Ebenezer Pool (1764-1842) was born in Sandy Bay, a village of Gloucester which later became Rockport. Ebenezer was a direct descendant of John Pool, the second settler of the area, who helped facilitate its beginnings from rocky coastline to vibrant town. Ebenezer was active in the establishment of the Baptist community in Sandy Bay, and his name heads the list of eighteen charter members who were organized into a Baptist Church in 1808 inside his own home, seen here. The Federal style home sits on a prominent lot in the village near Bearskin Neck and looks much like when it was built over 200 years ago.
Fondly referred to as the “Old Sloop” in town (a name conferred by local fishermen in the 1800s), the First Congregational Church of Rockport stands as one of the most prominent landmarks in the old village. The village of Sandy Bay (now downtown Rockport) had a growing population since the 1700s. Prior to 1755, churchgoers from Sandy Bay made the journey every Sunday by horse or foot in good weather to the parish in Annisquam or the First Parish in Gloucester, and in poor weather, met in a small log schoolhouse on this site. Eventually, a church building was erected in town, which was used until after the Revolutionary War. In 1805, a new meetinghouse was built where it stands today. In 1814, the British invaded Sandy Bay colony and residents rang the Old Sloop’s bell to sound the alarm. British forces fired a cannon at the bell to silence it, but hit the steeple instead. A replica cannonball can be seen to this day in the steeple as a nod to that historic event. In 1840, the people of Sandy Bay voted to establish the Town of Rockport. At that time, the meetinghouse was completely redecorated and the steeple enlarged. After the Civil War, the church was outgrown, and in 1872, the Old Sloop building was cut in half and separated by about twenty feet with an addition built in the middle. At that time the steeple was enlarged and strengthened to accommodate a new and heavier bell and the Town Clock. In 2015, the church began a campaign to replace the deteriorated steeple, which was rebuilt, faux cannonball and all!
Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Massachusetts is such a magical place, and a place I visit at least once a year. The narrow peninsula is lined by modest wooden buildings that were built when the village was a thriving fishing village. Fast forward to the mid-20th century, the neighborhood became an established artist colony, with many of these buildings converted to studios, shops, or restaurants. This charming old building was constructed by 1845 as a sail loft, where workers would lay out cloth and make sails for ships. The building was known to have been used as a sail loft up to about 1942. Like everything else on the Neck, the building has been faithfully restored and converted to commercial use by small business artisans, including Bearskin Neck Leathers. This is why historic preservation is so important. These buildings connect us to the past, but can be adaptively reused into modern uses.
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.