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The Story of Angelica Island-off Wilbur’s Point

(ABOVE) Angelica Island off Wilbur’s Point, Fairhaven,MA

Angelica Rock once for sale in themid 90’s had no takers

by MLBaron

Some say it’s just a rock ledge a few yards off Wilbur’s Point in Fairhaven. But one man had a different perspective and a dream.

Dr. Aris T. Papas a clinical psychologist and professor at SMU in the early 1970’s purchased the island to build a summer home “to escape life’s pressures, and get a feeling of identity from my island”  he said in a 1974 Standard-Times interview. The eccentric even maintained  a flower and vegetable garden, that the island’s only full time inhabitants, rabbits  may have enjoyed.

Evidence of an attempt to build his planned summer get away is an overgrown concrete slab put in place by some college students around 1973. Perhaps the reality set in that the location was not practical nor permissible. At about 8 to 10 feet above sea level at its highest point, this vulnerable small 1 acre patch of mostly sea grass and rock becomes awash by wave action and partially submerged by strong storms coming in from virtually any direction. The only structure, the windmill constructed on small stilts was not functional but ornamental.

(ABOVE) White arrow points to this satellite image of Angelica Island at the end of Wilbur’s Point.

West Island can be seen to the right

Jimmy Papas, one of Dr Papas’ three children, recall fondly his “father and son project” in the early 1970’s. Together they constructed the windmill when he was 14. They would haul over wood and building material via rowboat from Wilbur’s Pt. “It was a lot of work, and I wondered why I was so deeply involved in this project while my friends were having a good time back on the mainland.” Papas said.  But their hard work paid off when the huge blades began to turn in the breeze and the windmill at Angelica Island became a curious new maritime landmark. But the windmill’s spinning blades would be short-lived. The blades spun violently during a potent coastal storm a few months later and most of the blades were torn apart as witnessed by a neighbor.

The windmill still served as a platform for teenage parties with Jimmy his brother Nick , sister FoFi and many high school friends. Complete with a generator and barbecue grills brought over by rowboat, the island’s tranquility was awakened  to the sounds of musical instruments, amplifiers, and party goers “for two or three days” at a time much to the annoyance of a few neighbors.

Fellow “island owner” Dominic Nicolaci, became friends with Dr. Papas and gave him and his son an inside tour of the palatial seaside home still under construction on Bella Vista Island (below)in 1972.  

Dr Papas, who had an impressive collection of horse drawn carriages, ran for Mayor of New Bedford in 1971 riding the streets of the city campaigning in one of his carriages. A native of Greece, he lived in New Bedford for 15 years. A family member tried to sell the parcel in the mid 90’s for about $100,000, but had no takers. Dr Papas passed away in 1998.

Joe Petner, a retired elementary school principal and long time summer resident of West Island recalls seeing the island listed in a real-estate publication.“The asking price for the property which is privately owned, if my memory serves me, was around $100,000.  The ad, which pictured the property, suggested it offered endless possibilities. The island is a local landmark and enjoys its place as such for those who live in the area.  Unlike the radar dome in Padanaram, it is likely to be around for awhile.” said Petner.

(ABOVE) Satellite imagery of Angelica Island only about an acre in size. Red box in photo indicates the windmill located on the north side of the island.

Today, at Angelica Island,  the weather beaten and deteriorating wind mill still stands with all but one blade hanging precariously from the feeble structure.

Now just a perch for seagulls, it is a photographers favorite subject along shore. The property remains in the Papas family at the convincing of their young grandchildren who like to visit it from time to time, by row boat of course.

 Update: On April 27, 2014 the deteriorated structure finally succumbed and crumbled to the ground after a gale.  Photo below-  taken May 2, 2014 – No longer recognizable, the windmill was a pile of debris that eventually collapsed flat to the ground. The Town of Fairhaven references this parcel as “Angelica Island”.  The Official Nautical Charts refer to it as “Angelica Rock”.Reader Comment:Date: Mon, 16 May 2011 12:03:36 -0400

Hi, ML,
Still enjoying your page. Some visiting birders were asking about
Angelica. There are several species of bird nesting on it, including an unusual nest of Great Egrets. It has turned out to be a real
environmental hotspot.
 Carolyn Longworth
 Library Director
 The Millicent Library
 Fairhaven, MA 02719