Island Cottage #46

I return to photo document the older homes, with memories of when old friends would greet me from their doors. There is beauty in this rubble. In my heart, things remain the same and always will.

~Tribute to Perry cottage by Robin MacDonald-Foley

Perry cottage, summer, 2014.

My visits to Peddocks Island usually include a stop at the cottage of a former year round resident. Nature has been taking its toll on what’s left of the two-story wooden structure that sits nestled in the thick of trees and brush. It’s been vacated for so long, I’ve lost track of time and I’m amazed the house still stands. Curiosity takes me in for a closer look, where I find every inch of floor space littered in a disarrayment of furniture, bedding, old papers, and broken glass. A forgotten teddy bear lies in rubble by my feet, an umbrella still hangs on its hook, as does a dried floral wreath by the door. Daylight streams in from open holes in the roof. Glancing toward the stairway, now laying in rubble, I miss the second floor, a former haven for daydreams and ocean views. Gasping, I divert my attention to the salty air wafting through the open home like a favorite recipe out of the oven. Maple tree whirlybirds lie in rest around a rusted sewing machine sitting upright between debris strewn outside the home. A “stitch in time” metaphor. Remnants of the past only the heart can mend. For me, it’s all now memories.

In summer months, the trees and brush are the home’s protective barrier. Lush green vines grow randomly, forming their own green space. Winter offers the best views as the dilapidated structure wreaks caution in thick bug infested vegetation. It’s hard to look past the decay to the home’s former coziness. For decades hardy residents embraced the lifestyle, hanging on as long as they were able to get over to the island by boat, hauling days or weeks worth of supplies at a time. They foraged off the land for additional provisions. At some point they never returned. These days islanders are no longer able to pass down their cottages. We don’t know the future of the beloved homes still standing.

Island Cottage Entryway, 2016. Featured in “Flux Picturing Change”, Cambridge Art Association.

During the sixties my family made frequent visits to the cottage where Mary Perry once lived. Born into a military family once stationed on Georges Island, then Peddocks, Mary was one of three siblings whose parents lived in the home early on. What I remember most was the kind friendly person she was, who told the best stories and kept her tidy cottage adorned with lace doilies and tea for her guests. There were not many year round residents on island, especially tucked away like Perry’s on the East Head side. It was a delightful cottage by the sea, welcoming us over summer when the island was full of seasonal residents.

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[Update] fall 2018, the Perry cottage was removed, as were many other abandoned structures now deemed unsafe. On a brief February ferry visit to Peddocks, I headed straight to Mary’s cottage site. Sure enough, nothing remained but a small concrete slab near the entryway. By summer, everything grew without the cottage. The bigger tree next to the home appeared to be thriving. With nature resuming its place, one would never know the cottage existed–but I know. 

Summer 2019. The tree stands tall casting late day shadows on the land where the cottage once stood.

When September 2 rolled around–the last day of the 2019 summer camping season on Peddocks, I made a last visit where the house once stood in the thick of nature. Combing through the barren lot, to my surprise, was a partially hidden piece of tea cup in the grass. My heart warmed thinking about family visits. Whenever I pass by Mary’s, I’ll remember the friendly face that would call out from the door. Soon the crackling sound of the wood burning stove would be an invitation for tea. I was too young to fully appreciate everything, but I recall all the sensations of our greetings, her lovely furnishings, and how fond we were of her. There is a lot of history in these island homes, hopefully my story breathes new life in the cottage that once welcomed me.

Cottage in Nature, 2018. Featured in “Black & White Photography”, National Exhibition at South Shore Art Center.

Perry home of past. Photo: Mike McDevitt. Took this image of his photo featured on signage at Peddocks Island.


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