Shipyards of Essex

Many colonial New England towns have their historic claim to fame but for the town of Essex, located on a winding salt marsh tidal estuary, there is no disputing that claim is its shipbuilding legacy. From this unlikely location, the town of about 1,500 souls launched nearly 4,000 vessels over 400 years and set the standard in North America for fishing vessel construction throughout the great age of sail.

Essex Shipbuilding

(Photo Credit: Arlene Taliadoros)

In1668, the shipbuilding industry was important enough to the town that an acre of land was set aside “for the men of Essex to build vessels and employ workman to that end,” and that land remains available for the same purpose today. In fact, it was used most recently by Essex-native Harold Burnham for the construction of the schooners Thomas E. Lannon and Lewis H. Story.

After WW II, some historians mistakenly assumed that shipbuilding ended in Essex. True, the industry moved away from the waterfront and into shops that better accommodated the smaller vessels being built at the time. Essex natives Nick Hemeon designed and built more than a score of vessels, and Brad Story built 52 in his shop before he retired. Story, in part, mentored Harold Burnham as a young man.

At 29 years old, Burnham was given the opportunity of a lifetime by neighbor and friend Tom Ellis. He designed and built the 65-foot Thomas E. Lannon owned by Ellis over the winter of 1996/ 1997 and cemented his position among the best traditional wooden boat builders in the country. Although not the first or last vessel built in Essex, the construction of the Lannon created a renaissance in town as she was the first vessel built outside along the waterfront and in view of the general public in nearly fifty years. Because of her size, many long dormant shipbuilding techniques were used including sawn frames and trunnel fastenings. As important as the Lannons’ construction was to the shipbuilding industry, it also reconnected many townspeople to their roots and brought them together around a heritage they all share in a unique way. Some believe that the neighbor helping neighbor atmosphere of Essex today may have begun centuries ago when it was a credit society built between the shipwrights and shipyards, shipyards and boat owners and between the smaller shops that depended on the overall industry.

Essex Shipbuilding

(Photo Credit: Arlene Taliadoros)

Today, located between the town’s shipyard of 1668 and the working shipyard Harold Burnham is now operating on the other side of the creek is the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. The museum promotes the methods, craftsmanship and ingenuity that support the industry as well as running tours, educational groups and programs through the shipyards.

“Either the industry is alive and vibrant and is real and people can earn a living at it or the industry is not preserved,” said David Brown, rigger, instructor and a board member of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. “If the industry is not vibrant, than it is simply remembered and only pieces of it are preserved.”

Burnham still relies on local shipwrights and tradesmen to help build his schooners. Since he finished the Lannon, Burnham has gone on to build the Lewis H. Story, the Fame of Salem, the Isabella and is currently constructing the 50-foot schooner Ardelle. The Ardelle will be owned and operated by Burnham and be available for day and group charters out of the Heritage Center in Gloucester starting this summer.

“It has become something of a mission of many of us to preserve the shipbuilding industry in Essex,” Burnham said. “And, for me personally, I am eternally grateful to all of those whom have been so helpful to this end in so many ways.”

Author: Laurie Fullerton

10 Family Friendly Things To Do on Cape Ann

Cape Ann is filled with fabulous places to go and things to do and see.  Made up of the wonderful coastal communities of Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport, Cape Ann certainly offers a variety of fun things to experience both indoors and outside.  Though it can be hard to narrow it down, today we have a list of 10 family-friendly things to do in the area.

Rockport Kayaking

  1. Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in Gloucester – A great after dinner or rainy day activity. Families can relax and enjoy a film in a cozy atmosphere with couches and armchairs. You can even bring in food from local restaurants.
  2. Cape Ann Lanes in Gloucester – This bowling alley is fun for all ages! There is even an option for bumpers for small children and an area with arcade games.
  3. Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea – This is a beautiful spot for families who love spending time outdoors. A Gorgeous setting along the water with wide-open stretches for kids to run and play.
  4. Essex Shipbuilding Museum in Essex – Learn about the history of wooden boat building. Stop in this museum on the Essex River and see how boats are put together piece by piece.
  5. Maritime Gloucester in Gloucester – Families can spend time indoors and outside at Maritime Gloucester. Families can see local sea critters in the “touch tanks” and experience the interactive exhibits to understand what Gloucester is all about!
  6. The Get Outside Center in Gloucester – During the Summer months drop-in programs are offered that take kids on adventures throughout Cape Ann.
  7. Halibut Point State Park & Atlantic Path – If your family enjoys hiking and exploring, this is a wonderful place to visit. Beautiful vista views in every direction and a quarry smack dab in the middle.  Pack a lunch for the family and enjoy the day!
  8. Harbor Tours, Inc. in Gloucester – If you’d prefer to spend the day on the water with your family, this is a great option! There are different options for tours around Cape Ann.
  9. North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center in Rockport – You can also get out on the water and explore on your own! Families often enjoy renting kayaks for the day.
  10. Tompson Street Reservation in Gloucester – Another great option for a family hike. Many different paths to explore and quiet areas for picnics. Dogs are even welcome!



