Friday, July 31, 2009

Peabody Leather Museum and North Shore Vocational

New Attraction in Peabody
On Thursday evening a new attraction opened in Peabody as a part of the George Peabody House complex on Washington Street.   The long awaited Leather Museum opened to rave reviews and welcoming guests.  The Museum depicts the storied history and heritage of the leather industry in the City of Peabody.  The leather industry was a bell weather of the economy of the City of Peabody long before there were shopping centers and industrial parks in the city,  During the last century thousands of Peabody residents earned their living working in the dozens of tanneries in the city.  I suspect that families all over the city had someone that was connected to this important regional industry. My wife's dad worked for over twenty five years in one of the many leather facilities in the community after the mills closed down, and for one summer that I will long remember, I worked at the long ago closed Hawthorne Tanning Co,  I broke out skins for about 10 weeks as a summer job.   It was hard but honest work, and I was better later on for the experiece.  Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti and the rest of the City of Peabody municipal government can be most proud of their accomplishment in bringing this idea to life as a museum.  The new museum is part of the George Peabody House complex that also serves as one of the ten regional Visitor Centers connected to Essex Heritage.  The Leather Museum is open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and certainly will make a wonderful destination for the residents of the Leather City as well as other from around the region.  The heritage of this region that ENHC is working so hard to preserve is most evident in this facility and all that it represents to such an important community in the Essex National Heritage Area. 

Area Mayors and Other Elected Officials Working to Secure Additional Funding
Between now and the end of this year very important votes to help assure the creation of a new North Shore Vocational School will be taking place at City Council and Town Meetings across the region.   Essex Heritage has long advocated for this important new facility to be located in Danvers and has sent letters of support at every step in the process.  We applaud recent efforts of Beverly Mayor Scanlon, with the help of Congressman Tierney and the North Shore Chamber of Commerce to seek Federal Stimulus funds to help make up financing shortfalls after the initial state educational funding had been secured.  The need to help out cash strapped member communities to meet their share of the required commitment is a wonderful initiative. All of the member communities that will have to share in the cost of completion of this much needed regional educational facility are in need of financial help and if this effort is successful it would a godsend to the local communities.  I am proud to be a member of the Danvers Finance Committee and any help that can be obtained to make the completion of this new school a reality will be appreciated by one group representing a local community.  The Essex National Heritage commission continues to offer its unqualified support to this urgent effort and urges all officials working on funding to continue their efforts, as the school is of great importance to the region.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boston Globe Editorial on National Park Service Support

Good Evening...Bill Steelman, one of the senior staff at Essex Heritage sent me a copy of this editorial that appeared in today's Boston Globe.  As an affiliate of the National Park Service, Essex Heritage was very pleased to see the position offered in this editorial.  Funding at the level outlined would be most positive for the entire system, and would be welcomed by the two National Park units in this region.  The appointment of a highly regarded career National Park Service to the position of Director would also be welcomed.  I felt that editorial as provided by the Boston Globe seemed to be worth sending along to you tonight.  Tom Leonard

Boston Globe 
Editorial Page  
A champion for national parks 
July 29, 2009 
A PRESIDENT who spent much of his youth surrounded by Hawaii’s natural splendors should be an unstinting supporter of the national parks. The parks need one badly - and not just because they have been understaffed for years and need $8 billion worth of deferred maintenance. As young Americans get heavier and heavier, the trails and campsites of the parks need an advocate who can help them regain their rightful place in Americans’ vacationing plans.

Even as the country’s population has grown over the last decade, the number of visitors to the parks and other areas administered by the National Park Service has fallen 4 percent since 1999. President Obama has already taken two steps to improve the parks. His budget would increase park spending by $135 million, and he has nominated a respected National Park Service professional, Jon Jarvis, as its director.

Congress can do its part by approving legislation to expand the Public Lands Service Corps Act. The corps offers stipends for work in the parks rehabbing campgrounds, restoring historic structures, eradicating invasive species, and conducting research projects. Participants include young people but also retirees and returning members of the military services, who serve as mentors.

