Shutter Island

Spring 2010.

To reach our destination the next day, there wasn't a direct freeway, or even a direct secondary highway; so while this would make most noobs run for the nearest Best Buy to buy the most expensive GPS to save themselves, I salivated at the chance to experience and navigate some Massachusetts back roads.

We were rolling 10 deep this day, so obviously we weren't all going to take our own cars in some type of ridiculous cavalcade. I hopped in with my Philly Flyer loving friends Count Zero and Kae, excited that they didn't have a GPS and that we would have to rely on a lap-sized road atlas that Arntz provided us. (Arntz was performing all of his housewife duties (cleaning/cooking) for the housewarming, and therefore wouldn't be accompanying us).

The drive succeeded at two tasks: making me want to return to Massachusetts simply to wander around random villages; and also scaring the living daylights out of me as Count Zero pulled into a liquor store and we were milliseconds from getting T-boned by some conceited, road-owning Chowderhead driver.

Thankfully we walked into that liquor store unscathed, where I purchased a Boston Bruins scratch ticket to hide in Count Zero's car for one of those days when he's sour about the Flyers losing yet again to the Bruins.

The liquor store was about 3 minutes from where we were catching our boat this day, so I obviously I had navigated the convoluted Massachusetts roads with ease.

If you've seen the film Shutter Island, then our location for the day might seem familiar.

Then again, you better have been paying attention for this island to seem familiar...

...because yes, the island is in the movie.

It first appears very gloomy from the sea - with giant hills added by computers to make the island look more menacing. Once Leonardo and that other guy land on the island, they jump in the military vehicle and drive by a few of the real-life buildings before coming to those gates, which mark the end of what's actually on Shutter Island (those gates were built for the movie and don't really exist).

Even though it lasted all of 2 minutes (from Shutter Island movie minute 4 to minute 6), it was enough for me to excitedly shake Nicole as we watched the movie last month: "Oh my god the dock is like that!!! And there's the chapel!!! And there's that ruined barracks!!! And it's not like that!!! And those gates are fake!!!"

I guess I didn't annoy her that much, as she later asked if the lighthouse in the movie is actually on the Shutter Island I visited - which it obviously is not since this is a simple side note. Briefly searching, there are 4 lighthouses illuminating the 34 islands of Boston Harbor, but the one in the movie seems to have been computer generated.

Of course this island doesn't lie in this condition simply as a result of a history created by Martin Scorsese.

The 210 acre island0 is five drumlin hills connected by tombolos (sand bars). Native Americans used the island for fishing areas in the summertime until Europeans arrived and a Portuguese fishing village came to the middle of the island. At the turn of the 20th century, recreation became more important in people's lives, meaning inns and an estate were constructed on the island.

0 - About 5 times the size of George's Island, 1/5th the size of Belle Isle,
1/40th the size of Bell Island and 1/50th the size of Pelee Island

By 1898, the Endicott Period of Fort Construction was in full swing in the States and the government wanted the easternmost area of the island to build a fort protecting Boston's harbour. Land was purchased from the Andrews' Estate on East Head and construction of Fort Andrews began.

30 buildings were constructed on the island, including multiple 110-person barracks and officers homes. Fort Andrews would serve in WWI and WWII, actually housing Italian Prisoners of War likely captured in either Italian Libya or Tunisia (North Africa) during WWII.

The Fort was declared excess in 1950 and would sell in 1958 for $35 000 ($270 000 in 2010 dollars). A decade later, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would seize the property under eminent domain for $192 000 ($1.1 mil in 2010).

The private homes existed before, during and after Fort Andrews active life. The area was actually unique as most forts don't allow their soldiers to leave and stay in civilian houses, but some soldiers did just that at Fort Andrews; leaving at night to sleep with their families in island homes. After the fort closed, some people lived on the island year round, but most of the homes were used as summer cottages. Later on, the residents and owners would feel pressure to leave the island, but some fought it off while the state purchased other cottages and let them fall into disrepair.

Today a few people have summer cottages on the island, while a single year-round resident remains.

The first building we wandered into was the gym. In its day, the gym had a weight room, basketball court and bowling alley - in the above picture you see the basketball court. I don't remember seeing anything resembling a bowling alley. This basketball court was also where they would hold fort dances.