Cambridge College’s 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows Visit Gloucester

Imagine the possibilities inherent in hosting 25 of the 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows selected in 2016 from various nations in Africa as a part of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) for six weeks. Now imagine being one of 36 institutions nationwide selected to host the Fellows. That is precisely what Cambridge College is doing and has accomplished this summer. The Fellows are all part of a Business and Entrepreneurship Institute hosted by the College, which highlights the relevance of servant leadership embodied in weekly themes expressed in academic content, site visits to local businesses, community service, host family visits, and cultural engagement designed expressly for the Fellows to explore the local surroundings and uniqueness of the region’s people and communities, specifically in the Greater Boston area, Massachusetts, and New England – including Gloucester and Cape Ann. On Saturday, July 9th, Mandela Washington Fellows from Cambridge College travelled to Gloucester and visited several key areas unique to the city, including Good Harbour Beach, the Cape Ann Museum, Local Colors Artist-Co-Op, the Maritime Museum, Aquarium, Harriet Webster Pier, Marine Railway, Mill Building, and Dory and Museum Shop. Mandela Washington Fellows ended their day in Gloucester aboard the Schooner Ardelle, built by the community using the 400 year-old traditions reflective of the Gloucester and Cape Ann spirit. As the Ardelle left port sailing along Gloucester Harbour, Fellows eagerly enjoyed hoisting sails, singing songs, laughing, and celebrating under bundled blankets shielding them from the chilly winds of an atypical summer evening in Gloucester. One major component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship is that the Fellows have the opportunity to experience American culture in the respective states where they are based. This experience includes everything from the food, sports, music, and culture to all else that comes from the expressive history and the diversity of the United States and its people. The trip to Gloucester lived up to this and more – touted as one of the highlights of Cambridge College’s Institute, the trip was the first time many of the Fellows ever experienced sailing and all enjoyed the fullness that the maritime community provided. This included the many businesses and local entrepreneurs reflected both in the work and spirit of the local community of Gloucester.

As a blanket of thick clouds rolled in on the early morning, this did not deter or dampen the Fellows’ spirit about their Gloucester adventure. Fellows simply huddled in the bus and took the approximate hour long trip to Gloucester from their residence in Cambridge. Most, however, were unaware of what awaited them in Gloucester and all looked forward to the day ahead. They were amazed by the hospitality of the people of Gloucester who welcomed the Fellows with open arms.


(Taleni Shimhopileni from Namibia and Maresha Beniam Hirabo from Ethiopia enjoying a day at the Marine Railway.)


(Fellows visit the Maritime Museum)

It Began with a Beach

The day-trip began at Good Harbour Beach, running on a wide expanse of sand that magically preserved the Fellows’ footprints as they melted into the sand. Despite the cold weather, blankets and windbreakers were available to all, and the Fellows enjoyed frolicking on the beach, having lunch in the sand, and playing beach soccer, which escalated both their adrenaline and much needed body warmth to endure the morning winds.

Some Art Anyone?

As far as knowing the history of a place, visiting the Cape Ann Museum was a great place to start. The Cape Ann Museum tour, guided by a local docent, provided a wonderful overview of the artists and valuable historical contexts unique to the region. Thanks to our excellent tour guide, who did a splendid job narrating the history of Gloucester, Fellows learned more about the once-flourishing fishing town that many called home.

In the midst of all the paintings and sculptures, there was one in particular that stood out for some of the Fellows, which highlighted the courage, dedication, and passion chronicled by the town’s historical figure, Howard Blackburn, a Gloucester fisherman who lost his fingers as a result of being lost at sea in 1883 and continued to provide strong leadership to the community. The Fellows were inspired by Blackburn’s story of how he became a successful businessman and returned to sailing the seas once again, setting a world record at the time.


