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Two Old-Time Cohasset Inns

Oliver H. Howe

From Oliver H. Howe, "Two Old Time inns," Cohasset Cottager, 1930.

The earliest inn, so far as known, was kept by Christopher James. His grandfather Thomas James built the house on South Main Street, which with numerous additions and alterations is now [1930] known as the Hillside Inn. Probably only a small portion of the original structure now exists. Thomas was an important man in Cohasset, one of the founders of the church [First Parish], and interested with Mordecai Lincoln in the project of smelting and forging iron at Turtle Island. He probably occupied the house as a dwelling. His son Philip (born 1708, died 1785) lived in the house. His grandson Christopher (born 1752, married 1785, died 1810) was called a Storekeeper and Innkeeper. He enlarged the house and kept it as an inn called the Red Lion . . .

The other early inn was the Black Rock House, named from a rocky islet with a gunner's cabin on it, a short distance offshore. Nathaniel Nichols (1721 1758) built it in 1757. His son, Nathaniel, like his father a master mariner, also lived here. As captain in the navy in 1775, he, in command of two sloops, seized the island of Nassau with nearly 100 cannon and other stores.

Probably the house was at first a dwelling and became an inn at some later time, doubtless through the reception of occasional guests . . . The early location of the Black Rock House was upon a ledge of rock fronting the ocean a few rods easterly from Green Hill Beach. The building became much enlarged, but perhaps contained within itself some of the old structure. For some years previous to 1870 it was kept by a Mr. Hayden, and later, until about 1882, by Moses Sargent. After that, and until its removal in 1903, it was kept by Sarah R. Smith.

In 1903 it was bought by summer residents on the opposite side of the street and removed to improve their ocean view. Parts of it were taken across the beach into Hull and still stand next to Straits Pond and across the street from Green Hill. [Sarah] Smith then built the present Black Rock House upon a pinnacle of rocks, a few rods to the westward of Green Hill Beach . . . She continued to run it until her death in 1914. She was a great favorite with her guests because of her genuine kindness and solicitude for their welfare.

The most successful period of the Black Rock House was that in which people were content to board for weeks at such a resort, and many families returned from year to year. The bicycle and the automobile had not developed their migrating facilities. The leisurely, intimate contact with nature has given place to the hasty glimpses which swift travel affords.