Gloucester’s Rich History

June 19, 2017 / History

In addition to a rich maritime heritage, artist communities have also played a significant role in Gloucester’s history and culture. Rocky Neck, one of America’s oldest continuously working art colonies, has attracted such accomplished artists as Milton Avery, Nell Blaine, Stuart Davis, Childe Hassam, and many more.

Also nestled within Gloucester are the quaint villages of Lanesville, Annisquam and Magnolia. Located between Ipswich Bay and the historic woods of Dogtown, Lanesville rose to prominence during the 1800s due to its proximity to abundant, cod-filled waters and granite quarrying sites. Today, many local artists call the area home.

Annisquam, an early fishing and ship-building center, is located just minutes off scenic Route 127 and features the Annisquam Harbor Light Station, established in 1801 and added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1987.

Just east of Manchester lies charming Magnolia, home to the Hammond Castle Museum. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Magnolia became a prominent summer resort destination for the wealthy, with fashionable hotels all along the shore. Having served as host to such well-known visitors as John Philip Sousa and Lucille Ball, Magnolia still showcases some of the most sweeping, majestic views of Cape Ann.

Gloucester’s history is full of fascinating people, such as Howard Blackburn, a Gloucester icon and hero who survived 4 days lost at sea in the winter of 1883 by freezing his hands to oars and rowing 60 miles back to shore. Cigar Joe, born in 1898, talks about fishing, smuggling and life in Gloucester during the early part of the 20th century in a series of recordings made in 1981. In 1919, Rudyard Kipling wrote Captains Courageous about Gloucester fishermen.

T.S. Eliot, whose family summered in Gloucester, wrote The Dry Salvages  inspired by a rock formation off the coast of Cape Ann.

Since 1920, over two dozen movies have been filmed in Gloucester and Cape Ann. In 2000, Warner Brothers released The Perfect Storm filmed in Gloucester with an all-star cast including George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as Captain Billy Tyne and Bobby Shatford — two of the real-life fishermen, who were lost at sea.

On October 30, 1991 a powerful storm hit Gloucester sinking fishing boats out at sea and causing massive destruction along the coast. Sebastian Junger wrote the book The Perfect Storm in 1997. In 2000, Warner Brothers released the movie, to wide acclaim.

See video of Allen Estes & Fly Amero singing Not With Ya Hands (written about Howard Blackburn) at Celebrate Gloucester 2010.

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