Henry Sleeper a Gloucester Visitor Who Stayed a Lifetime

June 01, 2021 / A Local Favorite, Good to Know, Local Characters, Things to Do & See

Written by Martha van Koevering | Beauport, the Sleeper McCann House | House photos by Eric Roth, courtesy of Historic New England

Portrait of Henry Davis Sleeper.

Gloucester has attracted visitors for generations. The beautiful harbor, cooling sea breezes, and amazing natural light are all magnets for boaters, vacationers, and artists who visit on a whim and return again and again. Henry Sleeper was an early-twentieth-century visitor from Boston who managed to stay a lifetime.

Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934) first visited Gloucester in 1906 at the invitation of a friend who had a waterfront home on Eastern Point. Within a year Sleeper began construction on his own summer home that he called Beauport. What began as a house to entertain friends and family soon became a showcase of Sleeper’s burgeoning interior design career, eventually expanding to more than forty rooms. Now considered one of America’s first professional interior decorators, Sleeper is known for his whimsical use of light, color, and architectural salvage.

What makes Beauport remarkable is that Henry Sleeper’s interior furnishings, paint colors, and decorative art collections survived intact thanks to the preservation instincts of its second owner, the McCann family. A National Historic Landmark, the house remains an inspiration to anyone interested in interior design and architecture. Visitors who tour the house and restored Arts & Crafts style garden learn about Henry Sleeper, a gay man in the early twentieth century, his servants, Beauport’s fascinating neighbors and colorful guests and the McCann family who donated the house to become a museum.

See for yourself why Henry Sleeper stayed a lifetime!

Museum hours, events, and to purchase advance tickets, visit historicnewengland.org.
Location: 75 Eastern Point Blvd, Gloucester

More to Discover

Pride in the Archives | June 2 at 4:00 pm

Cape Ann Museum and Historic New England are kicking off Pride Month with a participatory discussion on the challenges and rewards of interpreting LGBTQ+ history based on archival materials.  Register here.

Beauport Pride Tour at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House | June 5, June 19, July 16 at 3:30 pm

Beauport tells the story of a gay man in the early twentieth century: celebrated interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper. Tour the house to learn about Sleeper’s family and friends, and hear readings from books and letters written by Sleeper and his social circle. Purchase tickets here.