New Energy Continues to Build Through the South End

Gaining Altitude
New dance club in New Bedford takes it to another level
By Jennette Barnes, Standard-Times staff writer
Photo credit Andrew T. Gallagher/Standard-Times special
Date of Publication: November 02, 2006 on Page A11

Iris Colon and Michelle O’Brien, both of New Bedford, and Vicki Lavoie of Carver take to the dance floor on a Friday night at Club Altitude.

Saturday is the night to find a packed dance floor at Altitude, the new club in New Bedford’s South End.

On a recent Friday, the scene was more relaxed. Dancers didn’t hit the floor until 11:30.

In the 10 o’clock hour, DJ Tony T played “Boogie Fever” and “Disco Inferno,” along with “Start the Commotion” (known to many as the Mitsubishi song).

The sound got newer, and the crowd younger, as the night wore on.

Even if things were a little slow, most Altie-goers raved about the club.

Of course, in New Bedford, a bit of the good stuff goes a long way. Patrons described existing dance clubs in the city as déclassé, prone to fights, and in the case of one Ashley Boulevard institution, “a retirement home.”

With the exception of Bar 908 downtown, thriving dance floors in the Gritty City are hard to find. So it was no surprise to hear people at Altitude praise the 8,000-square-foot night spot.

“It’s a very nice club, high class,” said Gary LeBlanc, a Fairhaven man in his 40s.

Gushed 27-year-old Wendy Andrade of New Bedford, “I think it’s awesome.”

The place offers a taste of Providence or Boston without the worry about a long drive home, she said.

She and mom Debbie Andrade, 46, liked the palpable level of security.

At the ground floor entrance, bouncers do an ID check, use a machine to photograph each ID, and scan patrons with a hand-held metal detector. (“We usually have the guys empty their pockets,” the bouncer said when a woman questioned why she was waved through after setting off the detector.)

Once people clear security, they ride a glass elevator to the fourth floor of the old mill building.

Renovated in the 1980s, 651 Orchard Street failed as an upscale outlet mall called Howland Place. It now houses a gym, day care, and offices, but the top floor stood cavernous and vacant until co-owners Ken Rapoza and Janis Sharek came along.

Now that the club is open, they hope to develop the rest of the floor as a Dave and Buster’s-style establishment, with food and elaborate arcade games. Mr. Rapoza projected construction would start by June.

The owners know the food game — they also own the Naughty Dawgs hot dog joint in Fairhaven.

Back at the club, patrons step from the elevator into an anteroom, painted with clouds awash in lights that slowly change colors. A glass door welcomes them to the club interior.

Old-mill industrial meets Mediterranean in the decor. The mammoth mill windows and columns are intact. A tiered fountain stands in the entrance.

Seating areas have sconce lighting with dangling crystals, and chandeliers salvaged from a church illuminate the main bar.

Different types of seating and a second bar surround the dance floor.

A VIP lounge, separated from the rest of the club by a knee wall, is booked for Saturday nights through the holidays, Mr. Rapoza said. That means locals are ready to drop some cash: Reservations cost $200 for one of four seating areas, or $775 for the whole space. Prices include a liquor package and cold hors d’oeuvres of cheese, fruit, and shrimp.

With the exception of some friends of Mr. Rapoza, though, the VIP lounge was empty on that Friday.

Club patrons said they hope the Friday pace picks up.

“It’s a little dead tonight,” said Mitch Cravero, 33, of Dartmouth. “I have heard it’s packed on Saturdays.”

The crowd is “nicer” than other local haunts, he said.

A sizeable crowd will be necessary to cover the cost of staff, which on that recent Friday evening included 15 security guards and eight bartenders.

Stereo equipment installed to the tune of $150,000 makes the DJ booth a multimedia command center, controlling the colored lights with the click of a mouse. Two retractable screens can display music videos or customized images for private parties.

On Saturdays, Mr. Rapoza said, hired dancers take to the stage in front of the DJ booth.

He hired live bands on two recent Fridays, but after a while, people started leaving, apparently because they expected a DJ, he said. He’s not sure if he’ll hire a band again — “maybe Thursdays,” he said.

In the meantime, Thursdays are college nights, with drink specials and a $3 cover for those with college ID.

The cover on that Friday was $7.

Drink prices are reasonable, said Dennis Costa, 43, of New Bedford. He paid $3.75 for a Heineken.

Just before midnight, 12 people were on the dance floor. But one club-goer reports that the following night, Altitude hosted a larger crowd befitting its big-city vibe.

For information, visit altitudetheclub.com or call (508) 990-1222.
Contact Jennette Barnes at jbarnes@s-t.com or (508) 979-4446.

