I love Rockport because every time I walk the winding, narrow streets, I find something new. This time, I stumbled upon this absolutely amazing mansion, built at the height of the romantic period of architecture. The home was built in 1851 by Solomon Torrey and his wife, Susanna Norwood. Susanna was the daughter of Charles Norwood, a descendant of Joshua Norwood, who owned much of the land in this part of town and lived in the c.1680 cottage down the street (last post). Solomon Torrey was the son of a quarry owner in Quincy, who seemingly moved to Rockport to continue in the family trade (the “Rock” in Rockport). Solomon and Susanna were gifted some land from her father to build a fine home, when the couple were still in their 20s! Before this, Solomon traveled west to partake in the California Gold Rush, his newlywed wife Susanna kept a diary, while he was away, mentioning her dream “stone cottage” where she and her family would live a long life together. When Solomon returned, the couple built their dream home, and had two daughters, Aria and Susannah. Sadly, Solomon lived only 5 years after his return from the Gold Rush and died at just 33 years old. Susannah was aided by her family, raising her two daughters, never remarrying, living in her dream home without the love of her life until her death in 1908, at 81 years old.
Rockport’s Town Hall opened in 1869. In the year that followed, a series of concerts and lectures—including one by Mark Twain—raised $250 to establish a town library. The town members accepted the donation and approved matching funds for the project in 1871, and a space was allocated in the town hall for the library. This space was quickly outgrown as the town continued to grow, and the townspeople clamored for more books. In the early 1900s, members of the town began negotiating with Andrew Carnegie, who was giving libraries to towns that could not afford them. In 1903, a town meeting accepted Carnegie’s offer to provide $10,000 to build a free public library building for Rockport and the town acquired a lot for the new building. Rockport’s Carnegie Library was built in 1907. The structure is built of locally quarried granite with Classical Revival detailing. The building functioned as a library until the fall of 1993, when additional space was needed and the town converted an old school to serve as the new building. The old Carnegie Library in Rockport was converted to a private home.
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.
More on this story can be found here.