Gloucester, Massachusetts, (population 30,730) is known as America’s oldest seaport. Located on Cape Ann, 30 miles northeast of Boston, the area was first settled in 1623, when men from Dorchester, England, were sent to establish a fishing and trade plantation. Over the years, as fishing declined, the economic base of the city has diversified to include manufacturing, high tech, and tourism.
Gloucester has been deeply involved in efforts to preserve its historic structures and landscapes. An ongoing project for the community has been the restoration of the 1926 Adventure, the last American dory fishing schooner left in the Atlantic. The Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center features the oldest continuously operating marine railway in the country, as well as a 19th century mill building and a former ice house. The center provides insight into the relationship between the city’s maritime industrial history and the health of the New England fisheries.
The Cape Ann Museum includes exhibits on the fishing and granite industries and work by local and visiting artists. The museum owns the White-Ellery House, built in 1710. This First Period structure is featured on Seventeenth-Century Saturdays, opening to the public on the first Saturday of the month from June through October. The Sargent House, built in 1782, has been a museum since 1917. It was the home of Judith Sargent Murray, an early feminist author, whose second husband, John Murray, founded the first Universalist Church in America. The 1806 church, across the street, is a splendid example of vernacular architecture and has been a beacon to mariners since it was built.
City Hall, dedicated in 1871 as Town Hall, is a fine example of post-Civil War era municipal architecture. It contains a collection of New Deal murals, some designed for the building and some rescued from demolished or renovated school buildings.
The Rocky Neck Art Trail consists of 12 locations where famous artists painted iconic pictures of the American scene or had summer studios. These artists include Gloucester’s own Fitz Henry Lane, and Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, and John Sloan. The Rocky Neck Art Colony Web site provides details on the featured sites.
Along Stacy Boulevard is one of the most famous statues in America--the Man at the Wheel--erected in celebration of Gloucester’s 300th anniversary in 1923. A more recent statue symbolizes the women and children who wait for the men to return.
Modern Gloucester has three lighthouses, with three more in Rockport, once part of Gloucester. The city’s heritage resources are featured in a Maritime History of Massachusetts National Register Travel Itinerary (Gloucester and Rockport have 10 of the 22 featured sites in Essex County) and in the Essex National Heritage Area Maritime Guide.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2005.
For more information
City of Gloucester Historic District Commission
National Register Travel Itinerary - Maritime History of Massachusetts