Kindra Clineff

Just southeast of Boston, urban professionals have discovered what shipbuilders, fishermen, and old-time actors already knew.

It's Friday evening at Village Wine & Spirits in Cohasset,Massachusetts, and Amyra O'Connell presides over her weekly winetasting. While Sinatra plays softly in the background, Amyra and acouple of local women consider the question of sprucing up thevillage center. Not that Cohasset needs much sprucing―thedebate mostly concerns whether the village could use new bricksidewalks and iron lampposts. "A lot of people are perfectly happywith downtown the way it is, asphalt sidewalks and all," saysAmyra.

Cohasset has evolved considerably from its fishing village past.The folks who picnic on the common during St. Stephen's Episcopal'ssummer carillon concerts more likely work in Boston financialcircles than in commercial fishing.

In the late 1800s, in the wake of the town's shipbuilding era,so many actors built homes on Margin Street that it became known as"Brass Button Avenue." But only lately have commuters discoveredCohasset's dramatic coastline. Newcomers snap up big, old seasidehouses or build spanking-new statements in shingle, Tudor, orcontemporary styles.

Cohasset retains plenty of open space. A 120-acre organic farmborders Little Harbor. Sizable tracts of wetlands and trees remainoff-limits to development. The 824-acre Whitney and Thayer Woods,maintained by a land-conservation group, brings a touch ofwilderness to the town's western reaches.

Here, neighborhoods distill coastal New England's history andcharacter―from a harborside plaque marking Capt. John Smith's1614 landing site to the quiet lanes where The Witches of Eastwick was filmed.

In the village center, chef Brian Houlihan and his wife,Tristen, opened a smart little bistro called Bia. "We'd looked allover before we found a place with the right community feeling,"says Tristen. Cohasset had been looking for Bia, too. As one dinercommented, "Now we can have Boston food without driving toBoston."

(published July 2005)

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