In researching for this write-up, I found the story of a young lady who would never miss these dances; paddling her boat over to the island for all of them as she was smitten with some handsome young soldier. Hollywood scenes play in your mind as you picture a female in a conservative dress making her way over to the island, approaching the gym building with 40s music playing and flags & banners covering the walls.

I didn't do any research prior to my visit, so it's not as if I could envision these things while I was there.

Moving along, there were a lot of people in our group & a lot of people who were only exploring together for the first time - which I think led to some pussyfooting and hesitation as we weren't completely comfortable with each other yet.

Therefore, since it was the first building of the day, we suddenly found ourselves congregated together on the second floor of the gym. Adding to this hilarity, Desmet was trying to get a better version of my gym doors shot and was directing us into various rooms out of the hallway - I ended up in a room with 3 others, while another room had 2 people & another room had 3 others. In my room, the 4 of us laughed because we all make fun of Desmet for being an artfag, and suddenly we found ourselves imprisoned in the name of his artfaggery.

Eventually a satisfactory picture was taken and we were granted permission to leave our rooms.

I found myself leaving with Nail and 2 other friends, as we checked an interesting, although dark, workshop; before moving into the tunnels and rooms of Battery Rice, then Battery Frank Whitman (notice the cement name above the passageway in the above picture).

The batteries led to pits where the mortar guns were fired from - two 6-inch guns and 16 12-inch mortars could hit anything within 8 miles: covering an area from Revere in the north to Cohasset in the south.

While the mortar pit was clear back in the 40s & 50s, it has since grown ripe with vegetation - to the point that I actually thought these areas were picnic squares and not tidy clearings with most important mortars in place.

The above picture looks down on the Frank Whitman Battery Mortar Pit from a nearby knoll. You can see the tall mortar pit wall at the top of the picture (where calcium has colored the wall white). The tall walls of this mortar pit meant that the guns could fire mortars over the walls onto attacking ships, but it would be nearly impossible for an attacking ship to be able to loop any artillery into this space.

Moving along, we started to mix groups and there were different people coming & going everywhere. I entered some C-shaped, 3-story building which wasn't all that captivating - outside of the impressive aged elevator I discovered on the 3rd floor!

Moving close & inspecting, I realized it was an actual OTIS elevator, which remains the most popular elevator in the world to this day (check the nameplate next time you're in an elevator - I'll bet money it's an OTIS).

As I stood in admiration of this finely built and aged device, Desmet entered the room and echoed the same sentiment. I left the room shortly after, happy that this building seemed to be one of the few structures undergoing renovations.

I realized how much of a shame it would be to lose this elevator when I was later talking to my friend Junix and he echoed my infatuation with the device...and then showed me video where he was pulling cables and making the buttery smoov' elevator move up and down on a whim - epic.

Arbitrarily choosing a path, I came to a street lined with Officer's Quarters & the hospital - which was easily my favourite area of Fort Andrews.

I walked along the road casually as it hadn't grow over very much. The sun pushed through the thick tree cover where it could & shined off the redbrick; the surface still showing beauty after 60 years of abandonment. Many of the porches had rotten through or collapsed, but the square brick quarters themselves seemed to be perfectly fine.

I was feeling lazy & content with admiring the exterior of the fine structures, but I could only decline entry invitation so long - I chose to inspect the largest structure - which I would later learn was the hospital.

Nailhed & another friend were leaving the basement and as I passed them, they bespoke warning of the hospital being quite dilapidated inside.

They weren't kidding. I took the above shot as I reached the first floor & looked to my right.

I crept up another floor and looked around some more, before creeping up another floor and being even more careful.

I decided I had pushed my luck far enough, but then turned around to find Captain Jack who told me how he loves buildings in this condition. "Me too!" I exclaimed, as I was excited that someone shared my love for multi-floor collapses.

Captain didn't exactly propose that we continue to the next much as he simply expected it. It was alright though, it wasn't a matter of peer pressure, I needed about as much encouragement as a drunk needs to have another glass of wine.

We reached the top floor and found the above metal grate guarding rooms larger than we found anywhere else in the hospital - both Captain and I thought it was some type of jail, but who knows, now that we know it was a hospital.