(Guided Tour at Cape Ann Museum)

Local Colors Shine Bright

The community spirit of Gloucester can also be seen in the local boutique cooperative shop known to everyone as Local Colors. Mandela Washington Fellows were welcomed with a warm reception by the artist co-owners of Local Colors, who exhibit and sell their arts and crafts. The Fellows found the array of art, paintings, photographs, ceramics, fabrics, jewelry, and different forms of art fascinating. The diversity of arts under one roof and how the artists take turns running the store was also of great interest. Speaking to the artists, it was easy for the Fellows to visualize how the shop and artists continue to thrive for many years by simply loving what they do. Many Fellows commented on how they might pursue similar initiatives in their home countries and mentioned the level of love and community spirit exuded within the artists’ work. Fellows also enjoyed the way the artists shared their individual craft and highlighted the work of other artists. The shared, supportive interaction moved many Fellows to comment on the level of comradery and collaboration among the artists reflective of the servant leadership and investment in community talent themes embedded in Cambridge College’s Business and Entrepreneurship Institute.

An Aquatic Experience

Next on their amazing day in Cape Ann was a trip to Maritime Gloucester. At the Aquarium, Fellows had an awesome opportunity to learn about the different kinds of creatures found in the waters of Gloucester. Some Fellows were brave enough to touch and hold lobsters and crabs. All were amazed by the rare Blue Lobster (one in two million) and proudly proclaimed their leadership as the first person from their country to hold a Blue Lobster. It was easier for some than it was for others to handle the lobsters and a few Fellows had to summon all their strength and fight their trepidation to do so. It was definitely an awesome and fun experience for all involved!

All Aboard!

The day in Gloucester would be incomplete without the opportunity for Fellows to ride the seas of Cape Ann. This they did on the Ardelle, the epitome of the city and region’s maritime heritage. Prior to boarding the Fellows learned about the craft of ship building from Harold Burnham, master ship builder Harold Burnham. On a short voyage at sea, Fellows drifted along experiencing the open waters, singing songs, and sharing stories about the wonders of their day in Gloucester.

The sad part about any day is that it only has 24 hours. And Fellows seized every second out of the minutes and hours at Gloucester. Grateful for all that Cape Ann provided, Fellows eagerly commented on their lovely trip to Gloucester and were deeply saddened that the day had finally come to an end. As the Mandela Washington Fellows returned to Cambridge and the sky transformed morning into dusk, all knew that that they would one day share stories about their Cape Ann adventure in Gloucester and what this experience meant to them. The warmth and spirit of the Gloucester community will be with all for many years to come. Long live the Maritime village of Gloucester now shared with the future civic, community, and business leaders of over 19 nations in Africa represented by the 25 Mandela Washington Fellows from Cambridge College.

Waterfront Festival

Historic Stage Fort Park along Gloucester Harbor blossom into the colorful Annual Gloucester Waterfront Festival each year.

Gloucester Waterfront Festival

Come and view the works of over 200 Juried Artists and Craftsmen from throughout the U.S.A. Continuous live music, traditional New England Seafood, a fabulous pancake breakfast and Antique Cars complement this picture perfect seaport event!

Exhibits include Fine Jewelry, Watercolors, Pottery, Custom Signs, Bird Houses, Quilts, Silk & Dried Floral Arrangements, Wildlife Art, Dolls, Pressed Flowers, Painted Antiques, Photography, Metal Sculpture, Sand stone, Carved Birds, Maps, Fiber Arts, Stained Glass, Music Boxes, Scroll Work, Masks, Candles, Copper, Wood Burning, Slate, Tapestry Bags, Nautical Crafts, Shaker Style Furniture, Oils, Primitive and Folk Art.

Waterfront Festival
Saturday and Sunday, August 20, 21, 2016
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester

Gloucester Waterfront Festival

Stage Fort Park, Gloucester

Waterfront Festival

Gloucester Blues Festival

Visit Gloucester on August 6, 2016 for the Blues Festival at Stage Fort Park!  World Class Blues will reverberate through Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park with some of the nation’s finest performers playing from the Gloucester Blues Stage. Located right on the waterfront at beautiful Cressey’s Beach, the event will have a beer and wine garden, a guitar raffle (signed by this year’s performing artists), and outstanding food and craft vendors.

Gloucester Blues Festival

Gloucester Blues Festival
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Stage Fort Park, Gloucester

For more information and tickets, visit

Gloucester Harborwalk

Gloucester has always been balanced between sea and rock, fishermen and fine artists, independent individualists and strong communities. Now, with its inaugural Harborwalk in place, visitors will get this visual and written glimpse of Gloucester’s real story. The new Harborwalk is a 1.2 mile loop that links the downtown to the waterfront along a marked trail and stops at a series of up to 41 granite-styled “story moments” that inform and inspire.

Gloucester Harbor Walk

(Photo via

“The goal of the Harborwalk is to give people a chance to linger and immerse themselves in the stories of Gloucester,” said Carolyn Kirk, Mayor of Gloucester, whose city received a state grant to develop and build this unique attraction. “The walk is authentic Gloucester, right down to the seaglass and granite paving that leads the way.”

