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Gloucester, Massachusetts: Fish and ships and so much more

Fisherman's Memorial, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Fisherman’s Memorial, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Gloucester attracts visitors from spring through fal for its oceanside setting, renowned whale watches, harbor cruises, deep-sea fishing trips, and seafood fresh from the dock. Tourists stop to pose by the city landmark, the Fisherman’s “Man at the Wheel” Memorial (cast, incidentally, by Providence’s Gorham Company) and cenotaph with names of the thousands of fishermen lost at sea.

fishing boats, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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fishing boats, Gloucester, Massachusetts

There is a tendency to continue directly to the better known attractions of Rockport. But did you know it is also a great cultural attraction, a place to walk in the footsteps of history, and a way to experience the winter holiday spirit in fine and authentic style? Most businesses are family run, and folks are enthusiastic about sharing their local lore, especially during the more leisurely winter season. We visited Gloucester two pre-holiday weekends, and with so many holiday events right in the downtown area, we ventured farther afield only for concerts and a sightseeing drive along the island’s perimeter.

Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The Wonson Twins, Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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The Wonson Twins, born in Gloucester in 1843, by Moses B. Russell, Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Many of the hidden gems of Gloucester — some of Cape Ann’s best historical, cultural, and culinary attractions — are just a block or two away. The present waterfront area has been extended as a result of land reclamation, and much of what went on during Gloucester’s four centuries in the fishing industry began a few blocks back.

Sargent House, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Sargent House, Gloucester, Massachusetts

There’s the Cape Ann Museum, homes of ship captains and merchants, a charming old-fashioned downtown, restaurants and historic inns, and architecture made famous internationally by painters like Edward Hopper. Other well-known artists associated with Gloucester include Winslow Homer and William Morris Hunt.

Fitz Henry Lane statue and home, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Fitz Henry Lane statue and home, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Maritime artist Fitz Henry Lane was born here in 1804.

 

Artists, writers, and filmmakers have long been inspired by this picturesque region, and our nation’s oldest working artist colony is in Gloucester’s Rocky Neck. Gloucester was in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous and its movie version starring Spencer Tracy and was the setting for Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, which gained national attention in its movie version starring George Clooney and Diane Lane.

store window, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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store window, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Gloucester was founded in 1623, and area signs reveal the pride in being America’s oldest seaport. The first schooner is said to have been built here.

City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The grand Victorian-era City Hall was designed not only as a seat of local government but also as an entertainment center. Buffalo Bill, P.T. Barnum, and John L. Sullivan are among those who performed here.

Big Band Concert, City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Big Band Concert, City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts

During the holiday Middle Street Walk, City Hall was the site of an impressive Big Band concert…

gingerbread competition winner, City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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gingerbread competition winner, City Hall, Gloucester, Massachusetts.gingerbread house competition, Schooner brunch, and Girl Scout bake sale. There were tours of the tower, and narrated historic trolley tours departing outside with seasonal music by The Songbirds.

as well as a gingerbread house competition, Schooner brunch, and Girl Scout bake sale.

trolley tour, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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trolley tour, Gloucester, Massachusetts

There were tours of the tower, and narrated historic trolley tours departing outside with seasonal music by The Songbirds.

buoy painting, Gloucester, Massachusett
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buoy painting, Gloucester, Massachusett

Where else can you join revelers in painting a buoy for a lobster pot holiday tree?

lobster pot tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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lobster pot tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts

This unique creation originated here amidst the family run restaurants and shops on Gloucester’s historic Main Street.

