Going to Gloucester for Great History, Gorgeous Views, and Good Eats!

If like most people, when someone mentions Gloucester, Massachusetts you immediately think of fish, there's a very good reason for that! Gloucester's history as a fishing village goes way back to 1630 and by the end of the American Civil War, Gloucester was not only the oldest fishing port in America, but also the biggest fishing port in the western hemisphere. That's darned good reason to think "fish" and conjure up images of "The Man at the Wheel" or sing the commercial jingle for Gorton's of Gloucester, the company who, in 1889, was the very to nationally advertise fish and make Gorton’s codfish a household word.

Today, fishing remains a very big part of Gloucester as evidenced by the busy workings of its inner harbor which visitors to the city that lies a mere 30 minutes from the historic Hawthorne Hotel can see for themselves by taking advantage of the free Gloucester Harborwalk Tour which includes 42 granite "Story Moment Posts" placed along a designated HarborWalk route. Each "Story Moment Post" has a plate that contains a QR bar code that when scanned by mobile device containing the free application that can be downloaded via either iTunes or Google Apps, will provide access to additional content describing an aspect of Gloucester's rich history and culture. Maps for the route can be found at the Stage Fort Visitor Center, the Chamber of Commerce, or City Hall while you can download the free app and get answers to other Frequently Asked Questions about the HarborWalk Tour here.  Additionally, if you'd like to talk the HarborWalk Tour as an audio tour, you can rent an audio player at the Harbor Tours Ticket Booth on Harbor Loop where you can also book a Cape Ann Harbor Tour and discover Gloucester by water.

Some of the interesting places that you can see while walking around Gloucester's working harbor include the Cape Pond Ice Company which was started in started in 1848 by blacksmith Nathaniel R. Webster who recognized the need for supplying the fresh fish industry with a reliable, large-volume source of ice. First known as the Gloucester Company, Webster began his business by damming a local brook and building his first ice house on what became known as Webster's Pond. Within four years Webster built two more ice houses on Upper & Lower Day's Ponds and on Cape Pond in Rockport, the pond that the company is still named after. The present manufacturing plant, which is open round-the-clock throughout the year, was built in 1946 at the end of Commercial Street where fishing vessels pull up to the company wharf and take anywhere from 300 pounds to 30 tons of ice per fishing trip.

45-minute narrated tours of Gloucester's historic ice company are available year-round where visitors can explore the historic ice house and working wharf, get a glimpse of spectacular ice sculptures, see first-hand the making of 300-pound block ice being (up to 350 tons per day), and learn about Cape Pond Ice's 156-year history of icing Gloucester's fleet and their "Perfect Storm" connection. As of this writing, tours are $10.00 for adults, $8.00 for seniors and children under 12 while children under 7 are free. Tours are available by appointment any day of the week as well as Monday - Saturday at 11:00 am from September to May and Monday - Saturday at 9:30 am, 11:00 am and 2:00 pm; Sunday at 11:00 am from June to August. Warm clothing or a sweatshirt and practical shoes are highly recommended!  For a tour reservation you can either call 978-283-0174 or e-mail

If whale-watching is something you've always yearned to do, then a trip to Gloucester provides you with more options than you can shake a harpoon - or these days camera lens - at!  7 Seas Whale Watch, Cape Ann Whale Watch, and Capt. Bill and Sons Whale Watch all offer sea-hearty visitors a chance to head out to the high seas in search of the world's largest mammals. Rated as one of the top 10 places to see whales by USA TODAY, and one of the top 5 places in the world for whale watching by the World Wildlife Foundation, Gloucester is the ideal place to set off from as it is in close proximity to Stellwagen Bank, one of the two major feeding areas for the great whales - of which 15 different species have been spotted by whale watch tours sailing out of Gloucester.

If you're more of a seafood eater than watcher, you're still in luck as Gloucester boasts some of the best restaurants in New England for seafood including The Gloucester House which has been specializing in fresh North Atlantic seafood for over 50 years.