Anyway, I peered in a room and found one of those massive claw foot tubs and reasoned to myself that some of the floors can't be that bad. Just as I was reasoning this, Captain asked me to come over and stand behind the metal grate for a picture - and that's where you have the above picture: that was the view behind me as Captain encouraged me to move over a bit, a bit more, a bit more - ever closer to this giant collapse.

I wondered what this Mainer was trying to get me to do, but eventually he told me to stop moving over & to look regretful (as a prisoner would1). We apparently were finally done playing "how close can I get dopey Navi to the multi-floor collapse?"

1 - The picture didn't end up that good because I have a sad-puppy-dog-eyes look
as 'regretful' isn't really in my book of conveyable emotions.

After the hospital, I had completed the loop of Fort Andrews and saw what there was to see. We still had about an hour, so I climbed down the hill behind the hospital to the old administration building.

I didn't know it was the administration building at the time & I mostly climbed up on one of the walls out of boredom and a fixation on getting some irregular pictures. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing you could climb further & I was left to walking along the tops of the basement walls with a 2 story ruin around me looking like one of those old western window cut-out towns.

I eventually gave up on accomplishing anything in the admin and took to resting on a ledge about 10 feet off the ground. Suddenly, some teenage couple walked by with the guy wearing a grey wife beater, farmer's tan, Tapout hat and carrying a bunch of loose Coors Light, as he led some blonde back towards the mortar pit I showed earlier.

I don't know where the hell he came from, but I had a laugh at his birdish ways. Then again, while I wouldn't rock a wife beater, I have to respect the game in a having a female, some brews and some abandoned buildings all at once.

Eventually I figured it HAD to be getting time to leave, so I went back to the pier and found a couple people who told me that I still had about 45 minutes.

Not one to waste 45 minutes when outside of Newfoundland, I checked out one last building - Barracks #2.

Inside the building, the stairs leading up were obliterated.

Therefore I thoroughly investigated the bottom floor, happy that maybe I checked out one of the buildings few people wander inside.

Back on the mainland, I considered asking CZ if he wanted to go to the Sciutate Lighthouse, but we were all hungry & super psyched to get back to Arntz's to start the festivities.

After a brief stop at Richards Wine & Spirits for $46 in liquor (mickey of Evan Williams for Arntz's hospitality, 12 40s of Private Stock to bring back to oppressive Newfoundland2, 6 Leinenkugel Summer Shandys & a couple tall cans), we were back to the party house in no time.

2 - 'oppressive Newfoundland' because I can only get 40s here
by asking friends to bring them or by flying/driving them back personally.

...and the festivities and eating didn't take very long to start. I thought maybe there'd be a period of downtime since it wasn't quite drinking hour yet, but we got to it pretty much right as we got back.

My plan of taking it easy since I had been outside in the sun all day only lasted so long as my good friend CR announced that she had some Jooses available - Count Zero & Kae had never had Joose before, so they each had one; and then there seemed to be a lack of suitors for CR's last Joose - or at least that's what I told myself as I jumped in and scooped up the last can of the sweet, sweet nectar.

Hilarity would ensure as the two Philadelphians and myself would take our 3 cans of Joose to the newly christened "Joose couch", where after mere minutes suddenly everyone was laughing and having a hell of a time. I was actually pretty confused as I didn't think we were very drunk, but as any of us would try to talk to any non-Joose people, they'd look confused and just start cracking up at our expense. I was understanding CZ & Kae just fine, but I guess we were all speaking the Joose language apparently.

Other highlights included Arntz's neighbour coming outside while we were admiring our friend Tracker's Impala and announcing, "now that, that's a facccking cahhhh" as his first sentence in perfect chowdahspeak; some glasses with coke bottle thick lenses making the rounds, somehow finding our way into Arntz's attic to redecorate it with Sharpie graffiti & Arntz passing out and somehow getting Sharpie graffiti on himself too (see above).

Eventually the party started to die down a bit & I was proud of myself for lasting so long after being so hungry and dehydrated - then Nailhed mocked me & forced me to drink some Jager...then next thing I know, I woke up in the morning craving IHOP in Dedham.

Stupid Nh.

Onto the Next Day


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