Located in the center of my favorite State Park of Massachusetts, Halibut Point State Park, this odd tower emerging out of a house caught my eye. Upon closer inspection and research, the building was constructed as Boston Harbor Defense Station #136, one of over 20 observation towers along the coast of Massachusetts.
In 1942, the United States Government took two acres of land on high ground of what is now Halibut Point, to construct an observation tower and barracks to defend the New England coast from foreign invasion shortly after entering the WWII arena. The concrete tower was constructed to scan the ocean and bay for enemy submarines. Twenty men were housed in the barracks dormitory on the second floor, office and kitchen were located on the first floor. The building sits overlooking the old Babson Farm Quarry and beyond it, the Atlantic Ocean. After the conclusion of the war, the building was converted to a fire tower. By 1982, the entire 56-acre parcel of land was purchased by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be utilized as a the Halibut Point State Park.
Located at 8 Bearskin Neck in Rockport, the former Rockport Review Newspaper Office building is a great example of transitional Queen Anne and Shingle style vernacular architecture in Cape Ann. The Rockport Review was established in 1880 by H.C. Cheever, proprietor and editor. Within years, he sold the office building, press, furniture and interest in the newspaper to Joseph Leman. With the new company and increased production, the former wood-frame building was replaced with a new office with a raised granite base (likely to protect from water).
New issues were printed and sold every Saturday on Bearskin Neck. Another of the Rockport Review’s publications was Lemuel Gott’s 1888 History of the Town of Rockport. The paper appears to have disbanded before the turn of the 20th century as it does not appear in later directories. The building was later converted to a residence and artist studios. As of 2020, it is home to Rusty & Ingrid, a husband and wife company specializing in screen prints of some of New England’s most iconic sights.
Located just a stones throw away from the Rockport Granite Company Office, this stone house was built by Zacheris Green, the president of the Boston and Gloucester Granite Company, which was later absorbed by the Rockport Granite Company. After the acquisition of the company, the old stone home, which was typically referred to as “The Homestead” was operated as a boarding house for quarrymen and their families. Rent was $3.50 a week, and the cost included washing and a daily lunch. The building has since been converted to a residence.
Located along Granite Street in Pigeon Cove of Rockport, a very late stone Mansard building stands right at the side of the road. Luckily, the building’s name and date of construction were carved into the stone, allowing for a pretty quick research on this building, which was at one point, the headquarters office of the Rockport Granite Company. The building served as one of the quarry offices of the company’s many quarries where managers would oversee shipments and run each branch.
The history of the granite industry in Rockport and greater Cape Ann is truly fascinating and detailed, but essentially began in 1840 when many quarries opened which then provided rough and hammered granite for building, cemetery and monumental work. In 1864 an earlier quarry was reorganized as the Rockport Granite Company. The company expanded its facilities, and gradually bought out six other quarries on Cape Ann. At its peak, the company employed over eight hundred men across all their quarries. Due to the deep water off Cape Ann, transportation of the cut granite to Boston, New York City and Washington D.C. for a variety of large projects was easy.
One of the most prominent local examples of the Rockport Granite Company’s work is the Custom House tower in Downtown Boston.When it was completed in 1915, the 500-foot tower was Boston’s first “skyscraper.” It remained Boston’s tallest building until 1964, when the Prudential Center was built. The tower was constructed entirely of Rockport granite supplied by the Rockport Granite Company. A crowning achievement was the sculpting and placement of four stone eagles on each corner of the 30-story tower’s 20th floor ledge.The 16-foot tall eagles were sculpted in Rockport Granite Company’s Bay View plant, transported to Boston, raised to the 20th floor, and mounted, where they remain today. The first of the eagles was installed in 1914.
Located on Thacher Island off the rocky coast of Rockport, MA, stand two massive stone lighthouses appearing as sentinels over the horizon.
The Thacher Island was named for 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 including four of Thacher’s children from a previous marriage and his cousin. The General Court awarded Anthony Thacher the island “at the head of Cape Ann” to recompense him for his losses, and he originally dubbed the island “Thacher’s Woe”. The island eventually was bought back by the Massachusetts colonial government at a cost of 500 pounds for the purpose of establishing a light station.
Twin lighthouses built on Thacher Island in 1771 and were the first built to mark a dangerous spot (the Londoner Ledge southeast of Thacher Island) rather than a harbor entrance. They were also the last lighthouses built under British rule in the colonies. The two lighthouses in Cape Ann dubbed “Ann’s Eyes” stood on Thacher Island until 1860, when itt was decided that new, taller towers were needed. Twin towers, 124 feet high, were built in 1861. New Hampshire granite was used instead of local Cape Ann granite, which drew much criticism from locals.
In 1932, the use of the north tower was discontinued making it one of the last operational twin light stations on the Atlantic Coast. The south tower was electrified via a submarine cable to the mainland that same year and provided a more intense light. The south tower was automated and unmanned, when a modern optic replaced the Fresnel lens in 1979. In January 2001, the Cape Ann Light Station, including several associated outbuildings, received recognition as a National Historic Landmark.