In 1957, Sicilian-born Leo Linquata bought the Tupman Thurlow Fish Wharf, now known as the Seven Seas Wharf, where Leo's son Michael decided to build a restaurant. After acquiring two partners – Kay Spittle and Fiore Masse – the restaurant opened its doors for business in April of 1958 with Michael eventually taking over as sole owner and President of the company in 1966. So popular was the Gloucester House - the first restaurant to popularize fried calamari - that an episode of "Bewitched" was filmed there between 1972 and 1973 and in the late-1970s the Today Show also broadcast from the restaurant.

Following damage to the building from the same storm in October 1991 that took down the Andrea Gail and inspired Sebastian Junger’s book "The Perfect Storm", Gloucester House was completely rebuilt in 1992 and still attracts thousands of hungry diners every month. It's easy to see why though with their tasty and refreshing adult beverages and delicious seafood choices like the fried shrimp below that Nathaniel was drooling over!

If you'd like to do some preparatory drooling yourself, the Gloucester House's menus are available for online viewing so you can decide what you want before you get there saving yourself some time for more sightseeing or other fun activities once you've enjoyed a delicious repast and maybe a refreshing beverage or two!

Back out and about, you might next find yourself at Solomon Jacobs Park and Public Landing, a small park located on Harbor Loop between the Harbor Master's Office and the Coast Guard Station. The park is named for Captain Solomon Jacobs, a Gloucester master mariner who was known as the "King of the Mackerel Killers" for his success in mackerel fishing. Born in Newfoundland in 1847, Jacobs came to Gloucester as a seasoned fisherman at the age of 25. In 1888 he set out for the Pacific Northwest leading two schooners around Cape Horn and starting a halibut fishery once he arrived at his destination. Returning to Gloucester, Captain Jacobs built the first fishing schooner with an auxiliary gas engine (the Helen Miller Gould in 1900) and the first large steam-powered fishing vessel (the Alice M. Jacobs in 1902). Jacobs died in 1922 and in 1975 the City of Gloucester dedicated the small park to the well-known fisherman, pioneer, and adventurer as part of their bicentennial celebration.

Only steps from the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, Solomon Jacobs Park offers several benches and picnic tables and is a great place to sit and watch boats coming in and out of the inner harbor as well as any activity that might be going on at the Coast Guard Station which it is directly adjacent to. Who knows what you might see while you're there?

Gloucester's Maritime Heritage Center, a working waterfront museum, a maritime heritage center and an educational facility was first conceived in 2000 when Geoffrey Richon organized nearly 300 Cape Ann residents to create a nonprofit organization and invest in the purchase of a neglected industrial property overlooking Gloucester Harbor. With a mission "... to inspire students and visitors to value marine science, maritime heritage and environmental stewardship through hands-on education and experiences", the Maritime Heritage Center offers guided site tours, historic fishing films, and seasonal sailings on the pinky schooner Ardelle to name just a few of the activities dedicated to the preservation of Gloucester's maritime industrial history.

Admission to the Museum and Exhibits includes the Sea Pocket Touch Tank Aquarium, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Exhibit, and "Fitting Out", the exhibit at the Gorton’s Seafoods Gallery which focuses on the shoreside industries that supported the local fleet at the dawn of the 20th century and includes ship models, historic photos, artifacts which range from oilskins to foghorns to sailmaker’s tools, and multiple interactive stations. Outside on the waterfront visitors can take a walk on the Harriet Webster Wharf wharf extends 200 feet out into Gloucester Harbor, check in with dory builder and fisherman Geno Mondello at the Dory Shop, visit the Diving Locker where former diver and school teacher Paul Harling will tell you about his collection of scuba equipment including the homemade rig he used when he made his first dive in 1949, or learn about the oldest continuously operating marine railway in the country built in 1849 by brothers Parker, Joseph and Elias Burnham in order to haul boats out of the water for repairs.

Located at 23 Harbor Loop, the museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends only from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. after Labor Day. More information on directions, admissions, events, and activities can be found on the Maritime Heritage Museum's webpage or by calling 978-281-0470.

Directly across from the Maritime Heritage Center on a hillside from which you can get excellent views of the harbor and downtown area is Fitz Hugh Lane Park, the site of artist Fitz Henry Lane's 1849 Gothic Revival House which was added to the National Register of Historic Listings in 1970. And nope, that wasn't a typo on my part - the park is named Fitz Hugh Lane Park while the house which was known as the Fitz Hugh Lane House right up until March 23, 2010, underwent a name change when the National Register of Historic Listings approved the change.

