May 22, 2013

Nativism bad, Nahantism good

Nahant, Massachusetts provides all the scenic advantages of living on a rocky island blessed by spectacular beaches, with the convenience of being able to commute 14 miles by road to downtown Boston.

Not surprisingly, this one square mile municipality (pop. 3400) is a desirable place to live.

This 383-year-old settlement is a model of an orderly, deeply rooted New England community. It's a very middle class place, with one of the lowest poverty rates I've ever seen, but not a particularly high median income. Despite being part of the vast Boston megalopolis, Nahant is 97.11% white, which may explain why it voted for Obama only 60-40 over Romney. 
Uncrowded beach 13 miles from Boston's Logan airport

The big problem in Nahant is keeping non-Nahantians off the island and away from the publicly-owned pocket beaches.

One solution is to provide a public beach for outsiders along the dreary causeway that connects Nahant to the mainland town of Lynn, MA.

Typical Nahant signage
But, the nice white liberals of Nahants' main weapon for keeping the outside world out appears to be the world's densest collection of No Parking signs.

Without a Residency Sticker ($5 per year to residents, unavailable to nonresidents), you can park legally in front of the one convenience store on the island for 30 minutes, which gives you enough time to walk down the cliff to 40 Steps Beach, skip some stones in the Atlantic for five minutes, and then hustle back.

Non-Vibrancy, Nahant-style
You can park in front of the town hall for 15 minutes, enough time to admire the 1819 public library next door, but not to actually read anything.

And you can park in the beautifully sited cemetery for as long as you want to putter about there, admiring the chapel by Ralph Cram Adams (Collegiate Gothic-style architect of Rice U. and much else).
Ellingwood Chapel, Ralph Cram Adams, 1919
I should not overstate just how xenophobic the citizens of Nahant are. The good people of Nahant are not ineradicably opposed to all outsiders visiting.

For example, the MIT European Club holds an annual bike ride from Cambridge to Nahant:
On Nahant, we will sit together for a nice picnic on the premises of the Northeastern University Marine Science Center, a place that offers spectacular views over the shoreline of Cape Ann. After the picnic we will ride our bikes to Nahant's legendary 40-steps beach. This beach is a pebble beach, accessible only through wooden stairs. The 40 steps lead to an enclosed bay where warm seawater gets trapped during the summer to offer an exceptional ocean swim experience to its visitors. There are no changing rooms at 40-steps beach. Please be advised to bring a large towel for changing clothes the American way. 
After the swim we will go to "Tides Restaurant and Pub" for refreshments and bathroom break, Nahant's only restaurant. ...  
Due to practical considerations this trip is limited to 10 participants.

So, up to 10 members of the MIT European Club are more than welcome to bicycle to Nahant annually.

The underlying ideology of Nahantism is respectable and rarely controversial: the legal residents of Nahant have joint responsibilities and privileges, such as the right to enjoy scenic beaches without them being overrun by hordes of vibrant non-Nahantians. They are thus legally empowered to keep out other residents of Massachusetts by making it as inconvenient as possible for uninvited visitors to get out of their cars.

I like to draw analogies between various kinds of public policies (although I'm fascinated by how rare that urge has become). Why is it perfectly respectable for Nahantians to rig the laws to keep other Americans from lolling on their public beaches for an afternoon, but it's viciously nativist for Americans to similarly call for effective laws to keep foreigners from moving permanently to America? It seems to me that the citizens of Nahant are just being sensible, so why can't the citizens of America be allowed to be sensible, too?

Occasionally, a philosophy major pundit like Matthew Yglesias will grasp the logic of this argument and therefore demand that, just as America should take in 165,000,000 more immigrants, Nahant should be covered in Blade Runner-sized apartment buildings. But most pundits would think that it's okay for the citizens of Nahant to mind their own business, but that it would be hateful for the citizens of America to do the same.


dearieme said...

Couldn't people cycle to it?

Steve Sailer said...

Indeed, one of the first Google hits I came up with is an outing by the MIT European Club (i.e., MIT students and faculty from Europe) for up to 10 cyclists to ride from Cambridge to Nahant and picnic on a Nahant beach. The citizens of Nahant appear to be happy to share their beaches with up to 10 European MIT cyclists at a time.

JerseyGuy said...


Here is the English Premier League best XI selected by ESPN's David Hirshey, a long-time, popular soccer writer.

Even with all of the diversity and foreign players in the European soccer leagues today, the EPL's best XI consists of 10 white players and one roughly 3/4 white, 1/4 mestizo (Luis Suarez). Quite different from the NBA and NFL to say the least...

PropagandistHacker said...

Local gov't has to heed the will of the citizenry more than the distant state or federal govt. Ever wonder why that is? I do.

Say, do ya think maybe if immigration were to be left up to the states that immigration laws might be stricter and more sternly enforced? I do.