Canada and The Commonwealth – Strong Economic Partners

Source: Conference Notes, Bridgewater State College, and NBEDC Staff

The New Bedford Economic Development Council participated in the “Trade, Tourism, and the Border” conference held at the Shaw’s Center in Brockton, Mass. on October 25, 2006. The event was sponsored by the New England-Canada Business Council, the Canadian Consulate General of Boston and Bridgewater State College

The conference examined the key economic relationships that are formed and growing between U.S. and Canadian companies, and their respective governments. The economic connections range from trade and investment between the two countries, to travel and tourism.

The topic is important for tourism, business and political leaders in Massachusetts to consider, especially in light of new rules regarding entry to the United States that will take effect in 2007.

Keynote speakers at the event were former Massachusetts Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci and Canadian Consul General to New England Neil Le Blanc.

Canada and the United States enjoy an economic partnership unique in the contemporary world. The two nations share the world’s largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country.

Since the implementation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1989, two-way trade has tripled. Under NAFTA, growth in bilateral trade between Canada and the U.S. has averaged almost 6 percent annually over the last decade. Today, bilateral trade accounts for more than $680 billion, with more than $1.8 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every single day.

The discussion revolved around the current state of trade between the U.S. and Canada and the role that NAFTA has played in the global economy.

Governor Cellucci and Mr. Le Blanc both examined the business connections between the Commonwealth and Canada, and agreed a continued mutual relationship is beneficial to both areas. Canadian tourists visit Massachusetts each year more than anywhere else, making approximately 450,000 trips and spending $150 million in the commonwealth. More Massachusetts exports are bound for Canada than any other country in the world. Two-way trade between Canada and Massachusetts exceeds more than $10 billion annually.

Consul General LeBlanc sees the ties between the U.S. and Canada becoming stronger and encourages a continued dialogue between the New England states and Canada.

The New England-Canada Business Council, Inc. (NECBC) was formed in 1981 to bring together businesses and individuals with an interest in the relationship and, more specifically, New England-Canada political, business and cultural issues. Today, the Council’s membership is composed of business leaders from a wide range of sectors including banking, law, consulting, energy, and high technology, as well as government and academic officials and individuals with links to Canada. Membership in the NECBC is open to all with an interest in stimulating the growth of New England-Canada ties. http://www.necbc.org

New York Times Highlights New Bedford…..Again

A Visit to New Bedford, Mass.

New York Times
By Ann Parson
Published: November 10, 2006
Photo Credit: Jodi Hilton

Many thanks to Ann Brengle, President of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Arthur Motta, Director of Tourism and Marketing, and others for getting New Bedford’s story to the TimesAt noon every Jan. 3, the words “Call me Ishmael” sound through the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass. It’s the beginning of the annual marathon reading of “Moby-Dick,” which will go on for 25 hours or so, until the last reader utters “Finis.”

It’s been a long time since a whaling ship sailed out of New Bedford, and even longer since the boomtown days when Herman Melville wrote in “Moby-Dick”: “New Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing the business of whaling.”
But to a surprising degree, the whaling past defines New Bedford today. An important reason is Melville’s vivid, enduring picture of it as it was in the 1840’s: a town to which whale oil had provided both mansions — “nowhere in all America will you find more patrician-like houses; parks and gardens more opulent” — and seedy waterfront places like the dilapidated Spouter-Inn, where even “the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of creak to it” and Ishmael met the exotic harpooner, Queequeg.

“Moby-Dick” fever in New Bedford normally reaches its annual high with the marathon reading — on the anniversary of Melville’s own shipping out on a whaling vessel on Jan. 3, 1841. The readers include Melville descendants, local politicians, fishermen and scores of other “Moby-Dick” enthusiasts, and the ritual has become so popular that even in the dead of night, listeners come and go.

This weekend, however, there is another big “Moby-Dick” event — the 50th anniversary of the world premiere, in New Bedford, of the movie “Moby Dick,” John Huston’s Hollywood take on the story. Festivities will include screenings of the film tomorrow at the Zeiterion, the renovated vaudeville theater where it was shown in 1956. Besides bringing Gregory Peck to town (he played Captain Ahab), that premiere woke some in New Bedford to the value of preserving what remained from the days when its whale oil had lighted lamps on many continents. (Huston had rejected it as a filming location; too little of the old town was left.)

Whatever the day or year, a visit to New Bedford is more fun with a little bit of “Moby-Dick” in mind, and the city is happy to help. Quotations from the novel are displayed around town: one on the Whaleman Statue on Pleasant Street — it depicts a harpooner in the bow of a boat — reads: “A dead whale or a stove boat” — in other words, kill the whale or suffer the consequences of a crushed boat.