As Nathaniel shows you, the park is still named Fitz Hugh Lane Park which is where the confusion starts for visitors though it seems that both the name-bearer and the State of Massachusetts were confused much longer ago! Christened Nathaniel Rogers Lane on March 17, 1805, the man who would grow up to become one of the greatest American maritime painters of a style that would later be called "Luminism" so called because his paintings celebrated the transcendence of light in ordinary scenes, would remain known as such until he was 27 years old. In a letter dated December 26, 1831, Rogers made a formal request to the State of Massachusetts to change his name to Fitz Henry Lane however, it wasn't until March 13, 1832 that the State approved his request.

It wasn't until 2005 that historians discovered that they had been wrongly referring to the artist as Fitz Hugh, as opposed to his chosen Fitz Henry with the confusion possibly arising from the way he signed his paintings. The mistake was only recently discovered and several venues named for him, including this park as well as his gravemarker, perpetuate the error. I guess that just goes to show what happens when you change your name to "Fitz" from the perfectly acceptable and fine name of "Nathaniel"!

At the age of eighteen months, Lane's legs were paralyzed possibly as a result of the ingestion of jimsonweed, a poisonous weed also known as a Peru-Apple which for centuries has been used as an herbal medicine to relieve asthma symptoms and as an analgesic during surgery or bone-setting or it could also be that he contracted polio.  Just like with his name change, there's some confusion in just how he became crippled but it's clear that he never recovered the use of his legs and that handicap may have been what propelled him into the world of art.

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Lane's "formal instruction" came when he moved to Boston and worked at Pendleton's lithography shop from 1832 to 1847 refining his schools to the point where he was offically named as a ‘marine painter' in the Boston Almanac of 1840. In 1848 Lane returned to his hometown of Gloucester and in 1849 began overseeing construction of a house/studio of his own design on Duncan's Point - now Fitz Hugh Lane Park. The house, with his studio on the top floor, became Lane's permanent residence for the remainder of his life where he produced beautiful marine paintings and seascapes into his later years. Fitz Henry Lane died in his home on Duncan's Point on August 14, 1865, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.

With a lifetime career that would ultimately find him painting harbor and ship portraits up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States from as far north as the Penobscot Bay/Mount Desert Island region of Maine, to as far south as San Juan, Puerto Rico, Lane was described as the "country's second-greatest marine painter". That fame faded though from about 1870 until the re-emergence of interest in American painting in the 1930s. Though his paintings can be found in many museums, the Cape Ann Historical Museum in Gloucester fittingly has the world’s largest collection of Lane’s paintings.

On the grounds of the erroneously named Fitz Hugh Lane Park is the erroneously named Fitz Hugh Lane Sculpture created by Alfred N. Duca in 1997.  The sculpture invites visitors to "Step into my shoes and be inspired" so Nathaniel did just that ...

Feeling somewhat artistic after all of that trying to help Fitz with his sketch, Nathaniel and I decided to take a drive out of the downtown area on Route 127 to East Main Street and Rocky Neck Avenue, home of Gloucester's historic Rocky Neck Art Colony, a maze of art galleries, shops and restaurants which fill the small converted fishing shacks as one of oldest working art colonies in the country. Home to many artists and the galleries displaying their work in ranging from paintings in all media, batik, photography, jewelry, prints, sculpture, ceramics, and fine gifts, Rocky Neck has been luring artists to its shores for over 150 years while authors Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, and others also frequented The Neck to gain their own inspiration. A walking tour map and schedule of events can be found online at the Rocky Neck Colony's website but bear in mind that parking is pretty tricky in the neighborhood of narrow, winding roads if you try to park anywhere other than the free parking lot located near the entrance to the district.

