Fittingly, the most modest of the dune shacks casts the longest shadow, for this 8-by-12-foot structure is linked to Harry Kemp (1883-1960) — the Poet of the Dunes and, as the biographer William Brevda called him, the Last Bohemian. The shack’s earliest incarnation was as the hen house at the Peaked Hill Bars station. It was rebuilt by the surfman Frank Cadose, then owned by Frank Dears Henderson of the Coast Guard, who rented it to Kemp beginning in 1927 or 1928 and eventually gave it to him rather than listen any longer to Kemp’s ceaseless complaints. By the 40s, Kemp had largely squandered what slim reputation he’d enjoyed in serious circles. He had become a caricature: an ever eccentric, often besotted, unabashedly self-promoting poet — beloved by many, but just tolerated by others.
In 1959, when he was less able than ever to care for himself, Rose “Sunny” (Savage) Tasha built him a beautiful shack in the Tasha Hill compound on Howland Street, where he died. Kemp bequeathed the shack to Tasha. It was blown apart in a winter storm in the 1960s and rebuilt. In recent decades, it’s been used by the children of Sunny and Herman Tasha — Paul, Paula, Carl and Carla — and by their children, and by their children’s children. They have also made a point of sharing the shack with others. But they do so on a short leash: a special use permit that must be renewed annually. Kemp’s occupancy may last a bit longer:
When I’m alive no more
And my soul at last goes free,
You’ll find me walking on the Dunes
And down beside the Sea.
So if you glimpse a wavering form,
Or front a vanishing face,
You’ll know that I’ve come back once more
To my accustomed place.