But no one ever talks about what it might take to put more power in the hands of the state govt. Not even in a speculative fashion. Curious, that.

Childermass said...

I once got off the Blue Line at Wonderland on Revere Beach and decided to walk all the way to Nahant along the coast, and then around the perimeter of the island. A long---but enjoyable day.

Dave Pinsen said...

How did you even hear about this place?

There are islands that go even further, banning private cars altogether. Fire Island in New York, Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Anonymous said...

Much in Robert Caro's biography on Robert Moses on the techniques used to keep people away from certain pristine areas

slumber_j said...

I remember a field trip to Nahant in maybe 1984: in an amusingly iSteve-consistent thematic coincidence, it was for Stephen Jay Gould's Core Curriculum course at Harvard.

As I recall, the big point of checking out Nahant was that it's geologically distinct from pretty much everything else on the Eastern Seaboard, a result of its having been part of what would become Africa. If I'm not mistaken, Nahant had just stayed stuck to North America when everything else split off from it approximately one zillion years ago.

Or maybe Prof. Gould was just bullshitting: who knows?

candid_observer said...

A few years back, I happened to notice Nahant on the map, observed its location, configuration, and isolation, concluded that it would make a fantastic place to see (even live?), and drove there on a fine summer day.

It stank, literally. Here's the account I find online:

"So what is that stinky, slimy, brown stuff that washes up on the beaches dotting the Nahant, Lynn, and Swampscott shoreline? Anyone who has driven along Lynn Shore Drive on a hot August day with the windows down knows exactly what we are talking about. The culprit is a fast growing, free-floating species of brown algae called Pilayella littoralis. As many long time Nahant residents can attest to, this is not a new problem. This particular form of algae has been observed in Nahant Bay as early as 1902...

"While the smell is reminiscent of sewage, it is not dangerous to humans or animals. It is also not indicative of polluted water. Although it is disgusting to swim in, the waters off Nahant beach have consistently passed routine water tests. The awful smell is actually the by- product of a natural process. Like all living organisms, when the algae dies and washes up on shore it begins to decompose. As it continues to decay it releases a sulfide imbued gas with a pungent odor that almost always brings an instant frown to the faces of potential beach goers and local residents."

I gather that if you live all the way on the other side of the island (peninsula?), away from the mainland, you can usually escape it.

No Paradise, Nahant.

There are things of which maps don't speak.

Anonymous said...

Candid Observer is right about the smell, but that's mostly on the Lynn-Swampscott beach at the beginning of the causeway. The state has been taking steps to alleviate the algae problem.

The main issue isn't an excess of SWPL behaviors, but what's at the other end of the causeway: Lynn. Lynn is 32% Hispanic, 13% black and 7% other, though even with these numbers Wikipedia insists that Lynn is 57% white. And what Latinos do to the commons has been well-covered by Steve.

This area is interesting, as the coast of the North Shore of Boston is a direct contrast to the South Shore. The joke used to be the an Irish girl in Southie or Dorchester was looking for a guy who would marry her and take her to Quincy (solidly working/middle class in the Sixties), or, if she were really lucky, Braintree (middle-class and up). The same was said of Italian girls in East Boston, using Revere and Lynnfield as the desired destinations.

But 40 years later, the Irish-inflected South Shore wanders down through still solid Quincy, Braintree and Weymouth into upscale Hingham, Cohasset, Marshfield and Duxbury; if I had the choice to live anywhere in Massachusetts it would be on coastal Jerusalem Road in Cohasset.

The Italian North Shore? As we follow the coast from Boston, we have Chelsea (77% Latino, black or other), Revere (41%) and the aforementioned Lynn. This is where things get interesting.

The northernmost part of Lynn on Lynn Shore Drive from the Nahant Causeway circle headed north is made up of apartment and condo buildings in decent repair, petering out to lovely coastal homes that are $1 million properties. For a few blocks in from the shore the area is called the Diamond District, an historic area with many well-maintained Victorian homes, this bordered south and west by Hispaniola.

This area along Lynn Shore Drive is only about a 3/4 of a mile from the circle to the Swampscott line. Swampscott is a beautiful upper-class town, 97% white and with a great number of Jews. The local media, and even the national gay publications, are pushing the Diamond District as the next gay/hipster gentrification enclave, buffering Nahant and Swampscott from the predations of the average Lynn resident.

My girlfriend lives in a condo in the Diamond District, and she says it's a race between realtors trying to place "good" tenants or sell the Victorians outright and the welfare mothers with $1,500/month housing vouchers looking to find another nicer area to destroy. It'll be interesting to see if this area comes back or gets swept under.

Harry Baldwin said...