The Thacher Island Association was established in 1981 by the Thacher Island Town Committee as a non-profit group dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and on-going maintenance of the Island. The Town of Rockport owns the southern end of the Island and manages it via the Association. The northern end is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is managed by the Town under an agreement with USFWS.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Socttish-American industrialist and philanthropist who gave an estimated $65 billion dollars (estimated by inflation to 2019) to various charities and an international library building program. Carnegie funded the construction and furnishing of over 3,000 libraries around the world, many located in the United States, to provide free public libraries to the greatest number of people he could.
Rockport, Massachusetts was one of the recipients of a Carnegie Library. The town was gifted $10,000 in 1903, and the library at the intersection of Jewett and Cleaves Streets opened to the public in 1906. The Classical Revival building was designed with locally quarried granite and is one of the most stunning I have seen. The library was in operation until it outgrew its space in 1993, and the town relocated the library into the old Tarr School. The town then sold the property and it was eventually converted into a private residence. The building was listed for sale in 2019 for just under $3,000,000, way over the original $10,000 cost to build and furnish it over 100 years prior.
Rockport’s Veterans Memorial Hall was dedicated on Memorial Day 1890 in memory of the 42 men from Rockport who died in the war. The building at 7 Main Street is possibly the only Romanesque building in the town of Rockport. A total of 399 Rockport men enlisted for the Union cause in the American Civil War, a good portion of them in Maine regiments due to the proximity and the fact that a number of seafaring residents of the town at that time were originally from Maine. The building served as the quarters of the local Grand Army of the Republic.
The funds for Rockport’s Memorial Hall were largely raised by a group of local women known as the Ladies Memorial Circle. Upon the dissolution of the Grand Army of the Republic post in 1954, Rockland’s Memorial Hall was sold to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, and later sold into private ownership and is possibly a private home now.
Located in the middle of Downtown Rockport, Massachusetts, a lasting remnant of the towns early industrial past remains. This stone building was once part of a larger mill complex constructed as the Annisquam Cotton Mill between 1847 and 1864. Designed by the architectural firm of McLean & Wright, the complex was transitional Greek Revival and Italianate styles. In operation since 1847, the mill was destroyed by fire in 1882. Even though the mill never reopened, its ruins remained standing for another 22 years, until they were finally removed in 1904. The fire gutted much of the building besides one wing, the machine shop, which was one of the last constructed buildings on the site. In 1904, the then-owner of the former machine shop, George J. Tarr, deeded the property to the town of Rockport, who subsequently turned the building into an elementary school, named in Tarr’s honor. Today, this former machine shop and former school building has a new use, as the town’s library.
Located on Mount Pleasant Street in Rockport, MA, the Caleb Norwood House stands as a great example of Georgian-Federal transitional architecture and a home, possibly built using pirate’s gold. Caleb Norwood (1736-1814) grew up in Gloucester, a section which in 1840 became Rockport. Local legend states that Caleb, as a boy, supposedly discovered pirates’ treasure at Gully Cove in 1752, an area just off Straitmouth Island. Thanks to the treasure, he grew up to be a wealthy man and built several houses in the area. It is thought that Caleb shared his find with neighbor, Francis Pool, on whose land the gold was said to have been found—estimated in 2001 with a conversion value of $700,000 (not a bad find for a teenager).
Pirates were a common sight around Cape Ann at the time as many, who were from Britain, traded in rum, molasses and other goods off the major port cities in Colonial New England. Some evidence to prove the pirate’s gold story is that Caleb and Francis Poole also made significant investments in Revolutionary War bonds, evidence of out-of-the ordinary wealth.
Eventually, the home was converted into to the Inn on Cove Hill, a small bed and breakfast that allows you to imagine the life of colonial Massachusetts and be just steps away from Bearskin Neck and The Headlands Park, the latter which was on land owned by Norwood, which provides sweeping views of town.
In the early 1800s, Rockport’s growing granite trade paired with its already lucrative fishing industry proved necessary a lighthouse in Pigeon Cove. The government deemed Straitsmouth Island as an ideal location and in 1834, an original brick lighthouse was constructed. By 1843, the lighthouse was branded a “miserable brick tower” and a new tower was built in 1851. Decades later, the keeper’s house was deemed insufficient and a new Gothic home was built in 1877. Not surprisingly, the lighthouse was again rebuilt in 1896.
The lightkeeper remained at the island until the early 1930s when the light was automated. Later a local man was given a license to live at the keepers house, but could not disturb the light or sea birds.
After WWII, the island was deaccessioned by the government and sold to Glenn Wilson, a New Yorker for $3,000 and he later operated a small restaurant on the island.
The home saw multiple owners years later and eventually was threatened with demolition as it was open to the elements, birds, and vandals. The island was purchased by the Town of Rockport who, with funding from the @massaudubon rehabilitated the keepers house and in 2013, restored the lighthouse and painted it. It now stands proudly off the rocky coast and is open occasionally for tours and events!!