Gloucester is a city on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is part of Boston's North Shore. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 30,273. An important center of the fishing industry and a popular summer destination, Gloucester consists of an urban core on the north side of the harbor and the outlying neighborhoods of Annisquam, Bay View, Lanesville, Folly Cove, Magnolia, Riverdale, East Gloucester and West Gloucester. It is bounded by Rockport to the east, Ipswich Bay to the north, Essex and Manchester to the west and Massachusetts Bay to the south. The boundaries of Gloucester originally included the town of Rockport,in an area dubbed "Sandy Bay." That village separated formally on February 27, 1840. In 1873, Gloucester was reincorporated as a city.
Gloucester was founded at Cape Ann by an expedition called the "Dorchester Company" of men from Dorchester (in the county of Dorset, England) chartered by James I in 1623. This date allows Gloucester to boast the first settlement in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as this town's first settlement predates both Salem, Massachusetts in 1626, and Boston in 1630. This first company of pioneers made landing at Half Moon Beach, and settled nearby, setting up fishing stages in a field in what is now Stage Fort Park. This settlement's existence is proclaimed today by a memorial tablet, affixed to a 50' boulder in that park. Life in this first settlement was harsh and it was short-lived. Around 1626 the place was abandoned, and the people removed themselves to Naumkeag (what is now called Salem, Massachusetts), where more fertile soil for planting was to be found. The meetinghouse was even disassembled and relocated to the new place of settlement. At some point in the following years - though no record exists - the area was slowly resettled. The town was formally incorporated in 1642. It is at this time that the name "Gloucester" first appears on tax rolls, although in various spellings. The town took its name from the great Cathedral City in South-West England, where it is assumed many of its new occupants originated. This new permanent settlement focused on the Town Green area, an inlet in the marshes at a bend in the Annisquam River. This area is now the site of Grant Circle, a large traffic-rotary at which MA Route 128 mingles with a major city street (Washington Street/ Rt 127). Here the first permanent settlers built a meeting house and therefore focused the nexus of their settlement on the 'Island' for nearly 100 years. Unlike other ancient coastal towns in New England, development in Gloucester was not focused around the harbor as it is today, rather it was inland that people settled first. This is evidenced by the placement of the Town Green nearly two miles from the harbor-front. The Town Green is also where the settlers built the first school. By Massachusetts Bay Colony Law, any town boasting 100 families or more had to provide a public schoolhouse. This requirement was met in 1698, with Thomas Riggs standing as the town's first School-Master. Early industry included subsistence farming and logging. Because of the poor soil and rocky hills, Cape Ann was not well suited for farming on a large scale. Small family farms and livestock provided the bulk of the sustinence to the population. Fishing, for which the town is known today, was limited to close-to-shore, with families subsisting on small catches as opposed to the great bounties yielded in later years. The fisherman of Gloucester did not yet command the Grand Banks until the mid-18th century. Early Gloucestermen cleared great swaths of the forest of Cape Ann for farm and pasture land, using the timber to build structures as far away as Boston. The rocky moors of Gloucester remained clear for two centuries until the forest reclaimed the land in the 20th Century. The inland part of the island became known as the 'Commons' the 'Common Village' or "Dogtown". Here small dwellings lay scattered amongst the boulders and swamps, along roads that meandered through the hills. These dwellings were at times little more than shanties, only one was even two-stories tall. Despite their size, several generations of families were raised in such houses. One feature of the construction of these houses was that under one side of the floor was dug a cellar hole (for the keeping of food), supported by a foundation of laid-stone (without mortar). These cellar holes are still visible today along the trails throughout the inland part of Gloucester; they, and some walls, are all that remain of the village there.
The town grew, and eventually colonists lived on the opposite side of the Annisquam River. This, in a time of legally mandated church attendance, was a long way to walk - or row - on a Sunday morning. In 1718 the settlers on the opposite shore of the river split off from the First Parish community at the Green and formed 'Second Parish.' While still part of the Town of Gloucester, the people of Second, or 'West', Parish now constructed their own Meetinghouse and designated their own place of burial, both of which were in the hills near the marshes behind Wingaersheek Beach. The Meeting house is gone now, but deep in the woods on the Second Parish Road trail one can still find the scattered stones of the abandoned Burial Ground. Other parts of town later followed suit. Third Parish, in Northern Gloucester, was founded in 1728. Fourth Parish split off from First Parish in 1742. Finally, in 1754, the people of Sandy Bay (what would later be called Rockport) split off from First Parish to found Fifth Parish. The Sandy Bay church founding was the last religious re-ordering of the Colonial Period. All of these congregations still exist in some form with the exception of Fourth Parish, the site of whose meeting house is now a highway. At one time, there was a thriving granite industry in Gloucester.
