grant of land belonging to Fay was made by him upon the following
conditions: ". . . . and they are conveyed subject to the proviso
in the deed to us that if hereafter they are not used for the
purpose of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries
nor by the United States of America, they shall revert to the
said Joseph S. Fay, his heirs and assigns, and with the reservation
of a perpetual right of landing for the said Fay, his heirs
and assigns at any suitable landing place on the premises to
be provided by the United States." The restriction remained
in force until October 28, 1914, when as a result of lengthy
litigations brought by the heirs of Joseph S. Fay, an agreement
was reached and a judgement of the Circuit Court of Appeals
and a mandate of said court was reached by which the Fays received
all the land west of the so-called "division line" near the
corner of North Street and Gosnold Drive. The agreement established
a 40-foot strip immediately to the west of the line as a permanent
place of landing for all those people who had been conveyed
such a right in the preceding real estate transactions. The
United States was left with the remainder of the land deeded
by J. S. Fay, free of all restrictions set out in the original
deed. The agreement and judgement mentioned above were honored
by the land court (Land Court Case No. 5985) and the certificate
No. 457 in favor of the Fays was issued.
Considerable confusion in the title of the U.S. Fisheries property
at Woods Hole was caused by the lack of clarity in the original
title and by the informal agreements made by Baird with the
selectment of the Town of Falmouth. These parties agreed to
exchange a portion of the western end of Water Street, owned
by the town, for an equivalent area of Fisheries land, 40 feet
wide, extending from Center Street to the water. This arrangement
enabled the Town of Falmouth to construct a wharf which is used
now as a public landing. The private exchange made between Commissioner
Baird and the Town of Falmouth remained without proper legal
action until 1956 when the real estate holdings were reviewed
by the Branch of Lands of the Regional Office of the Fish and
Wildlife Service (Ennis Abbiati's report on file in the Bureau
of Commercial Fisheries Regional Office in Gloucester) and the
necessary legal action was made to convey the title to a short
portion of Water Street owned by the Town of Falmouth to the
The western end of the Commission's property along North Street,
consisting of approximately 1.03 acres in area, was for many
years rented by the Government to the Woods Hole Yacht Club.
In 1958 the parcel was declared surplus property and in accordance
with Private Law 85-367 was transferred for $6,000 to the Woods
Hole Yacht Club with the provision that the conveyed property
is to be used only by the Club and for the purposes "to which
it is now put, namely, the usual activities of a non-commercial
yacht club." The property cannot be transferred or assigned
in any manner to other parties without the prior consent of
the U.S. Government and cannot be used for any activities that
may be detrimental, as determined by the Government, to the
operation of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Biological Laboratory.
The conveyance was made for only as long as the Woods Hole Yacht
Club remains in existence, and in case of its dissolution the
property with all improvements shall revert to the United States.
The deed executed by the Administrator of General Services has
been recorded on February 1, 1961, in the land records of Barnstable
County, Mass. In Book 1104, page 129.
Through the efforts of various business firms in Massachusetts,
insurance companies, and masters of many coastal vessels, a
bill was introduced in the House requesting an appropriation
of $52,000 for the construction of a refuge in the Great Harbor
of Woods Hole to permit vessels of 20-foot draft to come in
and remain in perfect safety in severe storms and to furnish
the basins for keeping live fish. The magnitude of the appropriation
induced President Chester A. Arthur to defer approval for one
year. The refuge was built in 1884 (fig. 16) and proved to be
a valuable asset to the station, not only as a safe shelter
for small boats, but also as a convenient place to keep live-cars
containing fish and invertebrates and conduct observations and
Before commencing the construction of the necessary buildings,
Baird engaged the services of E.W. Bowditch, a well-known landscape
architect and engineer, to make a careful survey of the land
and prepare a map (scale of 20 feet to one inch) including the
contour lines at one-foot intervals over the entire surface.
