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OUTTAKES: WHALE’s saucy sailors and Mark Wahlberg’s butt leave their mark on New Bedford

By Steven Froias

Contributing Writer

Frequently when I’m writing something for this blog, or for State of the Arts in The Standard-Times daily newspaper, or other media outlets, I come across anecdotes that don’t find a home in the final story.

Yet these little vignettes can be interesting, fascinating –  and also say something about the place we have an emotional bond with: the City of New Bedford.

It’s a place rich with emotional infrastructure and below are some fun reasons why.

I’m happy to share these “outtakes” with you from time to time, courtesy of the city’s first coworking facility, Groundwork!

When sailors were sailors

While interviewing Teri Bernert, Director of WHALE (Waterfront Area Historic League) in her office in the former Mariners Home on Johnny Cake Hill, my eye was drawn to coiled rope by each window.

WHALE is helping to transform the streetscape from William Street to Acushnet Avenue with creative economy projects, as detailed in the story found here. Its office is full of blueprints, reports and ephemera…but,  what was with the rope?, I couldn’t help but wonder.

Teri and her staff explained that the rope was actually a primitive fire escape system for the second floor of the Mariners Home, built in 1787. Until fairly recently it was indeed home to sailors, fishermen, and merchant mariners.

Fortunately, the need to shimmy down the side of the building due to conflagration never arose. However, an industrious lot, sailors found another use for the rope “ladders.”

They would lower them down to ground level from their bunks and hoist back up all matter of contraband – which I will leave to your imagination – then have themselves a party!

The crew at WHALE – which renovated the very space that is now their office – is a level-headed, professional team which certainly doesn’t indulge in those sort of shenanigans now.

But it’s nice to think that if you walk up Johnny Cake Hill on a Friday night sometime you may see a rope being lowered in hopes of a grog from Moby Dick Brewery finding its way back up to this terrific new crew!

(Be sure to check out WHALE’s public input design meeting for the Orpheum Theater on Tues., March 19.)

Mark Wahlberg’s butt was here

Mark in Wonderland

While interviewing Olivia Melo, New Bedford Free Public Library director, with William Shurtleff, of the City of New Bedford’s Department of Facilities and Fleet, she shared a fun story with me that got cut from the final piece.

The Tables are Turned” focused on the teamwork between Olivia and William while creating new computer and reading tables for the downtown library. She has a vision for the historic library and how it should be appointed. His superior craftsmanship saw that it was realized.  

While the downtown library is classic, other city libraries are of more recent vintage. Southworth, Buttonwood and Wilks could be termed mid-century modern. As is some of the furniture in each.

Olivia saw a Facebook post from a film production company looking for modern seating to rent for set decoration. It turned out to be for an upcoming movie being shot in Massachusetts starring Mark Wahlberg.

She thought the chairs at Wilks Library on Acushnet Avenue in Brooklawn Park would fit the bill – and she was right. Her imagination and William’s skill had just seen them all repaired and returned to pristine condition. Perfect for a close-up.

Olivia sent along some photos of the chairs. The film production company wanted them.

And, the library pocketed a cool $1,000 from that production company for a rental fee! Got to love that kind of entrepreneurial thinking from a municipal employee.

So, look for Mark Wahlberg’s butt – in City of New Bedford library chairs – when “Wonderland,” based on a Robert B. Parker novel, hits Netflix soon! 

Steven Froias

Steven Froias

Mad Man at Groundwork!
Steven Froias is Groundwork!'s resident blogger. He sleeps in the boiler room at 1213 Purchase Street.
Steven Froias