Martha's Vineyard is similar in some ways. There are public beaches, but also a number of town beaches that only town residents, or visitors renting homes in the town, are allowed to park near. The upper-class blacks that have an enclave in the town of Oak's Bluff self-segregate at a local beach called the Ink Well.

Legally, you are allowed to walk along any Massachusetts beach as long as you stay below the high-tide mark, but if you should exercise this right in front of one of the island's wealthy property owners, private security will vigorously invite you off. Feel free to take it to court later.

The liberals on Martha's Vineyard also oppose the windmill farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.

Brett_McS said...

Two words: Bus Tours!

hbd chick said...

@a working class american - "Say, do ya think maybe if immigration were to be left up to the states that immigration laws might be stricter and more sternly enforced? I do."

like the swiss cantons.

Anonymous said...

Right after I read this post by Steve I went to zillow to check out what housing would be priced in this seemingly mythical place.

I was expecting Gibson Island-type real estate values but was shocked how 'cheap' the results came up.

Then I read Candid_Observer's and others comments on here and it sort of makes sense.

But still, the homes still seem pretty cheap.

candid_observer said...

Maybe anonymous of 7:06 PM, who seems pretty familiar with the towns along the coast in Mass, might give me some insight into a question I've pondered over the years.

Namely, what the hell went wrong with Hull? It is, again, a place that looks on a map like it should be a stunning location -- a peninsula that sticks well out into the ocean, with great views of Boston, and likely excellent beaches. And there was a time it was a high class resort town -- Calvin Coolidge owned a summer home there.

But today (or at least some years back -- it's certainly possible it's gentrified some since I was most familiar with it) it's horrible -- or at least significant portions of it are. Many of the houses -- and former mansions -- have gone over entirely to seed. My son drove through there not long ago, and saw streetwalkers hanging out in the middle of the day. It's all white -- it really is, or at least has been, a place genuinely dangerous to be any other color -- but from the extreme left of the white curve.

All of the nearby towns are actually quite leafy, pricey, and well maintained, including, obviously, Cohasset, as well as Hingham -- which are indeed the only towns at the beginning of the Hull peninsula, and also, unsurprisingly, both whiter than Dracula.

How does something like that happen?

Matthew said...

"They are thus legally empowered to keep out other residents of Massachusetts by making it as inconvenient as possible for outside visitors to ever park their cars."

Solution: operate a shuttle from the nearest available parking lot to Nahant's lovely beaches. They need the vibrancy!

Anonymous said...

They better watch out for HUD

White Plains, N.Y.

IF MARIN (CA) has an East Coast clone it may be Westchester County. Despite its 1 million population, some describe this suburb as New York's Marin.
Like Marin, Westchester signed a voluntary compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims was quoted, Westchester is the department's "grand experiment."

The agency made this collection of mostly upscale middle-class communities their first target for not conforming to its image of racial diversity. It has been speculated that Marin is next on HUD's list to prosecute counties for failure to "affirmatively further fair housing."

Anonymous said...

Lynn, Lynn city of sin.

You'll never come out the way you went in.


Anonymous said...

They have the same resident parking only restrictions throughout Cambridge as well

Anonymous said...


If immigration was left up to the states, immigration laws would be more 'effective' but not necessarily more stricter/restrictive like many want on this blog.

Swiss Cantons control immigration better but CH has a whole has almost a quarter if not higher portion of their total population as immigrants. Zug is an example. That's double the percentage of americans that are immigrants.

If we replicated the swiss system here, perhaps border states would be able to better control the southern border but states like WA, CA, NY, MA would write up immigration laws that make h1b look tame as those states local governments would be easily controlled by tech and finance firms.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, it's not a zillionaires' town. It's kind of Norman Rockwell-ville.

Steve Sailer said...

Nahant is exceptionally low in poverty without being high in income. From Wikipedia on Nahant:

"The median income for a household in the town was $64,052, and the median income for a family was $76,926. Males had a median income of $52,045 versus $46,522 for females. The per capita income for the town was $41,807. About 1.4% of families and 2.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.7% of those under age 18 and 2.0% of those age 65 or over."

For comparison, here's Sausalito in San Francisco Bay from the 2000 Census (the 2010 numbers aren't in Wikipedia):

"The median income for a household in the city [Sausalito] was $87,469, and the median income for a family was $123,467. Males had a median income of $90,680 versus $56,576 for females. The per capita income for the city was $81,040. About 2.0% of families and 5.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.1% of those under age 18 and 5.5% of those age 65 or over."

So, poverty is lower in Nahant than even in Sausalito although median family income is considerably lower.

John said...

I just don't think that the average pro-immigration person really thinks that it will make any difference. The country is this huge, sprawling, abstraction that people really don't get a feel for. They think the immigrants will just sort of work out like how everything always has. There's a sense of the evitable progress of America, I think, unarticulated in the minds of most people. Here, Nahant is a tiny little place where you can really see what would happen if they let a lot of people, especially poor people in. You can wrap your head around it.

