ancestryink fisherman

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Sinking of Holland Island House

This is a story about a house on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.

As in a previous post in this blog  (Houses on the Move), it joins the tales of the historically determined efforts of people to move houses, sometimes whole, and sometimes in parts - wooden post by wooden clapboard - across the sea.

But Holland Island House is the story of the house that did not move away.  A house that eventually succumbed to erosion, rising sea levels, and despite valiant efforts to preserve it, buffeted by high winds and tide, sank alone into the ocean in October of 2010.

A very brief history:  Holland Island was purchased by Daniel Holland in the 1600's.  Between 1850-1910, the island thrived with fisherman and farmer families and a population of around 360 inhabitants on the 80 or so acre island.


 Lying barely above sea level, the island wore down from erosion over the years, and together with the obvious effect of rising sea levels, gradually began disappearing  into the sea altogether.  Many houses were taken off the island by their owners, eventually leaving the Holland Island house standing a lonely sentinel over the remaining flooded marshes.
For a fascinating version of the entire story of Holland Island, visit this website:  The Last House on Holland Island

Today, I was directed by a MA educator to a beautiful short film made by Lynn Tomlinson about Holland Island house.  It is a lovely, haunting animation of her clay painting artpieces, and contains an unforgettably beautiful ballad.  Best of all,  it is narrated by the house itself.

The Ballad of Holland Island House

I encourage you to take 4 minutes to watch this. If you are interested, visit Tomlinson's website for more information about her creative and award-winning animation works, and with this film, how she chose to use her artistic gifts to tell a great story, and bring awareness to rising sea levels that are ever more swiftly contributing to creating "ghosts" of our historic seafaring communities.  

The Holland Island House brings to mind again:  what happens to the artifacts of these previous centuries on a particular piece of land:  the houses wrought by hand, the tools and structures of making a living, the churches and cemeteries that sink into the ocean, the stories passed down from generation to generation...all become ghosts and if we are not careful fade away, breaking the important connection between past and present.

Sources for this article:

Historic Island image and October 2010 image of sinking house courtesy of:

Photo image of house in October 2009:
Author:  Flickr User baldeaglebluff

Screenshot of film title image is taken from Lynn Tomlinson website: