It's Friday evening at Village Wine & Spirits in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and Amyra O'Connell presides over her weekly wine tasting. While Sinatra plays softly in the background, Amyra and a couple of local women consider the question of sprucing up the village center. Not that Cohasset needs much sprucing―the debate mostly concerns whether the village could use new brick sidewalks and iron lampposts. "A lot of people are perfectly happy with downtown the way it is, asphalt sidewalks and all," says Amyra.
Cohasset has evolved considerably from its fishing village past. The folks who picnic on the common during St. Stephen's Episcopal's summer carillon concerts more likely work in Boston financial circles 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 discovered Cohasset's dramatic coastline. Newcomers snap up big, old seaside houses or build spanking-new statements in shingle, Tudor, or contemporary styles.
Cohasset retains plenty of open space. A 120-acre organic farm borders Little Harbor. Sizable tracts of wetlands and trees remain off-limits to development. The 824-acre Whitney and Thayer Woods, maintained by a land-conservation group, brings a touch of wilderness to the town's western reaches.
Here, neighborhoods distill coastal New England's history and character―from a harborside plaque marking Capt. John Smith's 1614 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 all over before we found a place with the right community feeling," says Tristen. Cohasset had been looking for Bia, too. As one diner commented, "Now we can have Boston food without driving to Boston."
(published July 2005)