The Events

Holiday Pops Concert, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Holiday Pops Concert, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The season’s celebration began the weekend after Thanksgiving with a full house and standing ovations at Gloucester’s Holiday Pops Concert. The Cape Ann Singers added their voices to the Cape Ann Symphony’s performance of holiday classics in The Magic of the Holidays.

lobster pot holiday tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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lobster pot holiday tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Meanwhile, the Santa Parade began . at the State Fish Pier and continued through Main Street to Kent Circle for the Annual Tree Lighting. Gloucester’s signature Lobster Trap Christmas Tree was erected at Court House Square.

bell ringers, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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bell ringers, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The downtown area was abuzz with the Middle Street Walk. This annual event features open houses in historic homes, trolley tours, musical concerts, special programs and children’s activities throughout the day–all free of charge–from one end of Middle Street to the other and beyond.

ice sculpture by night, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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ice sculpture by night, Gloucester, Massachusetts

On Main Street, children of all ages helped create a giant ice sculpture or paint a buoy for the Lobster Trap Tree, both at Cape Ann Art Haven. The buoys were auctioned off at Cruiseport Gloucester with proceeds benefitting programs at Art Haven.

shoppers, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Wearable Arts Show and Sale shoppers, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Shoppers found distinctive hand crafted gifts at the seARTS (Society for the Encouragement of the Arts)  Annual Wearable Arts Show and Sale, held in the Saunders House at the Sawyer Free Library.

Santa and the holiday tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Santa and the holiday tree, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The grand finale was lighting of the Lobster Pot Tree, all decked out with the colorful lobster buoys painted by at ArtHaven. Santa was, of course, in attendance.

Shopping

Main Street Antiques, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Main Street Antiques, Gloucester, Massachusetts

With so many local artists and shopkeepers, Gloucester offers an unparalleled opportunity to find a very special gift–from an antique book to fine local arts and crafts–at one of the many unique local galleries and shops.

Ring Leg furniture. Menage Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Ring Leg furniture. Menage Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts

There are handmade furniture and gifts from the whimsical to the practical in the 6,000 square feet of floor space in a turn-of-the-century building at Menage Gallery, 134 Main. Owner Ed Soucy designs the one-of-a-kind custom furniture known as Ring Leg Furnishings.

Menage Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Menage Gallery, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Warm hand-knit hats, bags made from reclaimed sweaters and recycled sailcloth, prints, and photographs inspired by local landscapes and the ever-popular jingle flounder are found at the art collective Present, a Pop-up Seasonal Store, 271 Main Street, open through Christmas Eve.

Dogtown Book Shop, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Dogtown Book Shop, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Folks in search of rare and used books head for Dogtown Book Shop, named for the once prosperous Commons Settlement in the middle of Cape Ann that became a ghetto for impoverished widows of Revolutionary War soldiers and now a ghost town.

Evening entertainment

Orla Fallon's harp,Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts
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Orla Fallon’s harp, Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts

Orla Fallon, internationally renowned Celtic vocalist, songwriter, and former harpist for Celtic Woman who has performed for American and Irish Presidents and the Pope, wowed the audience with holiday and traditional Irish music and the stories surrounding them at the new Shalin Liu Performance Center in nearby Rockport. The two-time winner of the International Feis Ceoil and International Pan Celtic Competition for harp, she also won international acclaim for her solo album Distant Shore.

Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts
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Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts

The 330 seat Shalin Liu Performance Center opened June 10, 2010. The stage is backed by a wall of undulating wood woven to replicate wave movement that can be retracted to reveal a spectacular two-story window overlooking the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts
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Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts

The professional theater company, the Gloucester Stage Company, is on Smith’s Cove in East Gloucester, near Rocky Neck.  For independent films and other events in a funky, living room-like setting, the place to be is the Cape Ann Community Cinema, Main Street. It is above the music-themed Mystery Train shop. Tickets are half price with dinner at Alchemy.

Where to Dine

Two SistersCoffee Shop, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Two SistersCoffee Shop, Gloucester, Massachusetts

A number of Gloucester’s fine independently operated restaurants are along Gloucester’s Main Street. Locals in the know head for the unpretentious Two Sisters Coffee Shop for the best breakfast in town. It is run by owner Patricia Philbrick and her sister Mary Reynolds. Chef Dottie Chastaine makes the homemade soups and bread. Try the Monte Cristo, made with Portuguese sweet bread.

Jalapeños, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Jalapeños, Gloucester, Massachusetts

To spice up a winter night, try Jalapeños, 86 Main Street.

flan, Jalapeños, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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flan, Jalapeños, Gloucester, Massachusetts

This authentic Mexican restaurant offers specialties like Mariscada (shrimp, scallops, fish, and squid) Veracruzana and Caldo Tlalpeno (no ordinary chicken soup) it is one of the longest-standing and most popular restaurants in Gloucester.

