Main St Essex Part II – ThursdayDoors

Wait a minute. We’ve seen those two photos before, and one of them isn’t a door. What gives, Dan?

Main St. Essex is narrow, so all the photos I have are from the opposite side of the street as I walked from my car to the center of town and back. Last week I was on my way out, this week, I am on my way back to my car. The problem is, I used up my history. Except for one thing that appeared to have piqued peoples’ interest:

The Turtle

On September 7, 1776, Ezra Lee piloted the Turtle and attempted to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Howe’s flagship Eagle in New York Harbor. This was the first use of a submarine in warfare. This was not the first submarine. As we know from following the Teagan Geneviene’s amazing serial story “Copper the Alchemist & the Woman in Trousers,” Submarines were first built by Dutch inventor Cornelius van Drebbel in the 1600’s, but they were not used in combat. David Bushnell, an American inventor, thought that a submarine would be the best means of delivering the underwater mines he had invented. He built a wooden submersible, the Turtle, that was big enough for a single person. The Turtle was hand powered. The idea was that a mine, carried by the Turtle could be attached to the hull of an enemy ship. Unfortunately, the boring mechanism (a hand-turned drill) could not penetrate the iron-reinforced hull of the Eagle. Wikipedia gives us the following specifications:

“The Turtle resembled a large clam as much as a turtle; it was about 10 feet (3.0 m) long (according to the original specifications), 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, and about 3 feet (0.9 m) wide, and consisted of two wooden shells covered with tar and reinforced with steel bands. It dived by allowing water into a bilge tank at the bottom of the vessel and ascended by pushing water out through a hand pump. It was propelled vertically and horizontally by hand-cranked propellers. It also had 200 pounds (91 kg) of lead aboard, which could be released in a moment to increase buoyancy. Manned and operated by one person, the vessel contained enough air for about thirty minutes and had a speed in calm water of about 3 mph (2.6 kn; 4.8 km/h).”

David Bushnell is credited with the invention, although he was aware of the work of the Dutch inventor Cornelius Drebbel, Bushnell was also assisted by a New Haven clock-maker, and brass manufacturer, Isaac Doolittle. Again, excerpted from Wikipedia:

“Doolittle designed and crafted (and probably funded) the brass and the moving parts of the Turtle, including the propulsion system, the navigation instruments, the brass foot operated water-ballast and forcing pumps, the depth gauge and compass, the brass crown hatch, the clockwork detonator for the mine, and the hand operated propeller crank and foot-driven treadle with flywheel. According to a letter from Dr. Benjamin Gale to Benjamin Franklin, Doolittle also designed the mine attachment mechanism.”

The Turtle made several attacks on British shipping, but none were successful. The ship that tendered the Turtle was sunk off the coast of Fort Lee, New Jersey and the Turtle was lost. The replica in The Connecticut River Museum is one of several around the world. According to the US Navy research library, the Turtle is notable because:

“The Turtle was the first submersible to use water as ballast for submerging and raising the submarine. To maneuver under water. Turtle was the first submersible to use a screw propeller. Bushnell was also the first to equip a submersible with a breathing device. Finally, the weaponry of Turtle, which consisted of a “torpedo,” or mine that could be attached to the hull of the target ship, was innovative as well. Bushnell was the first to demonstrate that gunpowder could be exploded under water and his mine was the first “time bomb,” allowing the operator of the Turtle to attach the mine and then to retire a safe distance before it detonated.”

Details about how the mine was to be attached are a little sketchy. As described in this article, a sharp screw could be twisted into the target’s hull from inside the Turtle. Apparently, that screw could be separated from the auger mechanism. The mine would have been attached to the screw by a rope / chain running along the Turtle’s hull before the journey began.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s fabulously fascinating weekly bloghop, Thursday Doors. Each week, Norm calls on people around the world to bring to the surface, as it were, photos of doors that they want to share. To view these doors, Norm’s doors and to possibly contribute your doors for consideration, visit Norm’s page.