Since 1996, 13 blocks in the oldest part of the city have made up the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, managed by the National Park Service. The park extends from the wharves, where in the early 19th century a whaling ship might unload 2,000 casks of whale oil, uphill toward whaling-era houses and mansions that were built by prosperous captains and merchants — houses “harpooned and dragged up,” as Melville put it, “from the bottom of the sea.” The one at 100 Madison Street, now a bed-and-breakfast, was owned by Melville’s sister in the 1860s. Another, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum, is open for touring. About 100 are within a stroll.

Gone are the dingy Spouter-Inns. Gone, too, are the brothels and gambling dens that caused the New Bedford Port Society, in 1832, to open a bethel, or chapel, for the “moral improvement” of seamen. The Seamen’s Bethel remains, and is worth a visit; names of whaling men and fishermen lost at sea since Melville’s day are on its walls.
Also downtown are strikingly beautiful restored Federalist and Greek Revival buildings, as well as shops, galleries and restaurants, with the occasional dusky bar. Whaling-minded visitors are often in town — scrimshaw collectors, for example, or members of the Descendants of the Whaling Masters or the Melville Society.

The historical park visitor center — a good first stop for getting oriented and picking up walking-tour brochures — is in a former bank. The pillared Customs House, constructed in 1836, is still in operation.

The public library on William Street holds, along with strong collections of whaling, Quaker and abolitionist history, a warrant for Melville’s arrest, issued after he jumped ship in July 1842 in the Marquesas Islands. He and another crewman fled its crotchety captain — an inspiration for the character of Ahab.

The heart of the park is the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Huge skeletons of a humpback and a blue whale hang from the ceiling; descriptions of different whales include detailed information on the sperm whale, Moby Dick’s species. Because of the spermaceti in its head, which made for a superior candle wax, and its blubber-derived high-grade oil, the sperm whale was considered a trophy.

Lifelike displays put you into Ishmael’s shoes. You can board the Lagoda, a half-scale model of a whaling ship. Alongside is an authentic whaling boat, complete with harpoons, tubs of line and a “clumsy cleat” for bracing one’s knee, as Stubb, the second mate, did in “Moby-Dick.”

Other exhibits convey what it was like to live in the cramped forecastle below decks; to stare into a whale jaw that, like Moby Dick’s, was crooked; or the consequences of getting caught in a line and being pulled under by a whale — a fate “which carries more of true terror than any other aspect of this dangerous affair.” On display are the few possessions left by one such unfortunate fellow: his stenciling brush, shaving bowl, inkwell and candleholder.

A collection of whaling-related oil paintings ranges from Dutch oils of the 1600s, showing whales stripped of blubber on shore, to 19th-century scenes by great whaling portraitists of the day, including Alfred Bierstadt, William Bradford, Clifford Ashley and Albert Pinkham Ryder, all of whom grew up in the New Bedford area.

At the museum’s research library, three blocks away, ask a librarian to show you some of that collection: rare histories, logbooks and journals; whalers’ charts; a beautiful set of Melville’s first editions; and illustrated books mentioned in “Moby-Dick,” including Frederick Cuvier’s 1836 “Natural History of Whales” (Ishmael dismissed one of Cuvier’s drawings as “not a Sperm Whale, but a squash”).

Don’t leave town before going to the old wharves. The whale ships are gone, but in their stead is a crowd of fishing and scalloping vessels. New Bedford keeps its connection to the sea.

If You Go
The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park includes 13 blocks south of Route 6 and extending east to the city’s wharves. Its visitor center (33 William Street, 508-996-4095; www.nps.gov/nebe) is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum (18 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-997-0046; www.whalingmuseum.org), within the historical park, is also open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10. The museum’s research library (791 Purchase Street) is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.

The Seamen’s Bethel (15 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-992-3295) is open on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. through April, and more frequently in the summer.

Special events this weekend include showings of the 1956 film “Moby Dick” at the Zeiterion theater (684 Purchase Street; 508-994-2900, www.zeiterion.org) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $5.50. A full events schedule is at www.whalingmuseum.org.

The 2007 marathon reading of “Moby-Dick” at the Whaling Museum begins at noon Jan. 3 and is free and open to the public. At 6 p.m., the museum serves visitors grog and chowder.

For an inexpensive restaurant meal in New Bedford, try Spicy Lime Thai Cuisine (522 Pleasant Street, 508-992-3330). Café Balena (24 North Water Street, 508-990-0061) is pricier but enjoyable for its Italian dishes and its operatic waiter. Both restaurants are around the corner from the whaling museum.

Ribbon Cut On New Mill Complex

By Aaron Nicodemus, Standard-Times staff writer
Date of Publication: November 01, 2006 on Page A05

NEW BEDFORD — A $34 million renovation of one of the city’s largest and most historically significant mills was launched yesterday before an assemblage of business leaders and politicians. Construction is scheduled to last 18 months.

