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Inspiration for the Cape Cod
National Seashore

The Cape Cod National Seashore is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011. While it's clear that the efforts of President Kennedy, Senator Saltonstall and Congressman Keith in political circles led to the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, Henry Beston's 1928 book, The Outermost House, was an inspiration behind the effort.

Here's a few quotes::


Endicott Peabody, Governor of Massachusetts

"You've described our great beach here, and the ocean that comes in upon it, as no one else ever could or ever will. The Outermost House, as a testament, has had immeasurable influence. Your book is one of the reasons that the Cape Cod National Seashore exists today, to be protect the beach and many acres around it, for future generations." -- Addressing Henry Beston on Oct. 11, 1964, Outermost House National Literary Landmark ceremony at Coast Guard Beach.


George Palmer, U.S. Department of the Interior

"During the three- to four-year period that the Cape Cod National Seashore was established, when we were studying the area, when we were trying to determine whether the area should be established as a National Park ... during one of these early reports that came in on Cape Cod, our man who had been up here for the first time had selected a quotation from The Outermost House, and in such a few words, it summarized this rather thick report that had first come in. These words, I think, are very apt: 'Outermost cliff and solitary dune, the plain of ocean and the far, bright rims of the world, meadowland and marsh and ancient moor, this is the Outer Cape.' And it took us several chapters of a report just to say this. As we went along, we found that much of our work was picked up again in Mr. Beston's book.

"As we go into any park area to study the desirability of establishing or at least recommending that Congress establish it, we look at several things. First of all, we look at the geography and the geology of it, we look at the natural history, the plant life, the animal life, we look at its human history, the people who live there and what use they've made of the lands, and then we look to what use people are coming in now may make of the area, what it may mean to them, why it would be a unique experience, and why it's worth saving for our children and our grandchildren. And as we went through studying these things, we found so much in The Outermost House that illustrated it.

"To show widely the book is distributed, I would like to take a few minutes to illustrate what we used from the book to use in our reports during those earlier periods:

"Of the geography and geology of the area, this one or two sentences were so apt: ' It is the outermost of shores. Thundering in against the cliff, the ocean here encounters the last defiant bulwark of two worlds.'

"And of the natural life here, Mr. Beston said this: 'Living here, one may see more birds and varieties of birds than it would seem possible to discover in any one small region. At Eastham, for instance, among visitors and migrants, residents and casuals, I had land birds and moor birds, marsh birds and beach birds, sea birds and coastal birds, even birds of the outer ocean.'

"This explains the pine forests and woodlands: 'The tree that has rooted itself into the windswept bar is the pitch pine. The familiar tree of the outer Long Island wastes and the Jersey barrens, it provides firewood, holds down the earth and sand, and shelters the ploughed fields.'

"And of the ocean that rolls into here, he has this to say: 'The seas are the heart's blood of the earth. Plucked and kneaded by the sun and the moon, the tides are systole and diastole of earth's veins.'

"I think, however, the most important thing in determining in whether a park or seashore should be established and set aside is, what does it mean to those who may be coming to see it today? And as one complete outsider who has had the experience of coming to Cape Cod as a new and refreshing experience, I think that to stand below the dunes on the beach looking out across the Atlantic, we are able to get an experience here that, if there was no other reason at all, would make Cape Cod National Seashore a desirable institution to go down through the generations. Here Mr. Beston says as 'one stands on the shore looking out, he is able to realize that creation is still going on -- the creative forces are as great and as active today as they have ever been, and tomorrow's morning will be as heroic as any in the world.' That certainly justifies anything that we and you and our successors will do in saving Cape Cod." -- Palmer was representing Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall at the Outermost House National Literary Landmark ceremony at Coast Guard Beach, Eastham -- October 11, 1964.


Congressman William Delahunt (Massachusetts)

"Sometimes the incredible becomes so familiar, we don't notice. Then along comes someone like Henry Beston to put into words the spectacular splendor of where we are on the Outer Cape." -- Aug.7, 2001, 40th anniversary of the Cape Cod National Seashore.


Jonathan Moore (aide to Sen. Saltonstall
and U.S. Ambassador)

"Yet there is one more asset that changed this idea ... the essential energy came from the inevitable meaning and magic and mystery where land meets sea ... we were to preserve this blessing and in the symbiosis of preservation and recreation, preservation must have the edge, for without preservation, there can be no recreation. As Henry Beston, wrote, 'For the gifts of life are the earth's and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach ... '" -- Moore was speaking on the process of preserving land on the Outer Cape as part of the National Seashore, Aug. 7, 2001, 40th anniversary of the Cape Cod National Seashore.


-- From the archives of the Cape Cod National Seashore, National Park Service


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P.O. Box 407, North Eastham, MA 02651. Phone: (508) 246-7242.
E-mail: henrybestonsociety@yahoo.com


BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Nita Wilding, Don Wilding, Jon March,
Robby McQueeney, Bob Seay, Tim Sweeney, Glenn Mott, Sheila Mott.

SITE DESIGNED BY MARC McHUGH

2014
The Henry Beston Society, Inc., unless noted.

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"A Cape Cod Icon Returns"

 

 

Beston Society co-founder Don Wilding tells the story of how the author of The Outermost House became the spiritual father of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

 

 

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