Cail Corishev said...

They think the immigrants will just sort of work out like how everything always has. There's a sense of the evitable progress of America, I think, unarticulated in the minds of most people.

Absolutely. That's how the people I know think. They aren't pro-immigration from any particular ideology; it's more that they think it can't hurt America, so why not be nice?

See, in America, everything just works out for the best, no matter how ugly it might seem at first. Natural disasters destroy entire cities, and we find homes for the refugees and rebuild better than before in a few years. Terrorists take down two of our most iconic buildings, doing billions of dollars in damage, and we seemingly absorb it after a blip in the economy. All past large populations of immigrants were assimilated and became productive citizens. In WWII, we were seriously outgunned, but we sent Rosie the Riveter to the factory and soon had superiority. We win every fight except the ones we kinda want to lose, like Vietnam. Everything just works out for us -- if not at first, then it will as soon as we put our minds to it. It's a new, non-expansive twist on Manifest Destiny: America always wins in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Candid, four words: Paragon Park /Nantasket Beach. As soon as Roxbury and Mattapan really started to darken in the late Sixties, the vibrant populace discovered that they weren't welcome at the beaches in Irish Southie (Carson Beach) or Quincy (Wollaston Beach). Ditto Mafia-run Revere and its beach. But there was sleepy Hull with a big, beautiful beach and the added bonus of an amusement park, with the MBTA buses at the old Red Line terminus in Quincy, Ashmont train to the old Columbia Point station, change trains to Quincy Center station and the Nantasket bus. Nantasket was where this South Shore white boy first came into contact with any appreciable number of visiting blacks (Hull still had the Southie Irish attitude: spend your money, but don't let the sun set on you here, darkie!). From upscale resort to honkytonk in about 30 years, Hull has been upscaled a bit since Paragon Park closed, oceanfront condos, etc. Transportation is the key; why do you think Hingham spent so much time and money fighting the commuter rail expansion? Not so much that the envisioned brothers running down their tony Main Street with TVs on their shoulders, but more the undesirable element buying or renting in much cheaper Hull and rolling up and down Route 3A through Hingham, the only way in.

Scituate is the town that really stumped me. Bordered by Hingham, Norwell and Marshfield, with nice beaches as well, it seemed, along with Hull, to be where the downscale Irish from the city ended up. It's still not mentioned in the same breath with the other towns.

I have to correct Steve, though, about location. It may only be 14 miles from the city, but this is Boston; the commute from Nahant can take upwards of 2 hours some days.

Finally, for all that it's a dump, Lynn has what many foodies call the best restaurant on the North Shore, the most excellent Blue Ox, right in the center of town where the proto-hipsters are renovating some of the old buildings. Try the spicy tuna tartare.

Pat Boyle said...

Maybe a better contrast than mainland Sausalito would be the nearby Island of Belvedere.

Belvedere is far richer than either Sausalito and Nahant and as far as I can tell has no poor people at all. It is also interesting because it is only 0.1% African American and overwhelmingly Republican in predominantly Democratic Marin County.

I spent a summer house sitting there when I was a college student.

Parking restrictions? I don't think you are even allowed to stop your car on the street.


Svigor said...

Two words: Bus Tours!

I'd like to add a word, if I may?

Vibrant Bus Tours!

But still, the homes still seem pretty cheap.

Great news! Three words:

Section 8 vouchers!

Svigor said...

Yes, it's not a zillionaires' town. It's kind of Norman Rockwell-ville.

Nah, that's Rockwell 1.0. Rockwell 2.0 is vibrant and diverse, with lots of wretched refuse and propositional 'mericans. This is Mass, people; time for some inevitable consequences of statist open-borders and diversity ideology. Even if we have to force through the inevitability. Good and hard.

Anonymous said...

There are islands that go even further, banning private cars altogether. Fire Island in New York, Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Fire Island is not off-limits to outsiders, however. Anyone can get on a ferry and ride over. Some of the 12 or so communities are more welcoming of day-trippers than others, however. Perhaps not surprisingly, the mostly gay communities of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines are the friendliest.


Childermass said...

Try the Capitol Diner for a taste of old Lynn.

As for new Lynn, my old roommate in Boston was raised in Lynn. His father was a drug dealer who escaped back to the Dominican Republic when he was caught. Despite his rotten upbringing, my roommate had aspirations of getting an education and living a decent life. And that's when he got out of Lynn, never to return.

Anonymous said...

Chldermass, wouldn't that be the Porthole?

Anonymous said...

there are two restaurants in Nahant Steve, as a life long nahanter antay huntsner hoompa citizen I urge you to find the other one and experience it on a sunday afternoon in the summer for they have wicked good jazz there. and a big chick bow on your skull too