Captain John Gott House // 1806

One of the best-preserved homes I have seen in Rockport is the John Gott House, an 1806 Federal style property just blocks from Rockport Harbor. The home could be from the 1700s, as the central chimney normally is a feature of earlier homes, but the marker on the house states the 1806 date, so we will go with that! John Gott is a popular name in Rockport, but this home appears to have been built for Captain John Gott (1780-1845), a sea captain who was the son of (you guessed it) John Gott, who lived just down the street. This property retains its historic barn and an absolutely charming out-building which I cannot figure out what it was used for.

Joshua Norwood Cabin // c.1680

This old, leaning home sits just outside downtown Rockport and is said to be the oldest house in Rockport. The plaque on the house says it was built in 1680 by Joshua Norwood, the son of Caleb. Joshua Norwood (1682-1775) was born in Gloucester nearly 100 years before the United States was a country, but the plaque on the house means the home was built two years before Joshua was born. I would estimate the home was built in the early-mid 1700s. Joshua married Elizabeth Andrews and they had 16 children. The family apparently resided in the northern part of modern-day Rockport, in this small home for some years until it was moved by wooden barge to the current site, when Sandy Bay (downtown Rockport) saw a huge population surge with the harbor in the early 19th century. The tiny half-cape home was added onto once with the entry room at the front, but besides that, it looks much like it would have hundreds of years ago. There are a lot of mysteries about this home, so if anyone knows more, please share!

Rockport Sail Loft // c.1840

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.

“Long Hill” // 1923

Built in 1923 as a summer home for Ellery Sedgwick and his family, “Long Hill” was designed in the Georgian Revival style by the architectural firm of Richardson, Barott and Richardson, in the northern part of Beverly, Massachusetts. Some of you may remember a post I did a while back on Theodore Sedgwick and his house in Stockbridge, Mass, where he lived while he won the case Brom and Bett vs. Ashley (1781), an early “freedom suit“, for two escaped slaves in Western Massachusetts, a case that assisted in the abolishment of slavery in the state two years later. Ellery Sedgwick, a descendant of Theodore, was editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1908-1938, turning circulation from less than 10,000 in 1908 when he purchased the magazine to readership of more than 125,000 decades later. The success was largely due to his inclusion of works by many young authors that other publications overlooked, including: Ernest Hemingway and James Hilton. The magazine, now known as The Atlantic is now one of the leading publications in the nation. Sedgwick summered here with his first wife, Mabel Cabot Sedgwick, an accomplished horticulturist, gardener, and author of The Garden Month by Month, and his second wife, Marjorie Russell Sedgwick, a rare plants specialist—both of whom created a delightful, enchanting landscape, surrounded by more than 100 acres of woodland. In 1979, Sedgwick’s children gifted the family summer estate to The Trustees of Reservations, who maintain the immaculate property and landscape to this day.

John Chipman House // c.1715

There is just something about old Georgian homes built before the Revolution that always make me so happy… This home in Beverly is one of them! The home was built around 1715 for Reverend John Chipman (1691-1775), the first pastor of the Second Church of Beverly. Historians note that Rev. Chipman actually purchased the land complete with a dwelling in 1715 which dates to before 1695, and was probably built by Exercise Conant, son of early Cape Ann settler Roger Conant. According to the interior framing, the rear two-story ell was the original house, which was added onto with a five-bay Georgian house by Chipman, to showcase his stature in his new parish. The house has a gorgeous central doorway with fluted pilasters and a broken-arch pediment with pineapple finial in the center. Fun fact: The pineapple in the Georgian-era was a symbol of wealth and prestige. By the Georgian era, the first pineapples were being cultivated in Britain. The efforts it took to produce meant that by the time a fruit bloomed, it was valued at roughly £5,000 today. Concerned that eating such high-value fruit was a waste, owners opted to display pineapples as dinnertime ornaments, passing them from party to party until they rotted. The home in Beverly is commonly known as the Exercise Conant House, but is best represented as Reverend Chipman’s home.

John Balch House // c.1679

One of the oldest extant homes in the country is this home in Beverly, Massachusetts constructed around 1679, one hundred years prior to our country’s founding. John Balch was born in Bridgewater, England in 1579! He and his first wife, Margaret, were part of a group sent to New England by the Dorchester Company to establish a fishing industry. The Dorchester Company first landed in Weymouth in 1623, then moved north to Gloucester in 1624, but the settlement there was not successful. When the company was recalled to England, the Balches, and a small group known as “The Old Planters” stayed in Massachusetts and moved south to Naumkeg, now Salem, in 1626. At this point, modern day Beverly was a part of Salem. John Balch first gained title to the land here through the “Thousand Acre Grant” in 1635 and apparently was living on this property by 1636. His house was small – built a story and a half high – one large hall on the main floor plus a loft upstairs. He chose a site on a hill that looked down on the nearby Bass River, where he had easy access to salt marsh and to his pasture land and orchards. By the 1670s, the home needed to be enlarged and was to the current configuration, later additions were added as housing demands changed. The Balch Family owned the house in to the early 20th century and the home was acquired by William Sumner Appleton, founder of Historic New England (who arguably did more for historic preservation in New England than anyone). He hired Norman Isham, a popular preservation architect, to evaluate the house. After finding original rafters in the attic, he recommended that the back lean-to be ripped off and the southern half of the house be dismantled (see historic photo before restoration). In 1932, the property was gifted to the local historical society, now Historic Beverly who maintain the house to this day.