The Residences at Wamsutta Place will consist of 250 one- and two-bedroom condominiums and apartments in the two four-story mill buildings that tower over Route 18. The new complex will include lap pools, gyms, a coffee shop and a museum dedicated “to the history of the thousands of workers who spent their lives working in this mill,” according to a press release.

Developer Stephen Ricciardi of Quincy stood before the crowd yesterday and described the process of putting the development together “like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle.” The funding pieces have all fallen into place, he said, and serious construction should begin in the next two weeks. Several work crews were already in the north building, painting ceilings, demolishing interior walls and removing old equipment.

State Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, who had a role in securing $2.5 million in state historic tax credits for the project, called the effort “a perfect example of government and private industry working together.”

Mayor Scott W. Lang, who was unable to attend the press conference due to a family emergency, said in a statement that the redevelopment of the mill signals a rebirth of the Hicks-Logan section of the city, a collection of mills and industrial properties bounded by the Acushnet River, Route 18, Interstate 195 and the North Terminal waterfront. The building is steps away from what may one day be the city’s commuter rail train station.

“Wamsutta Place is much more than new living space in New Bedford,” Mayor Lang wrote. “There is no doubt that the redevelopment of this mill will foster further development and growth in our area and will send a positive ripple throughout our local economy.”

The project is funded by Sovereign Bank, Wainwright Bank and Capital Access.

The two buildings, built in 1868 and 1898, were home to the Wamsutta Mills, one of the most famous textile mills in the country. From the 1840s through the 1950s, Wamsutta was one of the most well-recognized brands for fine sheets and linens, as well as numerous other textile products. The mills were last occupied by Shepard-Justin Clothing Co., which manufactured men’s suits and uniforms until the company went bankrupt in 2002.

The units will feature a number of amenities including high-speed Internet, elevators, a master satellite television hook-up, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.

The proposed 8,000-square-foot museum will feature everything from old equipment to the garments actually created on the premises.

Mr. Ricciardi also announced that while the 1875 clock on top of the south building tower will be upgraded with an illuminated “state-of-the-art” time piece that will continually be checked for accuracy by a Global Positioning System satellite. The original clock will be preserved and become part of the new museum, he said.

Among those who attended yesterday’s ribbon cutting were state Rep. Robert Koczera, state Rep. Stephen R. Canessa, City Council President David Alves and Ward 3 Councilor Joe F. DeMedeiros, as well as representatives of the city’s planning and community development offices. Also at the ceremony were representatives from Sovereign Bank, Wainwright Bank, Wamsutta LLC and Capital Access.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at anicodemus@s-t.com

New Bedford Economic Development Council Unanimously Selects Morrissey As Permanent Executive Director

New Bedford, Massachusetts – The New Bedford Economic Development Council unanimously voted today to appoint Matthew Morrissey to the position of executive director. Morrissey, who was nominated for the post by a search committee of local business leaders, has been serving as interim executive director of the private, non-profit organization since September.

“In a very short period of time, Matt has impressed all of us,’’ NBEDC Chairman Scott Costa said. “New Bedford is poised for economic growth that creates real jobs and strengthens our neighborhoods. Matt brings a high level of skill and knowledge, and boundless energy to our mission.’’

Search Committee Chairman Jim Mathes, Executive Director of the SouthCoast Mentoring Initiative for Learning, Education and Service, said, “Matt Morrissey has a passion for public service and an unwavering belief in New Bedford’s future. Combine that with his experience in private business development and higher education, and we have just the right person to help our community reach its economic potential.’’

Prior to joining the NBEDC as its interim Executive Director, Morrissey served UMass Dartmouth as an administrator and assistant to the Chancellor focusing on key strategic issues.

“It’s a great privilege to work with many committed individuals in City Hall, the business community and the civic community to sell a city that I love,” Morrissey said. “I think people from outside the city are starting to take notice.”

Morrissey worked several years as a senior consultant at the Public Consulting Group, a Boston-based business and government consulting agency. Prior to joining PCG, he co-founded Mogall Inc., a high-tech peer-to-peer start-up, whose intellectual property was later obtained by PCG and remains a valuable PCG product.

Morrissey served as assistant to the president of the University of Massachusetts five-campus system, handling legislative, economic development and outreach issues. Morrissey graduated from UMass Dartmouth, where he served as the elected student trustee on the UMass System Board of Trustees.

Morrissey has been an active member of numerous non-profit organizations. He was a candidate for mayor in 2005, finishing third in the preliminary election.

