Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, Mass.

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“New Bedford, Mass. One of New Bedford Quaint Streets. Johney Cake Hill, Corner Union and Bethel Streets.”

This is the second of three cards in The Cunha Family Collection. The sender wrote:

“My Dear Friend, I drop this post card so to let you know that you might see a friend Sunday, that you havn’t seen for some time. Yours Truly. M.S.”

Sent to:   “Mrs. Mary Cunha, 115 Sumner St., Taunton, Mass.”

Behind the name

The definition of “bethel”  is a holy place or a chapel for seamen. The street name Bethel is present-day Johnny Cake Hill; the address of 15 Johnny Cake Hill being home to the Seaman’s Chapel whose facade bears a plaque with a quote from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. (See below for an interesting 1928 newspaper article from the Emporia, Kansas’ Emporia Gazette.) A Wiki article on New Bedford tells us that the city’s nickname is “The Whaling City” because it was one of the most important whaling ports during the 19th century; also that the area that includes New Bedford, Greater Providence and Fall River is home to the largest Portuguese-American community in the U.S.

The Bethelen Cafe

Always intrigued by the small shops and restaurants that appear in these town views, we looked for the Bethelen Cafe that shows on the corner there, but didn’t find any specific mention of it in city directories, Google books, or historical newspapers currently online. Perhaps it was replaced by The New Bedford Whaling Museum? No, the well-known museum is up the street a ways. But check out the following page from Roger Chartier’s WhalingCity.net  which shows a detailed history with several wonderful old photos of the corner of Union and Bethel, including one of the St. Helena restaurant. You’ll be able to take in the detail of the fountain in front of the restaurant – note that there is also a fountain in our postcard image but it’s a different one. Since our postcard was sent in 1909, an estimated time-frame for the card’s view would be that year or within several years prior. We might guess that the Bethelen was a brief successor to the St. Helena Restaurant, with the name Bethelen being a combination of Bethel and Helena.

1928 newspaper article re the Seaman’s Bethel (courtesy Newspapers.com).

Moby Dick Mast Article

Divided back, used postcard. Postmarked October 3, 1909 from New Bedford, Mass. Publisher:  The Metropolitan News & Publishing Co., Boston, Mass. and Germany. No. G 15 121. Made in Germany.

Note:  At the time of this posting, surprisingly, no other postcards of the same view are showing up online.

Price:  $15.00

Sources:  New Bedford, Massachusetts. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bedford,_Massachusetts. (accessed October 25, 2015).

Chartier, Roger. “St. Helena Restaurant – Cafe…” WhalingCity.net. (Web accessed October 25, 2015.)

“Moby Dick” Mast In Tars’ Pulpit Must Be Torn Down. Emporia Gazette. 19 Jan 1928. Thur, p. 6. (Newspapers.com)

Stone Bridge Cottage, Tiverton, Rhode Island

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Stone Bridge Cottage was a popular hotel and restaurant which later became known as Stone Bridge Inn. The Inn appears to have survived as an establishment at least until August or September of 1976, according to a newspaper ad for the Inn as a musical venue to include buffet lunch and champagne. The open, roofed porch that encircled the building would later have been enclosed. According to authors Nancy Jensen Devin and Richard V. Simpson, the building shown here in this 1909 postcard would have been the third structure, described as,  “…a large, wood-shingled, two-and-a-half story hotel occupying a corner lot at the east end of what was once the Stone Bridge….The once-fashionable resort catered to vacationers and travelers for almost two centuries.” 

The first in The Cunha Family Collection:  This card was sent by Miguel S. Cunha, presumably a relative of the addressee. Two of the three are written in Portugese (and if anyone can translate them we’d surely appreciate it.) The translation is difficult due to the sender’s handwriting, and the possibility of misspelled words or even a change in spelling over the years. This one appears to be about someone named Mathes going (or who was going) to California with (or to see?) Miguel’s brothers, and something regarding a letter being sent to Miguel’s father? Also, someone named Jose Antonio is mentioned.

The card is addressed to:   “Jose Silveira da Cunha, 115 Sumner St, Taunton, Mass.”

The likely fit for the addressee shows in Massachusetts Marriage Records, for Jose Silveira Da Cunha, born about 1878 in the Western Islands (of the Azores). Married on November 10, 1906 in Taunton to Maria S. Azevedo, born about 1880 in the Western Islands (of the Azores). The groom’s parents are Joao Silveira Bettencurte Cunha and Rosa Margarida Da Silveira, and the bride’s parents are Manuel Vieira Siceira and Mariana Azevedo. The next two postcards in this small family group are addressed to Mary Cunha and Mrs. J. Cunha at the same Sumner Street address.

Divided back, used postcard. Postmarked October 6, 1909 from Newport, Rhode Island. Publisher:  The Metropolitan News Co., Boston, Mass. and Germany. No. 9259 (44078).

Price:  $5.00

Sources:  “The Stone Bridge Music Festival.”  The Berkshire Eagle, 27 Aug 1977, p. 64. (Newspapers.com)

Jensen, Nancy and Richard V. Simpson. Images of America:  Tiverton and Little Compton. Charleston:  Arcardia Publishing, 1977. (Google eBook.)

Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. (Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915.)

Reuben E. Lee Riverboat Restaurant

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“Reuben E. Lee. Riverboat Restaurant. Harbor Island, San Diego. Overall Length 204′ – 8”     Width 55′     Overall Height  65′     Weight 1,000 Tons.   Owned by Far West Services, Inc. Operators of Snack Shops, Reuben’s, Coco’s, The Whaler, Wu Ben’s and Reuben E. Lee Riverboat. California, Arizona, Missouri, Hawaii.”

The Reuben E. Lee Riverboat Restaurant was built in 1969, and was a restaurant that was constructed on a barge and built to resemble a Mississippi Riverboat. For about 34 years it was a very popular destination for dining, birthdays, wedding parties and the like, but there were issues with water leakage and in 2003 it was closed down, being deemed structurally unsafe. In April of 2012 it was towed from it’s longtime location to a local shipyard in the San Diego Bay, and sank at the end of that year, due to it’s hull giving way. (How sad.) ….Well, even though the Reuben E. Lee never steamed up or down any waterways, it went the way of many a vessel, and maybe that is poetic, in a sentimental sort of way, for the restaurant that was built to look like a riverboat.

As to the date of this postcard, the cars in the photo are the major clue. Many appear to be mid-1960s models but the orange wagon (center) appears to be either a 1970 Opel Kadett Station Wagon or maybe a 1972 Opel 1900 Sport Wagon. Maybe the red-orange color was not available in both years? Any Opel experts out there, feel free to post your comments, please! Parked next to the Opel is what looks like a 1965 Dodge Charger (comments welcome, of course.)

Divided back, deckled edge, unused postcard. Published by Photo Art, 200 Neptune Ave., Encinitas, California 92024. Series or number 54226-C. Circa early 1970s.

Price:  $3.00

Sources:  Fiorina, Steve. “Landmark floating restaurant Reuben E. Lee sinks at local shipyard”. ABC10 News. 11 Dec 2012. Web. Accessed 25 May 2014.

Blauer, Phil. “Restaurant plans afloat to replace sunken Reuben E. Lee”. CBS8.com. 31 Jan 2013, revised 1 Feb 2013. Web. Accessed 25 May 2014.

Hill, Taylor. “Harbor Island’s Reuben E. Lee Towed Away”. The Log, California’s Boating and Fishing News. 21 May 2012. Web. Accessed 25 May 2014