Gloucester and the Sea
The town was an important shipbuilding center, and the first schooner was reputedly built there in 1713. The community developed into an important fishing port, largely due to its proximity to Georges Bank and other fishing banks off the east coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Gloucester's most famous (and nationally recognized) seafood business was founded in 1849 -- John Pew & Sons. It became Gorton-Pew Fisheries in 1906, and in 1957 changed its name to Gorton's of Gloucester. The iconic image of the "Gorton's Fisherman", and the products he represents, are known throughout the country and beyond. Besides catching and processing seafood, Gloucester is also a center for fish research. In the late 19th century, a large number of Portuguese immigrants, mainly from the Azores, came to Gloucester to work in the fishing industry. As well at that time many Italian immigrants, mostly from Sicily became fishermen as well. Many of their descendents still are fisherman today, although many live in Gloucester and have entered other areas of work. Personally, both demographics contributed to a specific culture of the city. Seafaring and fishing have been, and still are, a very dangerous undertaking. In its over 350-year history, Gloucester has lost over 10,000 men to the Atlantic Ocean. The names of all the lost that are known are painted on a huge mural in the main staircase at City Hall, and also on a new memorial cenotaph on Stacy Boulevard. The list has continued to lengthen despite increased safety requirements.
Painting and printmaking
Gloucester's scenic beauty, active fishing industry, and renowned arts community have attracted and inspired painters since the early 19th century, as they do today. The first Gloucester painter of note was native-born Fitz Henry Lane, whose home still exists on the waterfront. The premier collection of his works is in the Cape Ann Historical Museum, which holds 40 of his paintings and 100 of his drawings. Other painters subsequently attracted to Gloucester include William Morris Hunt, Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Frederick Mulhaupt, Frank Duveneck, Cecilia Beaux, Jane Peterson, Gordon Grant, Emile Gruppe, Stuart Davis, Joseph Solman, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Barnett Newman, William Meyerowitz, Theresa Bernstein, and Marsden Hartley and artists from the Ashcan School such as Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Maurice Prendergast. Smith Cove is home to the Rocky Neck Art Colony, the oldest art colony in the country. Folly Cove was the home of the Folly Cove Designers, influential to this day in print design and technique.
Several important sculptors have lived and worked in East Gloucester, Annisquam, Lanesville and Folly Cove. They include George Aarons, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Charles Grafly, Paul Manship and his wife Margaret Manship, Walker Hancock, and George Demetrios. In addition, Aristides Demetrios grew up in Folly Cove.
The city was appropriately used as the on-location setting for the adaptation of the book The Perfect Storm. Perhaps the most famous story based in Gloucester is Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling, written in 1897, and made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy in 1937. Charles Olson (1910-1970) a poet and teacher at Black Mountain College, composed a 635 page poem known as "The Maximus Poems" which centered around the city of Gloucester. Gloucester is also often referred to in the works of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Gloucester and its Coast Guard station are the center of the land actions in Michael J. Tougias' 2005 book Ten Hours Until Dawn, recounting the loss of the pilot boat Can Do and its crew during the Blizzard of February 1978.
- Captains Courageous was set in Gloucester.
-The Perfect Storm was filmed and set in Gloucester.
- Moonlight Mile was filmed almost entirely in Gloucester, with some shots in Marblehead.
-Portions of Stuck on You were filmed in Gloucester and in neighboring Rockport. (The rink scenes were filmed at the O'Maley School).
-The Good Son was filmed in Gloucester and other Cape Ann communities.
-The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming takes place on a fictional Gloucester island and was filmed in Mendocino, California.
- Mermaids had scenes shot in the Magnolia area of Gloucester.
- Author! Author! had scenes shot on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester.
Points of interest
Gloucester's most noted landmark is the harborside "Man at the Wheel" statue (also known as the "Fishermen's Memorial Cenotaph"), dedicated to "They that go down to the sea in ships," which is a quote from Psalm 107:23-32. Gloucester has a professional theatre company known as Gloucester Stage Company, which stages five to eight plays each season, primarily in the summer months. Located in East Gloucester, the theatre sits at water's edge overlooking Smith's Cove. It was founded in 1979 by local arts and business leaders to encourage playwrights and their new works. Israel Horovitz is the GSC's artistic director, and has been since he helped found it, though he is retiring after the 2006 season. Over the years, plays developed at Gloucester Stage Company have gone on to critical acclaim and popular success, on and off Broadway, nationally and internationally. The group draws theatre-goers from Gloucester, neighboring North Shore districts, greater Boston area, as well as seasonal residents and tourists. Man at the Wheel, Fisherman's Memorial Cenotaph Gloucester's largest annual event is St. Peter's Fiesta, sponsored by the local Italian-American community. It is held the weekend closest to the saint's feast day. Highlights include the blessing of the fleet, and the greasy pole contest. The city has much significant architecture, from pre-revolutionary houses to the hilltop 1870 City Hall, which dominates the town and harbor. It also has exotic waterfront homes now converted to museums, including Beauport, built 19071934 by designer Henry Davis Sleeper in collaboration with local architect Halfdan Hanson, said to raise eclecticism to the level of genius. In addition, it has Hammond Castle, built 19261929 by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. as a setting for his collection of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance artifacts. Gloucester was also the home of feminist writer Judith Sargent Murray and John Murray, the founder of the first Universalist Church in America. Their house still exists as the Sargent House Museum. Many museums are located in the main downtown area, such as the Cape Ann Historical Association, and the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center.