Joining Costa and Mathes on the search committee were Mathew Insana, Regional Vice, President Commercial Lending, Sovereign Bank (Treasurer, NBEDC); Randall T. Weeks, Jr., Partridge, Snow & Hahn LLP (Clerk); Elizabeth Isherwood, President, Moore & Isherwood Communications; Craig H. Lindell, President, Aquapoint/AWT; Kevin T. Pelland, Vice President, Citizens-Union Savings Bank and Chair, Downtown New Bedford Inc.; and Paul L. Vigeant, Assistant Chancellor for Economic Development UMass Dartmouth.

Bioneers By The Bay Conference Hosts Internationally Acclaimed Gathering of Scientific and Social Innovators

Dartmouth, MA — Sold out three-day celebration of the earth and how to save it held at UMass.

Marion, MA — The Marion Institute hosted the Second Annual “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” conference, at UMass Dartmouth, from Oct. 20 through Oct. 22, 2006.

The three-day conference featured workshops on renewable energy systems; new paradigms in business; native ecology; healthy food; youth leadership; holistic health; sustainable communities; a Youth Initiative program; and much more. Callum Grieve, executive director for the Marion Institute explains, “Bioneers by the Bay has swiftly become the go-to environmental event, here in the northeast. We are proud to present a platform where students, scientists, grassroots people, as well as soccer-moms-and-dads can all share visionary and practical solutions for helping us to lead more sustainable lifestyles that can help restore the planet for us, our children and our children’s children.”

Daily keynote presenters included:

* Billy Parish, a 2005 Rolling Stone “Climate Champion,” global warming warrior, as well as co-founder and coordinator of The Energy Action Coalition, has most recently been developing new campus leaders, organizing conferences and designing campaigns for the growing youth movement. Through his passionate activism, he has convinced 279 campuses around the country to say “No!” to dirty energy and sign-on to his Campus Climate Action.

* Van Jones, a tireless human rights activist and social justice advocate, is the preeminent voice for minorities leading the environmental revolution. His articles can be read at The Huffington Post, The Nation, Yes!, and Alternet.org among others.

* Janine Benyus, lecturer and science writer, has authored seven books including Biomimicry, in which she introduces us to scientists who are already discovering nature-based innovations that will change the way we heal ourselves, make materials, grow food and harness energy.

* Lynn Margulis, distinguished professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, her publications span a wide range of scientific topics. She is best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges a central tenet of neodarwinism. Margulis argues that inherited variation, significant in evolution, does not come mainly from random mutations. Rather new tissues, organs, and even new species evolve primarily through the long-lasting intimacy of strangers. She suggests that the fusion of genomes in symbioses followed by natural selection, leads to increasingly complex levels of individuality.

* Gunter Pauli is the founder of Zero Emissions Research Initiatives (ZERI), a systems-based approach to economic and social development that allows communities and businesses to do more with what Nature produces. He has developed an education model showing that children, adolescents and young adults learn science in a way that gives them a more profound academic understanding, while at the same time, it helps develop their emotional intelligence, eco-literacy, and artistic/creative capacities.

* John Todd, named one of the 20th Century’s top 35 inventors in 2002 and voted a “Hero of the Earth” by TIME magazine, Todd has pioneered the field of ecological design. His ideas often involve applications that make use of alternative technologies. His principle interests include solving the problems of food production and waste-water processing. He is the inventor of Living Machines, an ecologically engineered technology developed to restore, conserve, or remediate sewage or other polluted water, by replicating and accelerating the natural purification processes of streams, ponds and marshes.

Other highlights of the weekend included presentations from Paul Hawken; James McCarthy [head of Harvard’s Environmental Science and Public Policy program]; Ray Anderson [founder of Interface, the recyclable, leased carpet pioneer]; Margot Adler [NPR]; John Lash with Lynn Margulis [Gaia hypothesis and Metahistory]; and Jeremy Narby [The Cosmic Serpent and Intelligence in Nature]; Julia Butterfly Hill, the youth program facilitator; and workshops with Lisa Harrow & Roger Payne; Jan Lundberg; Eric Toensmeier; Laurie Lane-Zucker; Gary Cohen; and Craig Holdrege.

The “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” conference is the 2006 Northeast Regional Conference of Bioneers, a nationwide annual gathering of scientific and social innovators who have demonstrated visionary and practical models for restoring the Earth and communities. “Bioneers by the Bay” is a partnership between the Marion Institute, Bioneers, the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, The Coalition for Buzzards Bay, UMass Dartmouth and a wide array of regional colleges and grassroots organizations. The partnership ensures that this event becomes a profoundly inspiring, dynamic and successful annual experience.

In addition, the event presented a program of speakers, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitors, food, entertainment, a film festival and related events. The “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” Conference featured a live link, via satellite, to the main Bioneers event in San Rafael, California.