I tried to find out if Nathaniel had ever been there himself to seek inspiration but he wasn't really saying though he did request that I pull over and take a picture in front of a sign bearing his name at the entrance to a private community. I grudgingly did so only because my GPS had pointed me in that direction to access a better view of the lighthouse at Ten Pound Island but it being a private community, I couldn't get much further than the driveway. The property was originally the site of the Hawthorne Inn Lodges and Cottages, the once-grand hotel built by George O. Stacy in 1891 and destroyed by fire in February of 1938 and now the site of the Hawthorne Point condominiums which were built in 1982 and named after the former hotel, not the author!

Leaving Hawthorne Point behind, we continued on East Main Street which become Eastern Point Boulevard as it passes Niles Beach which Cape Ann Vacations says "... is the perfect destination for the vacationer who wants the perfect swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving beach without all of the crowds." 

Whereas I'm sure that's true, it's probably because the only parking in the area is for vehicles with stickers and there is no close parking for vehicles without one, however, it's a lovely beach and does offer a view of Boston in the distance as well as of the mansions on Gloucester's Eastern Point - one of those mansions being Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House which is a must-see for any historic traveler! You can find the visit Nathaniel and I made to Beauport in this post but I just couldn't resist posting another picture of the stunning residence which is operated by Historic New England.

Following Eastern Point Boulevard until the fork in the road that either leads you to the private neighborhood of Eastern Point where Beauport is located on the right or becomes Farrington Road to the left, we stayed left and made our way out to Atlantic Road and some of the most beautiful views in all of Gloucester.

Atlantic Road is one of those places that when you drive down it and see the views and smell the salty sea air and listen to the waves breaking on the rocks on the shore you just have to think "Oh, if I could only live here!" Well, at least that's what I always think but part of that is because away in the distance, it's possible to see the Twin Lighthouses of Thacher Island and I just don't know what's more romantic than a lighthouse winking at me from across the sea as it has done o' so many times over the years at sailors on the decks of their ships fighting their way home in a storm, sailors who have been gone from their loves and their families for too long, sailors who can only think of reaching home safely and praying that the light that stretches out across the water will guide them safely there once more.

Chances are good I'd still be standing somewhere on Atlantic Road romanticizing the past except that Nathaniel reminded me that it had been quite some time since lunch and he could go for a snack of some sort.  With that in mind, we continued along the seaside route until we met back up with Route 127A and past Good Harbor Beach which is one of the most popular beaches north of Boston. Good Harbor is a half-mile barrier beach with a headlanded rocky shore and salt marsh protected by sand dunes and because of its size, is rarely too crowded even on the hottest of days though the parking lot can be! The parking fee is $20 per car during the week; $25 on weekends and it fills up fast so plan to arrive early, gates open at 8:00 am and close at 9:00 pm. with lifeguards on duty from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Not having swimming costumes with us, Nathaniel and I skipped the beach and kept driving down Route 127A (also known as Thachers Road) until we came to the almost-historic Long Beach Dairy Maid which has been scooping up delicious ice cream since 1958.

After more than 50 years of serving frozen confections, the Long Beach Dairy Maid has pretty much got ice cream down to a science with more flavors than even the most well-versed ice cream afficiando would know what to do with!

Gourmet soft serve flavors include Amaretto, Creme de Menthe, Apricot, Tutti-Frutti, German Chocolate, and 23 more while if it's a super premium ice cream that you're hankering for, choices run the gamut from Coffee Kahlua Brownie to Peppermint Stick to Orange Pineapple to Maine Black Bear to lots more! Then of course there's Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, Low Fat Ice Cream, and Sherbet if nothing else has caught your tastebuds!

After perusing the menu for quite some time, we finally decided on a waffle cone - kiddie-size please - of Almond Joy being that it combines two of my favorite flavors - almonds and coconut - while Nathaniel was basically keeping mum about the whole thing while being a gentleman and allowing me to choose. When the counter girl handed me a huge cone that was three times the size of Nathaniel, I was really glad I had ordered a kiddie cone! Yikes!

It took a little doing but as my mother taught me to always finish all my food, eventually our very tasty cone was polished off and we were ready to get back on the road. Should you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend a stop at the Long Beach Dairy Maid which is open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm except for weekends when they add an extra half hour and close at 10:30 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. As an added bonus, you can check their website for a couple of special coupons and who doesn't love specials especially when it comes to ice cream!