Theories abound for why there have been fewer visitors to the parks. A program like the service corps should help reverse the trend. Not only does it make the parks more appealing to visitors, but it also turns corps members into ambassadors for the parks when they return to their communities. Congress should enlarge the corps and grant the park service the extra funds that Obama is seeking.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baker's Island, Northeast Harvest and More

 Bakers Island Improvements

Several months ago, the United States Coast Guard decided that it was time to turn over the holdings they held on Bakers Island in Salem Sound to another organization in the region.  After a studied process, Essex Heritage was chosen, a license granted and over the last year, ENHC has taken a number of small steps to improve the property around the historic Bakers Island light.  During the summer of 2009, an experienced couple was landed on the island, and they have been living in the keeper’s cottage on the island, and some power and other facilities have been improved to make the property more livable.   Essex Heritage continues to examine strategies to make the site accessible to the public in the future, as the light house and the other facilities connected to the light help tell the wonderful maritime story of this region.  It will still be some time before a final plan is developed, but the improvements made this summer are a first step in that process.

Northeast Harvest Newsletter

Northeast Harvest is a buy fresh local collaboration effort of the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources, the Essex Agricultural Society and Essex Heritage.  A monthly newsletter and a companion web site, was created  to promote the sustainability of our local farms.  The initiative is designed to educate consumers about fresh food locally grown in Essex and Middlesex Counties.   The program also advocates for the sustainability of local farms, and by providing connections between the many aspects of our local farming community.  A major goal of the collaboration is to preserve our environment and rich heritage of agricultural open space.  If this initiative is of interest to you please sign on to the web site to learn more or contact to sign up for the electronic newsletter that will be produced from time to time.

Essex Heritage Senior Staff in Washington DC

Late last year Essex Heritage participated in an evaluational exercise regarding the successes of this initiative since the founding of the Area over a decade ago.   Over the last six months data has been gathered and some of the earliest determinations are starting to be released.  Our Senior staff headed by our Executive Director spend the day today in Washington to begin the discussion of the findings.  We certainly do not expect that any final determination will be released in the near term, but the trip to today helped Essex Heritage to better understand the process.

Hospice of the North Shore Planning Expansion

Last night, my wife and I attended an informational program at Hospice of the North Shore at their Kaplan Family Hospice House.  The Hospice team is planning an expansion of that facility that would increase the number beds available from twelve to twenty.  It is clear from the presentation we heard that the need for this expansion is great.  Over the first four years that the Kaplan House has been opened over 2000 patients have been served at the home.  A groundbreaking for the new wing took place about a month ago, and work is progressing nicely. Hospice of the North Shore is a dedicated organization that provides a wonderful and caring service to this region.  I am certain that any of you wanted to learn more about the services of the organization and their financial needs you can contact them directly at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Congressional Meetings and Staff News

Meeting with Congresswoman Tsongas

Several weeks ago, the leadership of the Essex Heritage Commission met with Congresswoman Tsongas who represents the four most northern communities in the Area. The meeting focused on bringing the Congresswoman current on the activities currently underway in the area and more particularly in the communities she represents. The meeting was most beneficial to all who attended, and we left her Lowell office feeling that the Congresswoman had a greater understanding of the work of ENHC, and that we continue to have her support. That support along with the ongoing commitment of Congressman John Tierney who represents the other thirty communities in the Essex National Heritage Area is essential to our continuing success.
The relationship with the Tsongas family goes back a long way as her deceased husband, Paul Tsongas the former Congressman and United Senator was an early champion of the Essex
. In the late 1980's a meeting was set up by former Sixth District Congressman Michael Harrington to bring the then serving Senator Tsongas to Salem for an informational meeting. As a result of that meeting the Salem Partnership was formed, and then from that initiative the
Essex National Heritage Commission was founded in 1996. All of us that have been connected with the Essex Heritage for these last dozen or so years have always thought that the meeting i
Salem at the Hawthorne Hotel organized by Mike Harrington was the catalyst for what is now in
place in this region.

ENHC Losing a Valuable Staff Member

Today I learned that a wonderful and talented member of the Essex Heritage staff will be leaving us for a most important regional position. Ms Sheilah Doerfler has agreed to become the Operations Manager for Essex County Green Belt in early August. We will miss Sheilah very much, but is is comforting to know that her efforts will be directed to promoting this region for one of our most dedicated partners, Essex County Green Belt. We wish Sheilah all the best and we know how fortunate Green Belt will be to have her talents in their organization.

