Welcome to Lanesville


“The cove has always been the center of Lanesville, and the Shack has been the epicenter. Whatever you’re feeling going to or from work, you can always drive to the cove.”

Jim Hafey said this in November, in a lantern-lit interview at a long plank table in the Lane’s Cove Fish Shack.

In 2001, Hafey moved with his wife and children to Lanesville, to a house with a front porch, lined with rocking chairs, facing the cove.

“At that point I was up to my eyeballs in caring for my little kids; I barely knew the cove was there. My wife started walking the kids down to the cove, and pretty soon going down to the cove was a de facto thing. Now my kids spend the whole summer down there.”

– And now Hafey has proudly spent every Saturday morning for two years restoring the cove’s signature building – a building that represents a time when the fishing boats were thick and the Coast Guard shimmied its vessels through the gap. Later, abandoned by its last honest occupant, George Morey, the Fish Shack lurked empty, representing an easy shelter for questionable activities and large personalities.

According to legend (and Jim Hafey,) there was a certain Lanesville crew whose favorite predawn fun was attaching an old wrecked dory to the back of a truck, dousing it in gasoline, lighting a match, and dragging the flaming boat through town. Welcome to Lanesville, as they say.

In 2011 the city declared the Shack condemned, but a few Lanesville men, quietly inspired by Russell Hobbs and including newcomer Hafey, began talking about saving the place.

“We got a committee together,” Hafey said, meaning that’s what the city wanted, “but we knew we were going to make it happen one way or another.” A certain sentiment had permeated all the men who came together in that year to rebuild the Shack, Hafey explained, “We don’t have a lot that’s steady in our lives, but this we can do.” Again, welcome to Lanesville.

Hafey was appointed chairman of the Building Committee by Mayor Kirk, a committee that does the work to make sure the Fish Shack remains weather and hooligan tight.

I asked Hafey what he thought the Fish Shack means to him and to the community:

“I feel like a part of me went into this shack – I had wanted my kids to grow up and say, ‘my dad worked on this. To the community, the Shack represents an idea that we can actually put something together ourselves.”

Welcome to Lanesville.

Heather Atwood

Remembering Paul D’Antonio

A knotted fist of harbor facing northwest across Ipswich Bay, Lane’s Cove has a vista struck through by tons of granite seawall, bitten a few too many times by nor’easters’ brutal jaws, but still awesome.

The strength of that wall combined with its obvious vulnerability could be a metaphor for the Cove:  this is a beautiful place, but nature – or a singular Lane’s Cove wildness – has its way with fate, a way that can tear stone apart like a shirt on a clothes line, or write tragedy into the lives of famously tough Lane’s Covers – fishermen, quarrymen, and their descendants.

The Fish Shack restoration was not immune from the Lane’s Cove metaphor; not every Shack story is a happy one. Paul D’Antonio, a beloved smile among the Fish Shack crew, passed away suddenly on a Sunday afternoon.  The day before he’d been part of the tool-belted crew swarming the Fish Shack.

Like so many Accelis employees in the Cape Ann Area, D’Antonio’s work with that company was often a hectic imbalance of too much or too little; D’Antonio was either flying around the world or temporarily laid off.  But in the Saturday morning Fish Shack jobs, D’Antonio seemed to find the regular hands-on-a-hammer work he craved.  Arnie Shore says that if there was a project to learn, D’Antonio was the first one there for the lesson, and demanded of himself that he know it the best.

D’Antonio had been rebuilding the Shack’s south-facing window, the one that illuminates the plank stairway inside that rises to the second story.  Paul’s smile over lunch that day had never stopped; he’d been seemingly as happy as he could be, working with his friends around him, a cold, clear blue sky overheard, the Lane’s Cove breakwater at his back.

He passed away the next day while working on one of the model dories he loved to build.  That model dory, now encased in glass, is part of the Fish Shack history, maybe a totem to the Lane’s Cove history that is not always kind.

Blog By Heather Atwood

Why does a fish shack need a blog?

Why does a fish shack need a blog? The answer may lie in other “whys?”

Why did twenty or so Lanesville men hike down to the cove every single Saturday morning – in icing Nor’east winds or blistering, shadeless sun – for two years, unpaid, to study plans, plane boards, hammer nails, even spill blood? As Arnie Shore, fundraising co-chair of the Fish Shack, describes it, “I have never in my life worked anywhere when people steadily got there earlier and stayed later.” Why did people send coffee and donuts down to the Fish Shack crew? Why did they order them pizzas, and make batches of fish stew, lamb stew, homemade bread and brownies? Why, when the Fish Shack committee first introduced the restoration concept, did contributions flow in like a Lane’s Cove high tide? Why were supplies donated with almost biblical generosity? Why were so many kindly checks written that, when the city finally got around to awarding the project Community Preservation Act funds, the committee was able to say, “that’s ok; we’re all set.”

The Lane’s Cove Fish Shack seems to have an inexplicable magic. People who have grown up with their feet in Lane’s Cove mud and people who barely know the place want to help re-raise it, make it not straight and perfect, but to preserve its crookedness, it’s wooden shakes and red-tar roof.

I first witnessed the Fish Shack alchemy the first time I made lunch for the crew; the guys were cold and hungry, and they were politely thankful for my efforts, but mostly this bunch of men almost didn’t notice the lunch, because they were just so happy; it looked like the rare kind happiness that rises from hard, meaningful work. Why a Fish Shack blog? – to record whatever it was that called these guys down to the cove earlier and earlier every Saturday morning. What had them beaming, laughing, and joking by noon? What made them not even want to leave? In fact, I’m told that they often stayed. Someone got some beer, and Saturday morning blushed into Saturday late afternoon.

This blog is to record whatever it is about the Fish Shack that inspires people to be generous with their lumber, their lunch, their dollars, and their hands, to record – if it’s possible – what the Fish Shack really means to anyone. I’ll interview each of the Fish Shack guys, and Barb Jobe, the one woman on the crew. Barb lives on the cove, looks at the Shack every day, and I think her heart beats in the shape of the Fish Shack.There is something in the Fish Shack that no one can quite identify, but everyone knows it when we see the little red Shack bending away from a nor’easter or basking in the sun behind a planter of daisies.

Over time, this blog will examine the Shack’s history, and that of the cove that shelters it, Lane’s Cove. The Fish Shack crew, many of whom have joined the new non-profit group Lane’s Cove Historical Association, are not done; they’re still wondering who originally built the Fish Shack, and why? What was Lane’s Cove like then? What did it look like, smell like, and sound like? That group is looking ahead, too, imagining the Shack’s next hundred years, how it will be used, and how it will remain a beloved emblem of – what? – history, work, nostalgia? The LCHA sees the Shack in the future as a gathering place for cooperative, non-profit ventures – in other words, a place by the sea to shelter/hold a community. That’s why the Fish Shack needs a blog.

Feel free to contribute your own thoughts about the Fish Shack. Write to us and we’ll post it.

Blog by Heather Atwood