or “the Cape” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a favorite summertime vacation destination for families across New England and beyond.  

And this past summer marked 60 years of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which was established on August 7th, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.  

If you’re dreaming of warm sands, sea, and sunshine during this frigid week and weren’t able make it there yourself this year, have no fear – Producer Dave Fraser takes us there in this beautiful video essay.  

Watch more stories about the Cape Cod National Seashore.

This story originally aired on July 9th, 2021. 

Cape Cod, or “the Cape” as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a favorite summertime vacation destination for families across New England and beyond.  And this past summer marked 60 years of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which was established on August 7th, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.  If you’re dreaming of warm sands, sea, and sunshine during this frigid week and weren’t able make it there yourself this year, have no fear – Producer

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The History of the Cape Cod Canal

January 13, 2022

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges. For decades, the steel structures have been a staple of daily life – for both Cape Codders and the visitors that flock to the area’s beaches. But the bridges there now are not the original structures. And the canal that people cross today for a day at one of the many beaches on Cape Cod is much different from that one that first opened in 191

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges. For decades, the steel structures have been a staple of daily life – for both Cape Codders and the visitors that flock to th

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges. For decades, the steel structures have been a staple of daily life – for both Cape Codders and the visitors that flock to the area’s beaches. But the bridges there now are not the original structures. And the canal that people cross today for a day at one of the many beaches on Cape Cod is much different from that one that first opened in 191

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges. For decades, the steel structures have been a staple of daily life – for both Cape Codders and the visitors that flock to the area’s beaches. 

But the bridges there now are not the original structures. And the canal that people cross today for a day at one of the many beaches on Cape Cod is much different from that one that first opened in 1914.   

Producer Dave Fraser takes us on a journey to explore the history of the Cape Cod Canal.  

Explore more of the natural beauty of the Cape in this video essay surveying the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Each year, hundreds of thousands of people heading to vacation cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges.

For decades, these steel structures have been a staple of daily life for both Cape Codders and visitors alike. But they are not the original bridges. And in fact, the canal that people cross today is much different from the one that first opened back in 1914.

Producer Dave Fraser takes us on a journey to explore the history of the Cape Cod Canal.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: For many of us who travel to the Cape, we feel as though we have not made it until we've crossed the bridge. The Sagamore, Bourne, and Railroad bridges have become the unofficial gateway to Cape Cod.

But did you ever wonder about the canal that those bridges traverse?

Today, it is an important waterway for navigators and a recreational resource for many, but the idea for the canal dates back to the 1620s.

Timothy Orwig, Author of "Cape Cod Canal": There were two rivers here before, the Scusset and the Manomet, that both went inland, but kind of in different directions. And it had been a place where the Wampanoag would carry their canoes across from one river to the other, when they were crossing from the Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay.

Sixteen twenty three, you had Miles Standish saying we should put a canal through here.

Dave Fraser: Meanwhile, the treacherous outer shores of Cape Cod stranded many ships, claiming nearly a wreck a week, according to historians during the height of the commercial shipping era, giving the outer cape the ominous nickname of the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."

Don Wilding, Cape Cod Author & Historian: This was basically an avenue of commerce. Ships had to go around here between Boston and New York.

It was estimated that between 1626 and the mid-20th century, there were between three thousand and four thousand shipwrecks along Cape Cod's outer beach.

Dave Fraser: Attempts to build a canal had been unsuccessful until, in 1904, a wealthy financier named August Belmont moved ahead with a plan to connect the Monomet and Scusset Rivers. Along with civil engineer William Barclay Parsons, Belmont was confident they could succeed where others had failed.

In June of 1909, construction started on the canal. Dredges of various sizes dug from each bay toward the middle. Bad weather, clay, and large boulders slowed the progress. A narrow gauge railroad was installed to move dirt and equipment back and forth.

Timothy Orwig: They finally come to this center point that they've set up Foley's Dike, and that's the place where they have the ceremony of the joining of the waters.

And they cut through, and suddenly Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay are connected.

Dave Fraser: Two drawbridges and a railroad bridge were installed, along with a passenger ferry to allow people to cross the canal.

Belmont's canal, however, never achieved the level of traffic or revenue its investors had envisioned, and in the end it was deemed a financial failure.

Timothy Orwig: He did it entirely with his own funding and funding that he was able to get together, with the idea that he would be able to pay it off and make a profit from the tolls.

Well, that never really happened for a number of reasons, and I think that probably Belmont ended up losing money on the canal.

Dave Fraser: Seeing value in this waterway, the U.S. government purchased the canal in 1928 and began construction to widen and deepen it, as well as build three new bridges.

Samantha Gray, US Army Corps. of Engineers: Now, all three bridges that were constructed along the Cape Cod Canal were financed underneath the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. That's your New Deal program.

About $4.6 Million dollars was allocated to the canal, and it put many local people to work during that construction.

Dave Fraser: Both bridges, the Sagamore and Bourne, are the same height as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Thousands of cars and trucks cross over them daily, more so in the summertime.

The Railroad bridge was the longest of its kind when it was built. Aided by counterweights, it takes two and a half minutes for the center span to lower for approaching trains.

Today, the Cape Cod Canal is not only a navigable waterway, snaking its way between Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay, it is a recreational resource for fishing, biking, and sightseeing.

Samantha Gray: We see roughly about 15,000 vessels that go through the Cape Cod Canal every year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a marine traffic control center that allow us to communicate with and track all vessels.

There's a little bit more than 11,000 acres of federal lands that surround the canal. And we’re visited by about 3 million people annually.

Timothy Orwig: It's a really important engineering marvel. It’s still the widest sea-level canal in the world. And, you know, it make Cape Cod an island. It wasn’t a peninsula anymore.

 

Each year, hundreds of thousands of vacationers cross over the Cape Cod Canal using one of three bridges. For decades, the steel structures have been a staple of daily life – for both Cape Codders and the visitors that flock to the area’s beaches. But the bridges there now are not the original structures. And the canal that people cross today for a day at one of the many beaches on Cape Cod is much different from that one that first opened in 191

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