  1. What a fascinating post, Dan. The development and growth of technology is an amazing thing. I always find the contrast of “Then” and “where we are now” absolutely bewildering. We do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. We don’t give them enough credit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Don. I’m glad you enjoyed this. Being able to trace modern technology back to its roots is always fun for me. We tend to think that without the technology we have today, nothing remarkable could be accomplished. We forget that so much was accomplished. I marvel at things like old stone bridges, canals and aqueducts that were built by hand, hundreds of years ago and are still standing today.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Fascinating history lesson, Dan. We living in modern times honestly do not give credit where credit is due to those who lived hundreds of years ago and who managed to invent genius ideas. Amazing!
    As for the doors ….. not sure if I would be willing to walk through those church’s doors, not with those pitchforks aiming for the middle! And the house with the veranda …. ideal for you and Maddie to have quiet times on. Loved this post and the gallery. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Amy. The pitchfork-like hinges do give me the creeps. I like how they adapted the things they knew how to make into something completely new and different. It’s mildly concerning that the effort was for a weapon, but we were at war, so… I’m sure Maddie would drag me up on that porch if I ever took her for a walk in this town.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for providing more history on the turtle, I’ll have to share this post with the hubby, he loves history! I always love your pictures too, that one door looks like a face! It must be so beautiful where you live, I guess I should get out of this house more and explore some doors around me, I just never seem to have enough time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kim. The church door does look a little like a face. That’s better than focusing on the pitchfork-like nature of those big hinges. I haven’t been out to look for doors since this trip. It is sometimes hard to find the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So much to love about this post–turtles and clams! Ha! I could so see you and Maddie owning that porch. I’d get with the homeowners if I were you…. What is the little house with the very short driveway? It’s on the way out of town. A very small house? A garage? Beautiful homes here, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the little building is a garage or outbuilding to the larger white house in the background. I don’t understand the layout, since there’s no obvious path up to the house, but I think the name is the same. Maddie would like that porch, although the extension to my workshop (I have to keep saying that) that she claims as her porch is about the same size. Then again, one can’t have too many places to sit.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Dan. One of these days I still hope to write/finish that second adventure for Cornelis Drebbel. Now he’s positively giddy about the mention, and loves the idea of peddling the Turtle.
    The “sitting porch” is very inviting, and I agree about your favorite house. Thanks for pointing out the fan window — I didn’t notice it at first. I can imagine what a wonderful room could be made from that attic with that window. That church, though, is so gorgeous. This is an outstanding collection for Thursday Doors. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting history lesson. The Turtle makes me feel claustrophobic just looking at it… I can imagine being inside with the door closed. The pods that took me up to the top of the St. Louis arch were bigger than that. Yikes! Fortunately, you took us outside again with your pictures of the lovely homes. I agree that that one porch looks like it was made just for Maddie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry about the claustrophobic sensation, Janis. In there, underwater, with nothing but muscle power to get home is a scary thought. It’s funny how I think of Maddie when I see a place to sit. I think she would like it.


  7. Very interesting history Dan; thanks for this. I had never considered the complications of underwater explosions but it makes sense that with traditional explosives it would require oxygen. I guess these mines had an inner core and some sort of airtight or water resistant outer shell then?
    As for the doors I’m still smiling back at the apparent smiley face found in the St. John’s church doors :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Norm. I got so many comments about the Turtle the first time I featured it, I thought I could slide in some additional history. I was amazed at all the brass parts that had to be made. My reference is, when I need metal parts when wood working, I go to the hardware store and buy them, or I buy a few pieces of steel and weld them together. Home Depot wasn’t around, and still doesn’t have a ‘propeller’ aisle.

      I didn’t see the face in the church door until today. I does make me smile now.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This certainly lit up the conversation at our house last time and today as well. Took quite a lot of time, attention and strength just to survive an expedition in one of those Turtles. Cool stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The church is beautiful. The doors are creepy. It’s like they’re saying, “Are you a Saint or Sinner?”

    All the homes are exquisite, and yes, that porch you pointed out has Dan and Maddie
    written all over it.

    Fascinating history on the Turtle. This is a remarkable town.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. I’m not sure the owners of the house would appreciate Maddie and I curling up for a rest, but I’m sure Maddie would make the attempt.

      The hinges on those church doors are a bit confusing. I’m surprised the minister didn’t mention it to the designer.


  10. Love the church doors and I’m amazed and impressed by the ingenuity that created the Turtle but I would NOT EVER get inside something like that or, if I went so insane as to get inside, I’d NEVER EVER go underwater.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. It really is neat. Makes me curious not just about the inventor, but also about the kind of men who would take on this new and daunting endeavor.

    I love the yellow house because yellow, but 1813 really steals my heart in its simplicity. It’s so clean looking.

    Also, those church doors have wreath eyes!


  12. This is fascinating, Dan! Brass was the metal because it wouldn’t corrode. It is also beautiful. It boggles my mind to think of inventing the turtle. Thanks for posting more of Essex.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Dan – it looks such a clean town. I just doff my hat to those early guys and their inventions … especially trying to submerge in ‘a turtle’. The doors and houses are delightful to look at – and yes Maddie and you could for a while rest in peace on that patio. The story of the turtle has ‘upset’ me … amazing ideas – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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