Then And Now: Building The Ship

Each week, Lynnfield Patch takes a look at images from the town's past and talks about what's there today. This week, we came across a formative moment for a longtime Lynnfield landmark.

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.

Ernie Hutchins February 19, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Bill The Zappala family from Wakefield owned "The Ship" for over 25 years. I believe it was John Zappala. He passed several years ago. I think he was responsible for the remodel in 1963? I always remember the name "Ships Haven". Yes I think it was updated from the 1939 photo in the 50's. I think the Zappala's renamed "The Ship" in the early 60's? Also I think (but could be wrong) that Jack Hackett owner of a number of well know restaurants on the North Shore had something to do with the older "Ship". I bet Julia H knows?
Nikki February 20, 2013 at 02:27 AM
Hi, Ernie! When I first started dining at Ship's Haven in the '50's, it was owned by Ralph and Rose Wilkinson. I believe John Zappala was employed there, and you are right that he changed the design and renamed it The Ship when he purchased it from the Wilkinsons. I think you are right also about Jack Hackett working there, but I think he left and opened the New England Oyster House after John Z. took over. Am looking forward to going to The Ship again when it reopens!
William Laforme (Editor) February 20, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Ralph Wilkinson was the owner of Ship's Haven during the WWII era as well from the history articles. I think there was a Weathervane there at some point but that just doesn't seem to register as a real name change.


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