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Swampscott Weathervanes: They Tell More than Wind Direction

Swampscott has a great variety of weathervanes on homes and buildings, some with stories to tell.

 

Maybe it’s New England's signature church steeples that have many people in the region look up when they first see a building or home.

Look up at Swampscott buildings or homes and on many you'll find a weathervane.

Look a little further into that weathervane and you might find a story.

At 4 Didio Dr. the weathervane is a handsaw.

Linda Hinchey's children dubbed their mom the handywoman of the home. And the saw weathervane was a gift from them to her. 

At 11 Aycliffe Road the weathervane is a dog, its directionals below are bones.

The homeowners had the weathervane custom built in memory of a beloved family pet. 

At 748 Humphrey St., when homeowners Bill and Jane Mosakowski restored the carriage house on their property, Bill wanted to add a weathervane that was unusual and reflected his passion for basketball.

Bill scored on both points.

These meaningful home toppers are ornamental, but there was a time when weathervanes had a practical application for fishermen in town.

Local historian Lou Gallo said fishermen would rely on weathervanes as weather predictors that guided their fishing.

More recently, in the 1960s, when Lou worked at the New Ocean House Hotel, he and fellow hotel employees would check the wind direction on the weathervane on the hotel bath house.

The direction would indicate the water temperature and whether it was cold or warm enough to head down to the beach and go swimming.

One of the more interesting weathervanes that the local historian ever saw in Swampscott was on the home where Constance Holt grew up.

That was the Lewis family home on Woodbine Avenue.

Her father regularly documented the weather including the wind direction and had a weathervane mounted atop the home.

His was a double-ended weathervane. He had weathervanes on both ends of a pole.

The shaft extended through the roof and into Mr. Lewis's bedroom so he could determine the wind direction without going outside, without leaving his bed. He'd just look up toward the ceiling and know which way the wind was blowing.

The codfish weathervane atop the Fish House — replaced last summer — is famous locally.

But so was the grasshopper weathervane that once turned on the roof of Town Hall.

The weathervane originally belonged to Elihu Thomson, the famous inventor. It was mounted on his carriage house. Later, the carriage house and the main house became Swampscott Town Hall.

One day in the 1970s, the grasshopper was stolen, said Paul Sherry, a retired Swampscott police officer.

"Dr. Bicknell’s wife was the one who noticed the theft from atop of Town Hall, they lived opposite Police Station," Paul said.

There was a rash of weathervane thefts at that time, he said. They were stolen and the thiefs cashed in on their value as historical artifacts.

The Swampscott grasshopper, along with other stolen weathervanes, was recovered from an antique shop in Vermont, Paul said.

The grasshopper remains locked up in the evidence room for safekeeping at the Swampscott Police Station, said Police Chief Ron Madigan, who recenlty arranged a furlough for the hopper so it could be photographed. 

For several years there has been talk of placing the grasshopper in a shadowbox and placing it on display at .

In the meantime there are all kinds of weathervanes to see atop Swampscott homes and buildings.

Check out these photographs to get a sense of the great variety of weathervanes in town. 

 

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