About Bioneers
Founded in 1990, Bioneers is a nonprofit organization that promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities. For more information about Bioneers, call 1.877.BIONEER, email info@bioneers.org or visit www.bioneers.org

About The Marion Institute
Founded in 1992, the Marion Institute is dedicated to identifying and promoting programs that seek to enhance life for the Earth and its inhabitants. The Institute has long been dedicated to exploring new frontiers in health and healing of the mind, body, and spirit. We are committed to uniting people who want to heal the planet-and themselves-by encouraging a deeper understanding of the past, a dynamic experience of the present, and a passionate vision of a healthy future. We believe in the interdependence of all life and the critical balance necessary for a sustainable future.

For more information about the Marion Institute, call 508.748.0816, email info@marioninstitute.org or visit www.marioninstitute.org.

Yankee Magazine Focuses On Legendary and Local Horticultural Business

Green Giant
Once there was no more famous horticulturist than Allen C. Haskell.
His family continues his legacy.
By Lisa Palmer. Reprinted from Yankee Magazine, October 2006

Small stones crunch beneath David Haskell’s boots as he strolls along a shady path amid Allen C. Haskell Horticulturists in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Son of the late genius plantsman Allen Haskell, David now presides over the seven-acre retail nursery and landscape design business created by his father over the past 50 years. The nursery, which draws plant lovers from all over the world, includes the city’s oldest house, a Colonial structure dating back to 1725.

Cardinals whistle overhead as David walks past a handsomely crafted aviary and onto the stone patio of his father’s private garden and former home at the north end of the nursery. David ticks off a long list of distinctions heaped upon his father over the years, including being named a Great American Gardner by the America Horticultural Society and inducted as a permanent member of the Smithsonian Institution – a rare tribute. Haskell was called variously “the kind of topiary,” “an epic figure in American gardening,” and “an American treasure.”

At 6’6”, David stands with sturdy confidence but without the slightest hint of pretentiousness as he talks about filling his father’s role in the horticulture world. “This life is all I’ve ever known. He taught me my trade,” David says, sweeping one of his large hands in the direction of the impeccable, lush landscape where he worked alongside his father ever since he could walk. “For 40 years, I was exposed to his standards.”

The Haskell’s family’s exacting standards have attracted diverse patrons, from Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, Martha Stewart, and Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands to local do-it-yourself gardeners. David says this breadth of clientele is the nursery’s greatest strength. “People tell us it’s like a museum. It’s one of the most flattering comments we get,” he says.

Allen C. Haskell Horticulturalists is a salmagundi of beautiful gardens and resembles an English country estate. Twelve greenhouses, including four classic Lord and Burnham glass structures, teem with exquisite plants not found elsewhere. Dispersed among them are some 3,000 orchids; tropical plants; scores of flawless myrtle, ivy, and rosemary topiaries that Haskell’s nursery made famous; 30 types of coleus; and rare camellias, among many others.

On this day, David walks among the several garden buildings that are located throughout the grounds. Each one is distinctive. Espaliered trees rest on some of them; statuary, planters, and pottery fill the others. On the eastern edge of the property, near David’s office, a hardy jasmine shrub releases its fragrant scent as he passes by. Along the shady, meandering paths that link the brick buildings, David points out the nursery’s enormous collection of hostas, including the largest hosta hybrid, ‘David Allen Haskell’, which his father cultivated. On the west end, laid out with geometric precision, dozens of raised beds showcase masses of nursery stock (such as shrubs, trees, and perennials) in a gardenlike setting.

Except for the four years when he studied plant science at the University of New Hampshire, David has worked all his life in the family business. Before his father’s death in December 2004, he handled the landscape-design end offsite during the week and pitched in at the retail nursery on weekends. These days most of his time is spent at the nursery. During peak landscaping season (April through June, plus September and October), he splits his days between the garden center and his clients’ sites. David’s mother, Ellena Haskell, and sister, Felicia Cruz, are among the nursery’s 12 year-round employees. “None of us are in the business to make the most money that we can,” David says. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s what we do – gardening and greenhouses.”

David says his father’s lasting legacy is garden design. He’ll wager that enthusiasts can pick out a Haskell garden from among others. A strong focal point is one quality; masses of under-plantings are another. “My father was uncompromising and unyielding in his tastes,” David says. “He was discriminating. He had strong opinions on a selective use of one plant, but he would also back it up with why he would be in favor of a plant. We’ve all developed that awareness. He was a great mentor.”

David Haskell’s Picks
One of David’s fall favorites is an unusual plant called Heptacodium miconioides (seven-son flower). It is a shrublike tree with green leaves during summer, but it puts on a command performance come fall. First, it produces panicles of star-shaped white blossoms in September and October. Then, its calyxes, which are green when flowering, ripen to a rosy red in October and November. In late fall, the plant drops it’s leaves to reveal showy, shaggy brown bark during winter months.