Along with municipal and state support, a very devoted team of volunteers and local experts created the 41 “story moments” that are the true showpiece of the Harborwalk. Each stop challenges locals and visitors to think, look around and contemplate the times which Gloucester has lived through. For example, many visitors and locals alike will be surprised to learn that famed American artist Edward Hopper completed 90 paintings based on the city of Gloucester. He is featured as one of the many fascinating “story moments” on the walk.

“When you catalog the works of Edward Hopper, you really catalog our city,” said Catherine Ryan, a senior art industry professional from Gloucester who worked on the Harborwalk exhibit. Taking a moment to linger at the Hopper “story moment” allows the visitor to continue to get a sense of what Hopper saw and painted. “What is so intriguing is that when Hopper came to Gloucester, he really walked this city,” Ryan noted. “What is so great about the Harborwalk is visitors will realize that you can really follow in Hopper’s footsteps.”

While many visitors can complete a 1.2 mile walk rather briskly, the idea is to absorb oneself in the “story moments” by using both imagination and modern technology. At each granite post, along with a brief explanation, quote or photograph, there is a Quick Response Code that will link ones mobile phone to more in-depth, online information about each piece of Gloucester’s rich character. And, at each of the 41 markers there is an icon – a Gloucester fisherman, a schooner, a Cod fish – that children can rub with pencils or sketch as a keepsake. There is enough variety on the Harborwalk to make it well worth walking it a few times during one’s stay here..

There is something for everyone on the Harborwalk and while the path will be clearly defined and markers easy to find, even Gloucester natives will find something unique to discover.

For foodies, one stop describes the recipe for St. Joseph Pasta, a favorite meal during the Feast of St. Joseph and birders will enjoy the detail of Gloucester’s international reputation as an ‘important bird area” Those drawn to Gloucester’s fishing history will appreciate details of Our Lady of Good Voyage Church or quotes by Rudyard Kipling, author of Captains Courageous. Other story moments include descriptions of salting fish, the granite industry, sea serpents, Winslow Homer, paint factories and dory fishing – all of the things that contributed to Gloucester’s longevity as a great seaport. Addtionally, the Harborwalk does loop along the places where there is public access including the Gloucester House, Solomon Jacob’s park and Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop.

“We feel Gloucester is one of the most important seaports in America,” said State Senator Bruce Tarr of Gloucester. “We think this Harborwalk will tell our story of innovation and history and we all need to be connected to this special place. We want our visitors to connect to this place, too.”

Visit for more information.

Author: Laurie Fullerton

Whale Watching In Cape Ann: A Summertime Must!

Thousands of tourists vacation on Cape Ann every summer. One of the most popular activities enjoyed by visitors to our community is whale watching.

Visitors can taste the salty air as they cruise out of beautiful Gloucester harbor past jetties, lighthouses and even a historical castle on the way to Stellwagen Bank, home to many kinds of wildlife, including the beloved Humpback Whale.

7 seas whale watch

Gloucester is located eight miles from Stellwagen Bank, a National Marine Sanctuary and even closer is Jeffreys Ledge, and Tillies Bank, all prime whale feeding grounds. Gloucester is the ideal place to whale watch because of its proximity to these fertile feeding grounds. Gloucester’s whale watch companies are the only ones in New England who can easily reach these feeding grounds on any given trip.

The ledges and banks of these feeding grounds create a rich and productive marine habitat that attracts numerous species of whales. Whale watching season on Cape Ann begins when the whales return to Cape Ann in early May, seeking our rich offshore waters, and ends sometime in early November, weather permitting.

7 Seas Whale Watch

7 Seas Whale Watch

Each of Gloucester’s whale watching companies hosts an onboard naturalist to help identify the whales and describe their behaviors. All are committed to education and environmental awareness and all guarantee whale sightings. Every journey is unforgettable and awe-inspiring, from the first sighting of a breaching whale to the voyage home. A narrated tour of historic Gloucester Harbor is included on every trip.

Minke, Sei, Northern Right and Finback whales are regularly seen off Gloucester, but the beloved Humpbacks are the whale watchers’ favorites. Rolling, tail slapping, breaching, even playing with the whale watch boats are everyday activities for these majestic beauties. Mothers bring their new calves to Cape Ann’s feeding grounds to teach them to hunt and feed. The Humpback whales that return each year are among the world’s most thoroughly researched whale populations. Naturalists have been tracking them off Cape Ann for years.