Hospice of the North Shore Informational Meeting Tonight

This evening I will be attending an informational meeting in Danvers where the Hospice group will be unveiling expansion plans for their site in Danvers. The folks at Hospice do so much wonderful work in this region, and we are anxious to hear of their plans and the timetable for those activities. I will provide more information as the plans are unveiled.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Essex Heritage Explorers Program

I am currently on Cape Cod where like the rest of us in New England we are stall seeing rain.  From what I have heard Essex County received a great deal of rain and there were traffic slowdowns all over the area including a slowdown on train service into Boston from the North. We can only hope that as the weekend arrives we will dry out a bit and we will get to enjoy a bit of summer weather over the next couple of days.  
I understand that on Thursday just before the coastal storm hit the area, the Essex Heritage Explorers group had a wonderful event at Lowell's Boat Shop.  The two young ladies that run that program for Essex Heritage do a wonderful job organizing the events offered to the Explorer group, and every event that has been offered has been a success.  The ENHC Explorer events are diversified and varied and certainly reflect the spectacular resources of this region.  Membership in the Essex Heritage Explorers Program is most affordable, and information on upcoming activities is readily available on the Essex Heritage web site.  For more information,  sign on to the site at

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using Essex History Summer Institute & Border to Boston

Next week the Using Essex History team will be holding its summer institute at a number of locations around the region.  This is a wonderful program that is offered in conjunction with the Beverly School system, Salem State College, and Essex Heritage.  The program provides educational resources to teachers in the region, and helps inform them of the broad ranges of historical issues that in the future can be passd on to their students.  The program has had participants from almost every school district in the region, and serves as a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when organization work together.  I hope to attend one of the sessions of the Institute next week, and I will offer a more complete report on the program at that time.
I understand that the Danvers Town Manager has appointed a trail committee in that Town to provide guidance on the creation of the rail trail program.  This is wonderful news and I expect that the members of the the committee will begin to offer enthusiastic advice on how the trail can be a benefit to a large portion of the population of that community.  At Essex Heritage we look forward to continuing our relationship with Town officials from Danvers, and see these recent steps as most positive.  The Town is an important participant in the Border to Boston initiative that is part of the current planning efforts at ENHC.
As noted I will be in the office next week for awhile, and I will use that time to bring myself up-to-date on current ENHC activities and will make more comprehensive reports on Essex Happenings at that time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Last Essex Heritage Photo Safari of the year

Good Afternoon....The following information is provided to let you know about a great program offered by the Essex Heritage.  There is so much to see in this region, and the National Park Service  site in Saugus has recently been updated.  If you have never visited this site this would be a time to visit,  The photo opportunities offered at the "Safari's" are wonderful, and if you have never attended a session, this will be the last chance to participate this season.
Tom Leonard

Saturday, August 15th
Nikon Photo Safari with photographer Gary Stanley
Capture! Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
7am - 12 pm  


Don't miss the last Photo Safari of the season on August 15th! We'll be equipped with the latest and greatest camera gear from Nikon and coached by professional photographer Gary Stanley as we go behind the scenes of the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site.

Capture the nation's first fully integrated ironworks from 1646! The site also features seven operating waterwheels that set the reconstructed mills to motion. Walk the scenic one-half mile nature trail consisting of marsh and woodland trails. Follow the path from the visitor contact station to the blacksmith shop and down along the east bank of the Saugus River.

Ready to embark? Photo Safari sessions are open to the public and registration for each event is required.  You will receive hands-on instruction from Hunt's knowledgeable technical experts during the session, and also go home with all your images on a free digital memory card and a gift certificate from Hunt's Photo & Video. The cost for each 2009 Photo Safari (5 hour session) is $45 ($30 for Essex Heritage Explorers). 

Registration is available online by credit card, or call Emily at 978-740-0444.

About the Photo Safaris . . .
Sponsored by New England's largest photography retailer, Hunt's Photo & Video and four major camera equipment companies, the Essex Heritage Photo Safaris provide the perfect blend of historic exploration with modern-day digital photography advances. 

