Mass. Humane Society Boathouse #23 Restoration
Completed Project
Project Description
Mass. Humane Society Boathouse
This project funded the restoration of one of two remaining Mass. Humane Society Life Saving Stations. This station is located on the Scituate Marine Park.

The Scituate Historical Society offered use of the fully restored boathouse to the Recreation Department as a home for the Town's sailing program and other educational programs. Inside the historical structure is an informational exhibit to help the community learn about the its past uses.

This project fully meets the requirements of the Town’s CPC goals for historical resources by recognizing, preserving and enhancing the historical heritage and character for the Town’s current residents and future generations.
Building History
During the mid-to-late 1800's the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts constructed many lifeboat houses along the Massachusetts coast. This building was constructed around 1896 and was designated as Station No. 23. It was located at Pleasant Beach Cohasset. This building was equipped with a new lifeboat, Hunt Line Throwing Gun, and other rescue equipment.

Shortly after this boathouse was placed in service, the Great Portland Storm of November 1898 struck the New England Coast. Many vessels were driven ashore including the coal barge Lucy Nichols. Volunteers from this station made a heroic, but unsuccessful attempt to reach the crew stranded at Black Rock. The rescuers were thrown into the sea, but managed to swim back to shore. The crew of the Hull Life-saving Station later rescued the Nichols crew.
For several decades Humane Society volunteers and the Federal Government's U.S. Life-saving Service worked side-by-side in rescues. However, in 1915 the Life-Saving Service became the U.S. Coast Guard and the need for a private volunteer service diminished.

The last appointed Captain of Station No. 23 was Arthur O. Wood. He was appointed on August 1, 1930. In the mid-1930's the Humane Society closed most boathouses. This boathouse was moved from Cohasset to Scituate's First Cliff around 1938. Young's boatyard used the building for storage of equipment and as a workshop. Very few of these boathouses still exist in Massachusetts. The Town of Scituate recognized the historical significance of this building and voted funds to restore it in 2007.

Courtesy of The Scituate Historical Society
Organization History
The Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was formally organized in 1786 by wealthy Boston businessmen who wanted to do something about the terrible loss of life resulting from shipwrecks. They modeled their society after the British Royal Humane Society. James Bowdoin, the Governor of Massachusetts, was elected to be the society's first president. Soon after the Humane Society was organized, it was decided to build "huts of refuge" along the shore. These huts were furnished with blankets and firewood so if a shipwrecked crew managed to swim ashore, they could find shelter until help arrived. The first boathouse for rescue operations was built in Cohasset in 1807. Soon many more boathouses were built along the Massachusetts coast.

Later in the 1800's larger and better-equipped buildings were constructed. These buildings often contained a surfboat and beach cart that held a line-throwing gun. These guns fired a line to a ship in distress so a breeches buoy could be rigged. The breeches buoy was a very effective way to pull a ship's crew to shore. Often the volunteers from the Humane Society would row the surfboat directly to the ship in trouble and bring the crew to safety.

The Humane Society was an all-volunteer organization. When the cry went out "ship ashore," the volunteers would race to the boathouse and begin the rescue. Those that risked their own life to save another were rewarded for their effort. The Humane Society would award gold, silver, or bronze medals to those individuals that successfully rescued those in trouble.

The Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Masschusetts continues to this day. Although this organization no longer operates lifeboat stations, it provides financial assistance to local Boston hospitals. Recently the Humane Society helped equip Boston Med Flight helicopters with heart defibrillators and to install ultrasound equipment in five Boston hospitals.

At the Scituate Historical Society's Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum located in Scituate, you will see a complete exhibit on the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Courtesy of The Scituate Historical Society
Photos (click on image to enlarge)