History of the Helm and Quarterdeck

Read about the interesting history of two Hog Island buildings

History of the Helm and Quarterdeck

The Helm and Quarterdeck were originally part of Camp Mavooshen buildings, a rustic summer camp built in the early 1900’s. Camp Mavooshen was the summer home of Mabel Loomis Todd, the original editor of the Emily Dickinson poetry and collector of her letters and Dr. David Todd, Professor of Astronomy at Amherst College, MA.

The Helm was build c. 1905 by previous owners believed to be Melvin and Phillip Genthner. It was in place when the Todds arrived in 1909. At first they called it ‘the little house,’ though on occasion it was called ‘the clammers cottage.’ Sometime prior to 1932, ‘the little house’ was named ‘the lobster house.’ The Genthners owned that swath of Hog Island (there were eight other owners/owner groups of the main body of Hog Island). It is believed the Genthners were responsible for a clearcut in the otherwise old growth forest. Prior to the Todd’s acquiring the ‘the little house’, it bunked either Long Cove clammers and/or wood cutters.  

David Todd worked hard to clear the little beach of rocks, many of which were piled in front of  ‘the little house’. Mrs. Todd writes of stone masons who were hired to complete the stonework piazza that still exists at the former site of the ‘the little house’. The Todd’s eventually built a porch roof on ‘the little house’ and it served as the camp kitchen for as long as the Todd/Binghams summered on the island.  

The Quarterdeck was built in 1932 during Mrs. Todd's last summer at Camp Mavooshen. She writes of having a ‘dining room’ built down behind the lobster house that was being roofed just before she died in October 1932. After Mabel Todd's death, her daughter Millicent and her husband Walter Bingham converted Mrs. Todd’s dining room into their workshop. Story goes that Walter built a rain collector on the workshop with a gravity feed to the sink in the lobster house to make dish washing easier.  

Recent history: In the fall of 1984, Hog Island Director, Steve Kress, arranged with a local contractor for ‘the lobster house’ and ‘the workshop’ to be pulled from their shoreline foundation at Camp Mavooshen. They were filled with steel drums for added floatation and were floated around the Hog Island peninsula to their current location where they were pulled ashore with a small bulldozer. The ‘lobster house’ received a large deck, a sitting room, and indoor plumbing. It served as the Hog Island Director’s Cabin until 2010 when it became camper housing. It was dubbed ‘The Helm in reference to the Camp Director who was charged with being at the steering wheel of the ship.

In the spring of 1985 ‘the workshop’ was renamed ‘The Quarterdeck‘ because of its position behind ‘The Helm. The quarterdeck is a nautical name for the raised platform behind the main mast of a sailing ship. The workshop’ was divided into two bedrooms, each with a private bathroom. It was used for staff housing until 2013, and the Roseate Room became camper housing in 2014.

Camp Mavooshen history by Tom Schaefer
October 7, 2014

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