For more information about the Essex Heritage photo Safaris, including the schedule for all of the Safari sessions, visit:

About the Photo Contest . . .

Calling all Photo Enthusiasts!
All amateur photographers are invited to submit images to the Essex Heritage Photo Contest that capture the essence of the Essex National Heritage Area, or speak to Essex Heritage's role in preserving the historic, cultural and natural treasures of Essex County. Qualifying photographs must be taken in the Essex National Heritage Area and represent one of four categories: "My Space," "On a Photo Safari," "General Images of ENHA" or "National Historic Landmarks." 

Enter to win! All submissions are due by October 16, 2009.

For more information about the Essex Heritage Photo Contest, including an entry form and contest rules & regulations visit:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Looking to the Future

Good Evening.....A couple of months ago, Essex Heritage participated in an examination of what has been accomplished since the area was created in 1996.  There were dozens of area partners who weighed in with their observations on our successes and in situations where we could improve our actions.  That report that was about nine months in the compilation is now about complete. Sometime in the next several weeks that report will be finalized and the results will be delivered to the NPS and the Congress in Washington.. We expect that the report will focus on both successes and how we could improve how we provide support to the region.  We anticipate  that the positive partnership that have been established and natured with the National Park Service and the many regional partners we work with will be a primary focus of the report.  We certainly expect that whatever the recommendations that are offered, we will continue to work with the region and to be certain that everyone who wishes to work with Essex Heritage will have that opportunity.  It has always been a primary goal of Essex Heritage to be certain that our program are inclusive for all, and always available to a broad cross section of the region we serve.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Essex Heritage Information

I write a monthly column for the Community Newspapers in Essex County and this is the column prepared for the newspapers for the month of July. I thought that I would share it with you in this format.

Tom Leonard

Summer Vacations and Visits to the Region’s Assets

As the summer season approaches and many of us begin to think of vacation plans this might be a great time to present a variety of thoughts and ideas about Essex Heritage programs and the region we serve.  There is always so much to see and do in this area, and it can all be accessed so easily. Think about visiting more sites in this area, and learning about the history and the heritage of this region first hand.  We have hundreds of partners all across this 600 square mile region, and all of them would welcome a visit from you and your friends and family during this traditional vacation period.  Our senior partner in our mission in this region is the National Park Service, and if you haven’t been a visitor at the Salem Maritime Historic Site or the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site recently, make plans to stop by those sites sometime this summer.  I am sure that after the visit you will be pleased at what you learned during your stop that is so close to where you live or work.  


Essex Heritage Explorers Programs Continue this Summer

One of the proprietary programs that Essex Heritage has instituted that we who help focus this organization is most proud of is the Essex Heritage Explorers Program,.  This year the two ENHC staff professionals, Elizabeth Rankin and Sheilagh Doerfler that manage this program have achieved all of the goals that have been established for the program and the membership of the program continues to respond affirmatively to virtually every initiative offered to the very loyal followers. Membership in the program now numbers in the hundreds and innovative and informative programs are offered all though the year.  The theme for this summer season will focus on maritime history, and for more information on membership or to sign up for programs contact either Elizabeth Rankin at or Sheilagh Doerfler at


Heritage Hero Event Honoring Tom Costin Jr. of Nahant a Great Success

Essex Heritage and the National Park Service along with a sold out, standing room only crowd recently recognized Tom Costin Jr. as the newest Essex Heritage Hero at a dinner at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem.   Tributes from friends and family were offered, and special commemorations from our Washington delegation of elected officials were delivered by Congressman John Tierney.   The 2009 Essex Heritage Hero provided some timely and humorous remarks about his long career of public service.  The permanent Heritage Hero Award that features a replica eagle similar to the one the sits atop the Federal Custom House in Salem was introduced and the award will now be mounted in its permanent home at the National Park Visitor Center in Salem.  Essex Heritage was pleased to be able to once again recognize a special individual who has meant so much to the heritage of this region. 


