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.
This Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockport was built in 1829 after 23 founders came together to sign a compact to build a new church. The Gothic Revival church building was given its 93-foot steeple in 1867 and it has stood tall since! The church stands just off Main Street and has long been active in local and national events since its founding. The church’s website states, “In 1843, we prepared resolutions against slavery, intemperance, and war. In 1861, a person threw a smoking bomb through a window into our sanctuary, during an anti-slavery lecture by a noted abolitionist. The crowd evacuated, but later returned to hear the rest of the talk. In 1884, our Society hired its first female pastor, Lorenza Haynes, past Chaplain to The Maine Senate and House.“ Today, the church collaborates with the Cape Ann Slavery and Abolition Trust, which investigates and shares the role the slave trade played in Cape Ann’s families, industries, and economies and in the lives of enslaved people.
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.
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.
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!
In 1870, the Annisquam Cotton Mill in Rockport, Massachusetts was sold at auction and acquired by a group of local investors and businessmen. One of those men was G. P. Whitman, who served as a local agent for the reorganized firm. Whitman built this home just a short walk to the mill, which stands prominently in the village. The home is a great example of the Stick style, using some Italianate forms and detailing. The Annisquam Mill saw less than ideal revenue as in 1877, it was announced that the workers would get a cut in pay to avoid closing the mill. G. P. Whitman realized the threat of fire to woolen mills, and operated a fire station nearby. Sadly, in 1883, a fire destroyed much of the mill, even with local fire companies doing their best. A portion of the mill and the old Whitman House stand as lasting remnants of the Annisquam Cotton Mill Company in Rockport.
About the time that the First Congregational Church (featured previously) in Rockport, Mass. was built, the congregation began construction on a home for their pastor, David Jewett. The home was built in 1806 and sits right next to the old church. David Jewett (1773-1841) was born in Hollis, NH., and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1801. He was ordained pastor at the Congregational Church of Rockport on October 30, 1805, a position he held for more than 30 years The Federal style home features a central doorway with a fanlight above and it is flanked by pilasters topped with an entablature.
One of my absolute favorite homes in Rockport (there are many) is this mansion, which sits away from busy Bearskin Neck and the hustle-and-bustle of the village. The John Dearborn Sanborn Mansion was built around 1865 and is an elegant example of the Second Empire style of architecture in Rockport. John Sanborn was born in Hampton, NH, and eventually moved to present-day Rockport, marrying Laura Tarr of a prominent local family. Sanborn appears to have been a merchant and ship-owner. It appears that Sanborn was involved with the California Gold Rush, and is thought to have been one of the first men to send gold via the Pony Express, a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse-mounted riders that operated from 1860 to 1861. It is possible that his investments with gold allowed Sanborn to build this stunning estate in Rockport, set behind an iron gate and perched upon a hill. I like to think that his wife Laura would sit in the tower and look towards the sea from the windows.
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!