Plans for the buildings were made by Robert H. Slack, Boston
architect, and the contract for the erection of the first building
was given to W. R. Penniman of South Braintree (Boston).
Drawings made under Baird's guidance showed his full understanding
of the station's needs and his great ability to visualize minute
details in planning the laboratory and in designing water tables,
chemical benches, and other laboratory furniture. He was assisted
in this work by Verrill.
With the appropriation of $25,000 by Congress for construction
purposes, the first building to be erected was the "quarters"
for the personnel. Upon completion the structure became an outstanding
landmark of Woods Hole and was always called the "Residence."
Concurrently with the work on the foundation of the residence
building, the excavation and foundation of the residence building,
the excavation and dredging for the piers was carried out. In
addition to the residence building, the station plans included
the laboratory and hatchery building, the pump house with a
sea-water reservoir, a coalshed, and a storehouse.
Construction of the laboratory building, 120 x 40 feet, began
in 1884 and was partly finished that same year. Serious difficulties
were encountered in laying the foundation, which had to be erected
on unstable grounds regularly covered by water at high tide.
It was necessary to drive wooden pilings upon which the structure
rested . In February 1885, the construction of the laboratory
and hatchery was completed by Brightman, a New Bedford contractor,
and was accepted by the Commission. For nearly three-quarters
of a century the building withstood the violence of Cape Cod
storms and hurricanes. Although the ravages of old age were
noticeable, the structure remained strong. Old pilings pulled
out of the ground when the building was demolished in 1958 showed
no signs of deterioration.
The total amount of money appropriated from time to time by
Congress for the Woods Hole Station buildings and their equipment
amounted to $70,000. The completion of the laboratory with auxiliary
structures and wharf greatly changed the face of Woods Hole.
Photographs taken at this time (fig. 17) show the imposing three-story
brick and frame structure of the residence, crowned with cupola
and set on the shores of Great Harbor at the end of Water Street.
Several letters exchanged between Baird and town officials refer
to the grounds as "Refuge Point." The name was not officially
recognized, it did not appear on any charts of documents and
was later abandoned.
In the summer of 1885, Baird with his staff of assistants and
several clerks moved into the new building. A. E. Verrill was
in charge of the laboratory and with other biologists continued
investigations on the habits and developments of fishes and
marine invertebrates. The following biologists not employed
by the Fish Commission used the facilities of the newly established
American marine laboratory: Richard Rathbun, Sidney I. Smith,
Sanderson Smith, E. Linton, B. F. Koons, Harrison Allen, William
Libbey, Jr., and Walter Heape of Cambridge, England.
An interesting experiment of introducing marine species into
a new environment was carried out. For the first time, a lot
of young shad were transported in a railroad car to the Pacific
Coast and planted in the waters of Washington Territory and
Oregon. In return, G.H.H. Moore who was entrusted with the task,
collected and brought back to Woods Hole a large number of clams,
Tapes staminea. A great many clams perished enroute, but several
hundred which survived and appeared to be in good condition
were planted in various locations in the vicinity of the station.
Shad transplanting was continued in later years, and the Atlantic
species is now well established on the Pacific Coast, but Tapes
staminea apparently did not survive and was never found in Woods
A series of oyster breeding experiments were made that summer
by John A. Ryder, using the ponds constructed on private grounds
near Eel Pond, Woods Hole, owned by J.H. and Camilla J. Kidder.
Jerome H. Kidder, medical officer of the U.S.S. Albatross, made
a detailed chemical study of the fresh-water supply to the new
laboratory and found it to be "potable and of good quality."
The source of fresh water available at that time was a small
spring or well located at Bar Neck. The water level in the well
ordinarily stood at a height of about four feet above mean low
water. To one analysis, Kidder attached the following statement:
"The sediment (of water from the well) contains unicellular
algae, rotifers, paramecium, amoeba, and woody fiber. No evidence
of impurity injurious to health" (Kidder, 1886). The reference
to Paramecium and Amoeba make on suspicious about the quality
of drinking water available at that time.