David says another fall knockout is the daisy Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’, which produces silvery-pink flowers. “It stays flowering through November,” he says. “It’s a true perennial and is very hardy. It will come back year after year, unlike a lot of mums that don’t reliably survive the Northeast climate.”

David likes the look of berry-producing plants, too. In autumn, he favors the bright red berries of the Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly). Also consider Callicarpa ‘Profusion’ (beautyberry), a fast growing shrub. “Its purple fruit is quite stunning,” he says, adding that the berry clusters remain on the plant long after the leaves fall.

Allen C. Haskell Horticulturists, Inc., 787 Shawmut Avenue, New Bedford, MA 508-993-9047. www.haskellnursery.com

Small Business Innovation Research Seminar To Be Held At Quest Center

A seminar focused on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), a federal grant program that funds research projects by small business, will be offered on October 26 at the Quest Center in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The goal of the seminar is to instruct small business owners of the region how to not only access funding through SBIR, but how to manage an SBIR award if an application is successful.

Presenters for the program include: Jack Griffin, SBIR Program Manager, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, RI; Dan Lilly, Procurement Specialist, Massachusetts Small Business Development Centers; Larry Nannis, CPA, Levine, Katz,Nannis & Soloman, Needham, MA.

The Quest Center, a partnership between the City of New Bedford and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is a business incubator focused on marine science and technology.

The program is sponsored by The Rockland Trust Company a full-service community bank serving southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. www.RocklandTrust.com.

The seminar will be held Thursday, October 26, from 12 Noon to 4 p.m. at the Quest Center, 1213 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA 02740. For directions, visit the Quest Center website: www.qcnb.org.

For additional information or to sign up for the seminar, please contact Dave Sheehan at 508 717 0375 or dsheehan@umassd.edu.

State-Wide Media Giving New Bedford a Fresh Look

Whale of a Rebirth
Old Fishing Community Rides a Wave of Youthful, Arts-Driven Energy
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon, Boston Globe Correspondents October 18, 2006

New Bedford is a down-to-earth city that has always gone down to the sea. Herman Melville memorialized its whalers in “Moby-Dick,” and Ahab, Starbuck , and Queequeg still cast long shadows on those Quaker streets of uneven granite paving stones. But today’s stars of the waterfront are mostly Portuguese fishermen whose trawls and dredges haul the most valuable fish catch (mostly groundfish and scallops) in the country. The golden age of whaling, roughly 1820-85, has been captured in amber (or ambergris) by a national park, but New Bedford has a future, too. Preservationists have been quietly saving the handsome old downtown buildings for decades, and the Star Store campus of UMass Dartmouth’s College of Visual & Performing Arts has injected a critical mass of youthful energy, artistic intensity, and cockeyed optimism into the city. Ishmael’s drizzly “November of my soul” has been exorcised at last, as surely as the fog lifts ahead of the sweet breezes of a westerly.

Play

Some kids like boats — big boats. When most of the fishing fleet is ashore on weekends, the waterfront becomes a fascinating forest of masts and cables. Along the wharves where vessels are berthed three abreast, crew members hop from boat to boat while other trawlers steam past with their birds up (the wing-like extensions used for stability in rough seas).

Other kids prefer pony rides, available on weekends for $3 (or $5 with a photo) at the Buttonwood Park Zoo (425 Hawthorn St., 508-991-6178, bpzoo.org , adults $6, seniors and teenagers $4.50, ages 3-12 $3). This gentle, low-key zoo focuses primarily on regional wildlife, including creatures that inhabit the zoo property, such as muskrats, mink, and songbirds. Even such old-fashioned exhibits as the elephant enclosure and the WPA-era bear pit emphasize understanding the captive animals rather than merely gawking at them.

Rest

Predictable roadside convenience is the strong suit of Days Inn (500 Hathaway Road, 508-997-1231, www.daysinn.com , $69-$129). It’s near the intersection of Interstate 195 and Route 140, but more than 2 miles from the downtown and waterfront. Within strolling distance of downtown, lodgings in two former mid-19th-century whaling captains’ manses offer more local color. The Orchard Street Manor Bed & Breakfast (139 Orchard St., 508-984-3475,
www.the-orchard-street-manor.com  , $125-$250) has just one single- room and two two-bedroom suites but elegant common areas, including a formal billiard room. The animal-loving innkeepers at Captain Haskell’s Octagon House Bed & Breakfast (347 Union St., 508-999-3933, www.theoctagonhouse.com, $125-$145) welcome pets in the two guest rooms and one suite of two single rooms. And you might catch the blossoming of the night-blooming cereus in the Victorian conservatory.

