Nahant is the smallest town in Massachusetts by land size.
We are one square mile, but we are a proud island community when it comes to defending our Wild spaces. Native Americans called the area Nahant, meaning "the point" or "almost an island." The original Indian name of the place, Nahanten, signifies twins or two things united, referring to the two connected islands forming it.
History of East Point.
A rocky promontory that juts out into Massachusetts Bay, East Point is a dramatic location with a storied past.
Archaeological records indicate it was first home to Native Americans long before English settlers arrived.
Early on, settlers were granted land for home sites - but only if they cleared the land of trees and created pastureland for livestock.
In 1800, Nahant was devoid of trees, however, in 1825 things changed dramatically when Frederick Tudor, the Ice King, built a summer cottage in the center of town.
Tudor began a lifelong campaign to plant trees on treeless Nahant. By 1832, he had 3,358 trees growing in his nursery and within two years, he had some 4,000 trees in cultivation, offering them to summer residents for free if they would plant them on their properties
East Point was taken over by the U.S. Government during the World Wars to provide coastal defense of Boston Harbor. In the 1960's the missile base was decommissioned. Most of East Point was acquired from the government by Northeastern University.
The portion most devastated by the military was left to the town of Nahant. In 1994, the residents of Nahant demonstrated their deep-seated reverence for natural beauty when they raised funds and restored Lodge Park by hauling in thousands of cubic yards of glacial till to fill in the missile silos.
Since the 1960s, the natural habitat has been in a steady state of rejuvenation and restoration. Today, the East Point area of consideration has been designated as a Natural Resource Area and has been preliminarily identified as a Maritime Shrubland, a priority vegetative habitat. It has taken 50 years of undisturbed growth to realize this extraordinary recovery.
The Nahant Historical Society Board of Directors’ Position on Northeastern University Expansion:
The Nahant Historical Society Board of Directors has come to the conclusion that it has a responsibility to NHS members and the people of Nahant to speak out clearly against further expansion by Northeastern University at East Point. East Point is a Natural Resource District under the Town’s By-Laws, and has been for nearly 30 years. If further expansion is allowed, that will be a historic decision which will negatively impact the future of East Point’s landscape, and that of our town, for future generations.
The mission of the Nahant Historical Society is not only to look back at the history of Nahant but also to look forward and speak out against decisions which may have a significant impact upon the cultural and historical direction of Nahant in the future. The Society is tasked to preserve the town’s past for the benefit of future generations. We must keep the essential being of our town...our history, our scenic beauty, our sense of community.
East Point embodies all of these attributes. It is an environmentally sensitive area, as a natural habitat for wild plants, migratory birds, and wildlife of many species. The Point has a unique geological formation, which has delighted and challenged Nahanters for centuries. Its history stretches back to ancient times, back to an era in which some historians believe East Point to have been the landing site of the Viking explorer Thorvald. Early Native Americans used the Point as their summer home and fishing grounds. Its primeval forests were cut down to make way for Ram Pasture for over 100 years, before becoming the site of the Nahant Hotel in the 1800s. East Point was the home of the great statesman and Nahanter Henry Cabot Lodge and his family, before it became an important military site during the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II; and a Nike base during the Cold War. It has been enjoyed for many years as an open recreational space for the townspeople of Nahant, and we hope that what now is open space will remain so.
The Nahant Historical Society supports the vision of Northeastern in wanting to establish the Marine Science Center among world leaders in the fields of marine and environmental science, coastal sustainability and climate change. At the same time, we strongly believe any further expansion of the Marine Science Center will irrevocably change not only the scenic beauty of East Point but also the essential being of our small town.
By this expansion, Northeastern may well be destroying the very things they are hoping to study.
We prefer Northeastern to build their vision in a community that has the size and infrastructure to support their long-term goals. Nahant clearly does not have that infrastructure or size. As one of the preservation-focused organizations in Nahant, the Nahant Historical Society is committed unequivocally to saving and protecting all that is special about our town.