The Vaughn Cottage Memorial
One of the best kept secrets of the NH seacoast, this charming free museum and reading room is open throughout the summer on the Isles of Shoals. Museum hours are timed to accommodate visitors from the ferry Thomas Laighton (named for poet Celia Thaxter's father). The Star Island Stopover tour allows time to see the museum and tour the entire small island.
Although 19th century poet Celia Thaxter lived for a very short time on Star, she spent much of her childhood at the nearby White Island lighthouse, then at Smuttynose Island and finally at her family's hotel on Appledore. All the islands can be seen within a few feet of the Vaughn Cottage site, just a few rocky yards below the historic Gosport Chapel. From the cottage it is also possible to see the towering Tuck Monument, and the John Smith monument on the southerly tip of the island.
The stone cottage was dedicated on July 21, 1960 in a ceremony attended by Celia's grand-daughter Rosamond Thaxter. Rosamond is best known for her book "Sandpiper" a biography of Celia and the name of Celia's best known poem. In the museum, donated by Rosamond, is the desk on which the "island poet" composed the famous verses. Also in the collection are rare items from the Appledore hotel, run by the Thaxter family in the second half of the 19th century. The hotel was a magnet for artists and writers from the Cambridge area who spent summers in Celia's salon.
The building is of the same stone structure with thick walls as other conference buildings on the island. The memorial was planned as early as 1939 as a memorial to Celia's brother "Uncle Oscar" who spent most of his 99 years on the Isles of Shoals. The site selected originally may have originally been home to the Star Island school for "Shoaler' children.
Building of a memorial was interrupted by World War II. The memorial idea was revived decades later with funds from the widow of New York scientist Charles Vaughn who had died in the war. Entering the cozy stone cottage today, the cozy reading room on the right is dedicated to Mr. Vaughn, and his library of seafaring and marine biology books are there. To the right is an extremely well presented little museum of Laighton items with an on-site curator. Upstairs is the museum work area and archives.
The museum is owned and maintained by the Star Island Corporation of Boston which has been organizing religious retreats and conferences on Star Island for nearly a century. Built in a cluster of stone buildings near the turnstile that leads to the "wild" end of the island, the cottage is a popular quiet reading room for summer island conferees.
by J. Dennis Robinson
Primary Source: Ten Miles Out: Guide to the Isles of Shoals, by Lyman Ruttledge. First published in 1949, the guide is now in its 7th printing and is available from Peter Randall Publishing.
As you will see from the photos of the collection presented here, this is a well-maintained museum containing the best centralized display of Celia Thaxter and Star Island items. Although the museum, like this web site, are free, funds donated will be used to preserve and protect the collection. Many of the more perishable paper items have been removed to the Portsmouth Athenaeum where they can be housed under better climatic conditions. If you would like to support this project, you may write in the summer to:
Vaughn Cottage Memorial
There is currently no phone, fax or e-mail.
When making contributions, please note that you read about the Vaughn Memorial on SeacoastNH.com!
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