As noted late last year on this website, The Ship is expecting to reopen at some point in early 2013. Management had originally hoped to have the place open by Thanksgiving before moving the target date back.
Those driving by the restaurant on Route 1 this month may have noticed its sign saying that waitstaff are now being interviewed - although a stop inside the longtime local landmark last week failed to secure the new target opening date. That said, the place does look pretty good inside.
Which brings me to this week's Then And Now column. Once again, I'm borrowing an old press image currently up for sale on eBay because the image is simply that significant to the town's history. The image is stamped by Argental Images and went out as an Associated Press wire photo on or around October 11th, 1963. A lot of these old press photos seem to have originally run in the Boston Herald, for what it's worth.
So here's the big question - this photo from Fall of 1963 clearly shows workers creating what the caption says "is supposed to be a replica of a 1790 brigantine for a roadside restaurant." It goes on to state that "The vessel is being built around the hull of a previous craft known as 'The Ship.'" You can also sort of tell that whoever wrote that caption was probably making his first-ever visit to the North Shore that day.
This is where things seem to be a bit murky. In previous local history articles on this website, I've , was already a successful and civically involved Lynnfield business. This previous edition of "Then And Now" " which is presumably what was being covered up or replaced in this particular image from 1963. So we know the name has changed at least twice - not counting some of those incarnations from the 1990s and more recently - and the building "ship" itself has changed two or three times as well. I do remember half-seriously mentioning in a past article that the old version of the Ship seemed to look more like a Civil War-era ironclad.
Presumably, the information can all still be found in bits and pieces in long-decayed town hall documents, but in the long run, we might actually know more about the Viking history in North America at this point than we do about the earliest days of The Ship. I believe in my own historical travels the earliest date I've seen associated with a boat-shaped restaurant on Route 1 is 1928 or 1929. But that doesn't mean a thing as to what year motorists on Route 1 really began heeding the call to set sail for seafood while driving north toward Newburyport. For all we know, the widow Susannah Whipple had a clam and cod cart on that spot, complete with a big sail and nets or oars or something, on what was then called the Newburyport Turnpike back in 1762. But I'm pretty sure that didn't actually happen.
On a side note - are you interested in joining the Lynnfield Historical Society? They tend to get some very interesting speakers at their monthly meetings. Just send a $15 check to Bob Gillon, Lynnfield Historical Society Treasurer, 300 Main Street, Lynnfield, MA 01940. Include your mailing address, email address and phone number.