Another interesting and comprehensive study, also by Kidder,
deals with the accuracy of the thermometers used by the Fish
Commission in marine exploration. Of particular significance
are the tests of Negretti-Zambra deep-sea reversing thermometers
and maximum and minimum thermometers made by Miller-Casella.
This type of thermometer is provided with short steel rods which
are pushed by a column of mercury and can be rest by using a
small magnet. The reversing and maximum/minimum thermometers
were not free from certain defects and peculiarities which often
lead to erroneous readings. These difficulties are fully discussed
in Kidder's paper (Kidder, 1887). Baird himself contributed
to the technique of temperature observations by designing, in
1873, a protected thermometer, enclosed in cylindrical copper
cases with a hinged door in front. This type was devised for
reading water temperatures at lighthouses and at shore stations.
The instrument is still being used for observations in shallow
waters when great accuracy is not needed.
The thoroughness shown by Baird in every detail pertaining to
the operation of the station speaks for his versatility and
ingenuity. The equipment of the laboratory and hatchery was
designed by Baird with the assistance of Verrill. Both men had
considerable experience in that type of work. Verrill was particularly
skillful in designing aquaria tanks and tables. Baird was well
known by the designs of storage cabinets for the specimens in
the National Museum which were made to save valuable museum
space and fit exactly between the supporting wall columns. The
actual construction and materials used by the contractor for
laboratory benches, chemical and office tables, and of other
equipment were meticulously scrutinized and personally approved
The new laboratory building was three stories high. The entrance
hall on the first floor separated the hatchery, on the south
side of the building, from the public aquarium on the north.
Large sea-water tanks of the aquarium were mounted along the
outside walls, while the center was equipped with cabinets for
preserved specimens of fish, invertebrates, and birds. The floating
frames, each frame having the bottom covered with cloth for
holding fish eggs (fig. 18), and batteries of McDonald hatching
jars. The excellent supply of sea water and good equipment insured
successful hatching operations. A wide stairway led to the second
floor. The northern half of the second floor was occupied by
a large laboratory equipped with tables for biological research
(fig. 19). The tables were the last word in laboratory furniture.
They were covered with thick birch planks painted black, with
acid and alcohol-resistant paint. Each table contained a stack
of deep drawers on one side. The southern side of the second
floor contained three offices, a fairly large chemical room
equipped with two chemical tables, accommodating eight persons,
and a fume hood. There was a small storage room for stationary
and office supplies. The third floor was occupied by the library,
two large stockrooms (one for chemicals and one for glassware
and scientific instruments) and several small rooms in which
the fish culturists and janitor lived. In later years these
rooms were converted into laboratories.
The hatchery was a great asset to biological research. Some
of the hatching tanks, not needed for current hatching operations,
were at the disposal of the biologists for keeping animals and
for studying the development of marine eggs. Outdoor tanks and
live-cars anchored inside the protected area of the boat refuge
(fig. 16) were of great convenience. An examination of old plans
and photographs of the laboratory will show how much of Baird's
thinking, experience, and imagination went into the implementation
of his dream. At the time of its opening in 1885 the Fisheries
Station at Woods Hole was an excellently equipped institution
for marine research, equal to or better than any laboratory
of this type in Europe.
Good docking facilities at the Fisheries Station made possible
the full use of the Fish Commission ships. Two large vessels,
the Fish Hawk and the Albatross, frequently used Woods Hole
as a base of their operation. The ships were not permanently
assigned to the station but from time to time were ordered by
the Commissioner of Fisheries to proceed to the areas where
in his opinion they were needed for conducting sea explorations.
It was Baird's plan, however, to use Woods Hole as the home
base for the ships, and both the Albatross and Fish Hawk were
frequently seen at the Fisheries dock at Woods Hole.