 Maritime Guide and Essex Heritage Trails and Sails Flyer Makes its Debut

Certainly one of the recurring themes for this year’s Essex Heritage activity and for Trails and Sails is the promotion and interpretation of the maritime history of this region.  Towards that end, in collaboration with the North of Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau, and with the financial support of Bank North, 50,000 colorful brochures have been prepared for distribution.  The brochures highlight the wonderful maritime resources of the region.  Brochures can be obtained at the area’s Visitor Centers, Bank North Branches, ENHC Partner organizations, and on line at


Thomas M. Leonard is President Emeritus of the Essex National Heritage Commission, Inc., the nonprofit management entity of the Essex National Heritage Area, and can be reached at 



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Change in Titla

Yesterday, I sent the first post of this blog, but this morning I have decided to change the name of the blog.  Each month I prepare a column for the Community Newspapers in Essex County and then the column is added to the monthly electronic newsletter of the Commission.  That column is called Essentially Essex, and I have now renamed the blog I am preparing to the same name.
All of us that are connected to the Essex Heritage and the National Park Service are very disappointed that the Friendship will not be able to make its planned sail to Newburyport.  A great deal of local planning went into this trip, and there were many organizations and the City itself who made financial commitments to help underwrite the cost of the visit.  To all of these organizations we say thank you for the intended support, and hope that the trip can be rescheduled at another time.  The ship is currently undergoing repair at a shipyard in Maine.  The repairs are much more extensive then originally anticipated, and as I have always heard, a wooden ship is a hole in the ocean into which you pour money.  This is the case here, and much work will be required before the Friendship can once again sail and represent this region.
Early this month, even though the Danvers Family Festival is over, my wife and  attended a concert at the Rotary Pavilion on the lawn of the Danvers Library.  It was a pleasant evening and the Town's Recreation department has many more concerts planned.  I am certain that all over the county there are concerts on town greens and at church halls, that will make the enjoyment of the summer season that much more positive  Look for these events and spend a pleasant evening with others from your community.  
I have had a long time connection with St John's Preparatory School since the 1950's when I was a student there.  I have served in many volunteer capacities in recent years and continue to serve even now.  I am proud of that association, and value the friends that I have made and maintained these last years.  Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to play a round of golf with two other Prep Alumni on a course in Yarmouth on Cape Cod.  John Doyle, who runs an insurance firm in Danvers and his wife Noreen  joined me and the former Fire Chief of Yarmouth, MA David Aiken for a most pleasant day,  David if now a deacon at a local church and also serves as chaplin for numerous organization in the mid cape area. We were joined by John's wife Noreen and while we set no course records we had a great day.  John and David will celebrate the 50th anniversary of  their graduation from the Prep next year and we spent much of the day speaking about common friends and the event they will be celebrating next June.
While we are speaking about private catholic schools in Essex County, I want to offer a few positive thoughts about Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.  In June 2009, I finished a five year term as a Trustee on the Board of the school.  The school is an excellent one and the Administration, the Board and the staff of dedicated teachers are doing everything it can to maintain the excellent academic and athletic reputation it enjoys.  The school offers a comprehensive co-educational educational experience and the value parents and students enjoy consistently exceed expectations.  As I conclude my association with Bishop Fenwick High School, I wish them well in the future, and expect to see the leadership of the school continue to excel in the future.
Tom Leonard

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Blog of Essex Hapenings

Good afternoon. Today I spent some time with my grandson, Brendan. Using his technology skills, he helped me create a blog that I have titled "Essex Happenings".  From time to time I intend to use this medium to provide updates on the work of the Essex National Heritage Commission and also to provide information on other activities in the Essex County, Massachusetts region.  I have been connected to the Commission since its inception over a decade ago, and our mission is to promote and preserve the historic, natural and cultural resources of this wonderful area where I have been privileged to work and live all of my life.  The Commission has taken an active role in the life of the 34 communities that we serve, and in the last years have provided both technical and financial support to many of the 700,000 residents who live in the 500 square mile area we represent.  We have provided funding for many projects that have made this such a great place to live and work.    The Commission is now participating in the planning to help establish a bike and pedestrian trail that would run from the northern border of the county down to Danvers, and have also established a committee that is working on the creation of a Scenic Byway that will run from Lynn up the historic coast to northern border of the state.
I will continue to provide information about our work and I hope that you will find what is happening in this region interesting and entertaining.
Tom Leonard