Other species of whales and sea life that may be seen while whale watching include:

 Sperm Whale
 North Atlantic Right Whale (extremely endangered)
 Long-finned Pilot Whale
 Beluga (White Whale)
 Harbor Porpoise
 Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
 White-Beaked Dolphin
 Common Dolphin
 Bottlenose Dolphin
 Grampus (Rizzo’s Dolphin)
 Sea Turtles
 Basking Sharks
 Blue Sharks

For bird lovers, these bird species are often seen:
 Gulls & Terns
 Shearwaters and Petrels
 Jaegers and Skies
 Northern Fulmar
 Wayward Land Migrants

7 Seas Whale Watch

7 Seas Whale Watch

Here are a few hints to help you enjoy your trip: Don’t pack anything larger than a daypack. You won’t want to keep track of a large bag while trying to watch whales. Boats do have heated cabins where you warm up and can buy snacks, but you will want to be out on the deck where the whales are! Wear sensible shoes or sneakers for good traction on the decks. During early April, May and June ocean temperatures are still very cold and any breeze over the ocean can make it uncomfortable if you’re not dressed appropriately. Even gloves are a good idea. During July and August don’t forget your sunglasses, sunblock and a sweater or light jacket. It can be 10-20 degrees cooler offshore. It is also a good idea to make advance reservations during July and August. And most importantly don’t forget your camera!

7 Seas Whale Watch
Cape Ann Whale Watch
Capt. Bill & Sons Whale Watching

Scandinavian Traveler Visits Rockport

The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism is working with Scandinavian Traveler, inflight magazine for Scandinavia Airlines – SAS, by assisting with the organization of the press visit of lead journalist Anna-Lena Ahlberg who is travelling to Boston to produce articles and films on Boston, with the focus on lobster fishing and seafood restaurants. She will also be writing guides for tourists visiting the city.

Rockport, MA

(Pictured: Anna-Lena Ahlberg, Journalist, Fredrik Östling, TV producer, John Porter of Roy Moore Lobster Co., Darlene Foley of North of Boston CVB and Nicklas Gustafsson, Photographer)


On Wednesday the group visited Rockport for an article being written for the in-flight magazine of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). They are pictured here at Roy Moore Lobster Company on Wednesday with John Porter, son of owner Kenny Porter, and Darlene Foley of North of Boston CVB. After their visit to Rockport they were hosted by Blue Shutters Beachside Inn for an overnight stay, and also went on a lobstering trip out of Gloucester Harbor coordinated by Maritime Gloucester and the Gloucester Department of Community Development.

St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester

Each June, on the weekend closest to the Feast Day of St. Peter, the Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester comes together to celebrate the patron saint of fishermen, St. Peter. The Fiesta opens this year in St. Peter’s Square on the Gloucester waterfront on Wednesday, June 22nd and ends on Sunday, June 26th.

St. Peter's Fiesta - David Cox Photography

(Photo Credit: David Cox)

At the turn of the century many Italian families settled in Gloucester. Having been fishermen in Sicily, these families were attracted to this famous fishing port. When they arrived here they brought many customs from the old country including paying homage to their patron saint. In 1927 one of the local Italian-American fishing captains had a life-sized statue of St. Peter enshrined in the heart of the Italian district. It wasn’t long before the wives and mothers of the fishermen began formulating plans for a religious procession to be held annually in honor of St. Peter. Gradually, this annual procession grew into the internationally renowned celebration we have today.

The St. Peter’s Fiesta of recent years provides a varied program certain to be of interest to all. The entire Italian-American section of Gloucester is decorated with flags, bunting, colored lights and streamers. An enormous altar and bandstand form the focal point of the celebration. The life-sized statue of St. Peter, lavishly decorated with hundreds of flowers, is carried to the altar in a huge procession that moves through the neighborhoods of the city. Music is played on the bandstand every evening of the Fiesta and on Sunday morning an open air mass is conducted in the square. Later in the afternoon, the crowds witness the blessing of the fishing fleet. Street vendors and a small carnival create a festive experience.

Various sporting events are held each day. The Greasy Pole is a contest where brave young men run across a grease-covered pole high above icy waters of Gloucester Harbor trying to capture a flag. The winner is the first to capture the pole. Thousands watch from Pavilion Beach off Commercial Street right behind the Chamber of Commerce.

Another event is the Seine Boat Race. Here, twelve-man crews prove their strength and stamina by rowing against each other in old seine boats in a grueling mile long race.

St. Peter’s Fiesta is a long-standing Gloucester tradition and a feast for the senses.

Recent Blog Posts

  • Shipyards of Essex

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  • 10 Family Friendly Things To Do on Cape Ann

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  • Cambridge College’s 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows Visit Gloucester

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