Photo Kevin Mullaney Tiny Worthington’s fishnet fashions were big news worldwide at one time.
Slideshow photos Kevin Mullaney The Highland Museum is a step back in time to recall Truro's full and fascinating past.
Treasure trove of Truro history
Banner Daily Update posted Sun. June 3 slideshow
By Kevin Mullaney Banner Correspondent
TRURO — There are two big anniversaries this year up on the Highland hill in North Truro. The lighthouse turns 150 and the Highland House, which houses the Highland House Museum, turns 100. (The golf course is the middle child.)
The Highland House is the long, L-shaped building on the left, where the handicap bathrooms are located for visitors to the museum, the golf course and the lighthouse. It is also the treasure trove of the history of Truro, an extensive collection of artifacts and furniture, household and personal items, artwork, maps, whaling and fishing equipment and children’s toys. What Old Sturbridge Village is for Sturbridge and its colonial roots, the Highland House Museum is for Truro and all its roots.
“People say it’s like rummaging through your grandmother’s attic,” said Debbie Minsky, the new curator, as she prepared for the June 1 season opening. The museum is open June through September, possibly through Columbus Day weekend this year, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In addition to their permanent collection there will be special exhibits for both anniversaries.
Built in 1907, the Highland House joined several cottages, a bowling alley, a skating rink and the golf course that made up the Highlands resort complex. The Highland House was one of those grand turn-of-the-century summer hotels. There were 15 rooms for rent on the second floor. The first floor of the hotel was used as the dining facility for the whole complex. They advertised 55 rooms and one bath. Room and board was $8/week.
The big room has dozens of displays, in glass cases, on the walls. There is an old loom, a model of a windmill-powered salt-making operation (perhaps two feet high), all kinds of tools, whaling and fishing gear and an entire room of shipwreck booty and early Life-Saving Service equipment — breeches buoys, antique life vests and photos of shipwrecks. There are lots of photos, typical household items, beautiful pieces of furniture, children’s toys, ship models, clocks and watches. One room off the big room is chock full of the work of Courtney Allen, a prolific illustrator, painter, model-maker and woodworker who was one of the founding members of the Truro Historical Society, the non-profit group that owns the artifacts and runs the museum.
On the second floor, the long, also high-ceilinged hallway is in period style. The walls are adorned with paintings and photos. Each room is a treat. Several are set up as typical bedrooms and kitchens of the Victorian farmer-fisher-person back in the 1800s, the old beds and chests, rugs and bedding, bowls and pitchers. There is a Portuguese room, a map room, sewing rooms and rooms with antique dolls.
Most notably, perhaps, is the fishnet room, a tribute to Tiny Worthington’s fishnet clothing and accessory business that she started in the 1930s. From little, hard-to-get-to Truro, Tiny’s fishnet fashions were in New York department stores and worn by the Duchess of Kent. (She had eight fishnet turbans.) Bette Davis had a fishnet gown made for the movie “Comet Over Broadway.”
The building is in what appears to be very good condition. The floors don’t angle and the walls don’t lean. The National Seashore paid for the new cedar
“There’s a lot of history up here, between the lighthouse and the museum — shipwrecks, rescues, the life saving service. They sacrificed so much,” she said, adding, “It’s the history of normal people that makes this world so interesting, knowing how people lived, what the people of Truro had to do to survive,” she said, calling the museum an under-unappreciated treasure.
For the entire text of this story see the May 31 Provincetown Banner.