Following our foray into frozen heaven, we continued past the Long Beach Dairy Queen down Rockport Road which brought us to Long Beach which is a long sandy, crescent-shaped beach that is protected by a cement retaining wall and quite popular with surfers on the day that we were there!

Long Beach starts at the northeast end of where Good Harbor Beach ends but unlike Good Harbor Beach, there is no public parking lot. Instead there are a lot of private lots that charge about $25 a day; don't expect to park on the street as chances are really good you'd end up having your car towed.   The best part of the beach, in my mind of course, is that it has a terrific view of the Twin Lighthouses at Thacher Island - much closer than the view from Atlantic Road!

The 50-acre island where the lights stand was originally named "Thacher's Woe" by Anthony Thacher, an Englishman whose vessel, the Watch and Wait, was wrecked in a ferocious storm near the island in 1635 on its way to Marblehead from Ipswich. Thacher and his wife, Elizabeth, were the only survivors of the wreck in which 21 people died along with four of Thacher's children from a previous marriage and his cousin, Reverend Joseph Avery, along with his wife and six children. The General Court awarded Anthony Thacher the island "at the head of Cape Ann" as a recompense for his losses. The island remained in the Thacher family for 80 years until it was bought back by the Massachusetts colonial government at a cost of 500 pounds for the purpose of establishing a light station in 1771.

Built in 1771 following a petition asking for the lighthouses was presented to the General Court by John Hancock who owned ships on Cape Ann, the lights are the last ones to be built under British rule and were the first to mark a “dangerous spot” along the coast, all previous lights were built to only mark harbor entrances. The lighthouses on Thacher Island are the only twin operating lighthouses in America and one of only seven twin and one triple lights on the Atlantic Coast, there are none on the Pacific Coast.

When the original towers needed to be replaced, two new 124-foot high twin towers were built in 1861. New Hampshire granite was used instead of local Cape Ann granite, a move which drew much criticism from the locals as Rockport granite was being shipped all over the world at that point. Following the installation of enormous first-order Fresnel lenses at the cost of $10,000 each, the new towers were first illuminated on October 1, 1861.

In 1912, the government first proposed the discontinuance of the north light but following an editorial in the Boston Transcript  condemning the idea and the protests of many Gloucester fishermen, the government backed down until 1932 when the north light was extinguished and the south light shone alone. The south light and its fog signal were automated in 1980 and the Coast Guard, who had taken over the island and the lights in 1949, moved off Thacher Island taking the original first-order Fresnel lens with them. It is now on display at the Coast Guard Academy Museum in New London, Connecticut.

Following the formation of the Thacher Island Association, the north light was restored and its light once again shone forth in 1989 as a private aid to navigation making Thacher Island once again the only operating twin light station in the United States. Run by the Town of Rockport and the Thacher Island Association, it is possible to visit the Twin Lights but it's definitely something that needs to be planned ahead; visitors must make reservations at least two weeks in advance by calling Chris at 617-599-2590 or you can get there via kayak or your own private vessel if you have one.

Once you've managed to get out to the island though, the trip is well worth it as you can climb the towers' 156-step spiral staircases to see the Boston skyline to the south and Mount Agamenticus in Maine to the north as well as enjoy the new Visitor Center and Museum in the restored 1874 Principal Keeper house and other buildings and displays.

Even though the Twin Lights of Thacher Island belong to the Town of Rockport, they are definitely best seen from the Gloucester area of which Rockport used to be a part of until 1840 when it was set off as a separate town by residents who desired an enclave with an identity of its own. Matter of fact, if one continues down Route 127A you'll eventually wind up in Rockport but with more to see back in downtown Gloucester, Nathaniel and I will be heading back that way for our next travel post ... after just one more look at the Twin Lights of Thacher Island!

Copyright © - Travels With Nathaniel/Linda Orlomoski/Hawthorne Hotel. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Travels With Nathaniel/Linda Orlomoski/Hawthorne Hotel is strictly prohibited.


  1. Wow, another amazing post! Thanks so much!!!

  2. I could never tire of Glocester and Rockport and the North Shore area! srsly.


Thank you for your feedback; it is greatly appreciated!
~ Nathaniel and Linda