Fuel

New Bedford’s dining scene reflects the city’s newfound energy. Practically next door to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Cafe Balena (24 North Water St., 508-990-0061, $15-$28) opened in April with a Sardinian menu that includes a cioppino (fish stew) of the day’s best catch. It’s BYOB, with a corking fee of $5.

Portuguese food gets serious respect here. For traditional fare like Alentejo-style pork (marinated loin with clams), it’s hard to beat Mimo (1526-30 Acushnet Ave., 508-997-8779, $9-$14). But the biggest recent splash on the dining scene is chic Adega.

Restaurant and Wine Bar (418 Rivet St., 508-992-1313, www.adegafinedining.com, $13-$25). Start with mussels in champagne sauce, followed by one of six cataplana preparations.

Spend

Martha’s Vineyard has the Black Dog, but New Bedford has the Black Whale, a modern avatar of Moby-Dick in his negative image.

For a T-shirt, ball cap, or tote bag emblazoned with said leviathan (or an outrageous getup for Halloween or Mardi Gras), stop at Elaine’s T-Shirts & Costumes (772 Purchase St., 508-999-2166, www.theblackwhale.com).

More serious whale hunters might harpoon an authentic relic of the trade at the Whalemen’s Shipping List (17 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-990-3786). Look for such artifacts as seamen’s chests, crew manifests from whaling vessels, and containers that once held sperm whale oil. The shop is open through December before owner Frederick Mitchell, like the whales, migrates south for a few months.

Do

New Bedford’s heyday as the Houston of the whale oil industry left its mark in the 13-block district set aside as New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (visitors center at 33 William St., 508-996-4095, www.nps.gov/nebe). Temple-like banks, converted chandleries, and even a candleworks-turned-restaurant recall flush times. Walk across granite pavers where ancient mariners swaggered and pause in the Seamen’s Bethel (15 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-992-3295, donation), where tombstone-like cenotaphs relate terrible demises in the far corners of the world: yellow fever, a fall from a mast, being pulled overboard by a line attached to a whale. The New Bedford Whaling Museum (18 Johnny Cake Hill, 508-997-0046, www.whalingmuseum.org, adults $10, seniors and students $9, ages 6-14 $6) captures the gore and glory of whaling, with a strong bent toward conservation.

The work was on the docks, but the wealth stood high on the crest of County Street. Built in 1834, the Rotch-Jones-Duff House & Garden Museum (396 County St., 508-997-1401, www.rjdmuseum.org, adults $5, seniors and students $4, 12 and under $2) surveys nearly two centuries of life among the elite.

Party

New Bedford’s streets turn into an art and culture festival on the second Thursday of each month with gallery openings, live music, special museum programs, and theatrical performances (AHA!, 508-264-8859, www.ahanewbedford.org). Open Mike Night at 50-seat Cafe Arpeggio is part of the action, but the confab continues every Thursday. The stage also hosts concerts by professional touring musicians, usually on the third Friday of the month ($15).

Live bands hold forth every Thursday and Saturday at the Catwalk (34 Union St., 508-994-3355, www.catwalkbars.com), a bar and restaurant where the weather, alas, is starting to get a little nippy for the rooftop terrace overlooking the harbor.

For the last 25 years, the Zeiterion Theatre (684 Purchase St., 508-994-2900, www.zeiterion.org) has been New Bedford’s performing arts center. The Z has such luminaries on tap as McCoy Tyner, Bo Diddley, Garrison Keillor, and the Bulgarian State Opera. On Nov. 11, it presents two showings of John Huston’s “Moby Dick” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the premiere, when Huston and Gregory Peck (Captain Ahab) came to town.

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company

NBEDC Client Company Is Growing!

Businesses get NBEDC help adjusting to new insurance regulations.

Beginning January 1, 2007, new insurance regulations take affect in Massachusetts. The New Bedford Economic Development Council together with La Pointe Insurance is offering help to business owners in preparation for the changes.

The NBEDC will conduct a seminar Friday, October 27, 2006, on health care reform and workers’ compensation in Massachusetts, focusing on how the new regulations affect business owners. The seminar will be held from 8:00 to 9:30am at the NBEDC office, 1213 Purchase St., 3rd floor of the Quest Center.

For more information or to RSVP, call 508.991.3122 ext. 12. If you know someone who may also be affected by the new insurance regulations and could benefit from the seminar, please invite them along.

Topics to be covered:

Health Care Reform
– Implementation Dates
– Employer Mandates
– New Markets for Purchase of Group and Non-Group Health Insurance
– HSAs and Section 125 Plans
– The Massachusetts “Connector”
– Compliance Costs: Fines & Fees
– Workers’ Compensation
– Employer Mandates
– Independent Contractors
– “If Any” Policies
– 2007 Rate Changes
– Saving Money
– Qualified Loss Management Programs
– Contractor’s Credit