Friday, January 27, 2012

Smoke On the Water

From Dave Brigham:

Old pilings #2

The story about these old pilings in the Charles River in Waltham, MA, turns out to be much better than I'd imagined. I figured they were remnants of an old dock, something simple where people could walk out and dangle their feet in the water and watch the boats and the ducks float by, while taking a break from the nearby watch factory. As time progressed, went my thinking, the dock rotted and fell apart and floated away, leaving behind these ghostly markers.

Well, this spot had much more going on during its heyday. I had to do quite a bit of searching to discover that a canoe manufacturer named C.P. Nutting built a boathouse here in 1914. According to an article I found at, "This was also a boat house that was used for roller skating, boxing, dancing and concerts. This ballroom was famous, as it was one of the few ballrooms in Massachusetts, outside of Boston, where the famous big bands of the time played."

Here is a picture of the dance hall. And here is a card advertising some performances at the hall from 1936.

As for Nutting's company, according to a posting on a forum for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (I told you I had to dig deep!), "it was established in 1884, but did not start building boats and canoes until 1890. By 1905, between 6 and 10 canoe builders were employed at Nutting’s, and it was reported that on average, Nutting built 150 canoes per year. In contrast, the fledgling Old Town Canoe Company was producing about 10 times that many by 1906. Nutting’s specialty was canvas canoes, and they had a reputation of being finely constructed."

Nutting-on-the-Charles was not too far down the river from the Totem Pole Ballroom, which was part of Norumbega Park in nearby Newton, which I wrote about recently (see December 28, 2011, "Amusement Park Ghosts").

Norumbega, which was a "trolley park," closed down in 1963. Nuttings had a much more dramatic ending two years earlier, when it burned to the water line. All that's left are the pilings.

Old pilings #1


  1. In Waltham in the new Market Basket (next to I-95 in that new mall where the old Polaroid complex used to be) there is a coffee shop with a brilliant wall photo of Nuttings in its heyday.

    It was the first I'd ever heard of it. It led me to google it which led me to find this post of yours.

    1. Cool! I'll have to check that out one of these days. Thanks!

  2. I have a 2 minute film of the fire at Nuttings