Florence Osgood Rand Lang and her husband purchased South Wharf from W. T. Swain and Company, and they started their own Island Service Company (later bought by Sherburne Associates in 1964). Their large purchase and subsequent acquisitions in the area of Commercial Wharf and the strip of beach along Washington Street included scallop shanties and boathouses that lay in disuse and disrepair as well as an old candle factory. With an influx of Frank Swift Chase’s students looking for summer housing, and her acquaintance with the most talented in his group, Florence Lang saw the potential in her unused real estate, fixed up the wharf shacks in the 1920s, and rented them at modest prices.
“For a while the studios were simple,” says Florence Deeley Clifford of her aunt’s project. “They had a cot to sleep on, and the only water inside ran into a soapstone sink. The toilets and showers were shared.”
The list of Lang’s tenants included many of her companions in Chase’s classes. Elizabeth Saltonstall, for example, lived at Water’s Edge and the Scallop housed Ruth Haviland Sutton. Lang also transformed the former candle factory on Commercial Wharf into the Candle House Studio. A major patron of the arts as well as a real estate maven, Lang also moved Hayden’s Bathhouse from South Beach Street to the basin on Easy Street in 1924 and created the Easy Street Gallery, the undisputed social nexus and exhibition venue of the struggling art scene. “Everyone showed there,” says Clifford. “Sarg, Chase, Anne Congdon . . . all of them.”
Lang’s August “open” shows at the Easy Street were later echoed in the Artists’ Association’s annual open shows, which were eventually termed member shows.