 

Right on the waterfront, and with a nautical feel, try the sushi and other creatively prepared seafood at Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar in Gloucester.

Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Enjoy a drink by the roaring fire in the living room and reserve a table by the back windows for the harbor view.

salad, Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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salad, Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts

seared scallops, salad, Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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seared scallops, salad, Latitude 43 Restaurant and Bar, Gloucester, Massachusetts

On Wednesday nights it’s all you can eat sushi for $25. Check the website or call ahead for the live music schedule at the Lat, from Karaoke Mondays to aDan King’s Xmas Jam and Professor Harp.

Lobster Benedict, Alchemy, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Lobster Benedict, Alchemy, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Alchemy Tapas & Bistro, 3 Duncan Street, Gloucester, (closed temporarily in 2014) is owned by the same family as Latitude 43, and offers chic casual dining with an inventive menu for the discerning guest. Free-range meats and wild-caught seafood are free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Alchemy, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Alchemy, Gloucester, Massachusetts

French press coffees are made of beans ground to order, and tea is brewed from loose leaves. For a romantic evening, try the menu designed for sharing–small plates and sharing platters–of bite-sized morsels and discover the magic of Alchemy. Sundays, there’s live music with the Bluegrass Brunch 11-3 (try the Eggs Benedict with lobster) and Celtic Sessions 6-9 p.m.

 

Little wonder Gloucester House, 63 Rogers Street, is renowned for its freshly caught seafood.  A Linquata family business for over 50 years, it has its own fishing boats and lives up to its reputation as the best place for chowder, steamed lobster, and a great view. An episode of Bewitched was filmed here 1972-1973, and the Today Show was filmed here in the ‘70s at the original building. It was rebuilt after the devastating 1991 storm featured in the film The Perfect Storm, and a group function facility has been added. If you are lucky, you may meet Lenny, who tells some of the best stories in town.

Where to Stay

With so much to see and do, you may want to book a stay at one of the area’s charming B&Bs or inns. These are within walking distance of the historic downtown and a convenient drive to the pricier Salem, Rockport, and Boston. The commuter rail also runs to Rockport and Boston.

Julietta House, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Julietta House, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The historic Julietta House, 84 Prospect Street,  is a comfortably furnished self-catering inn originally built in the Italianate style in the 1860s for Sea Captain Benjamin Low. The wealthy Proctor sisters bought it in 1905 and redesigned the house into a Georgian style with state-of-the-art amenities. Warner Brothers executives stayed here during the filming of The Perfect Storm. Present owners Rick and Susan Albiero Gadbois have information on topics ranging from Dogtown to the mysterious death of Captain Low.

Hopper house, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Hopper house, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Susan Albiero Gadbois commissioned research on homes in the area painted by internationally renowned artist Edward Hopper in preparation for a book on the topic, and has a walking maps for guests. Special pricing is available for groups renting the entire house.

The impeccably maintained and well appointed Harborview Inn, 71 Western Avenue, , is diagonally across the road from Gloucester’s Fisherman’s Memorial. The front of the house and porch have a stunning view of the ships sailing out or returning from the sea.

Harborview Inn, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Harborview Inn, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Built in 1839 by the family associated with what became Gorton’s of Gloucester Seafood Company, it was later sold to Sam and Lelia Golub for use as a guest house. Mr. Golub was a couturier for England’s Queen Mother and Rose Kennedy.

Harborview Inn, Gloucester, Massachusetts
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Harborview Inn, Gloucester, Massachusetts

The property is run with attention to detail, and innkeepers John and Marie Orlando’s four season getaway was featured in the 1994 winter issue of Decorating Magazine, a Better Homes and Gardens publication.

Gloucester and the seaside in winter? Without the throngs of tourists, you will have the opportunity to get to know local people, have easy access to the places you enjoy, and discover the sense of community in this fascinating city.

 

 

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