Monday, July 19, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 57: Gloucester, Mass. - Trip 2

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 57: Gloucester, Mass. – Trip 2
July 1, 2010

            Even better than the first time, if it was humanly possible.  This is how I sum up my second visit to the amazing fishing port of Gloucester.  My initial visit in late winter was magnificent as I was able to see all of the sites the town is known for.  This time, a mid-summer jaunt, was even better thanks to the warm sunny weather and the fact that I was able to visit even more spots I did not have the chance to see before.
            For those who did not read my previous article Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport.  Fishing is as synonymous with this town as the famous Witch Trials are to Salem.  Located so close to Boston there is really no reason not to make the trip up here and see what in my opinion is the shining example of what a fishing village should be.
            My return began with a visit to a familiar place, Western Avenue and The Man At the Wheel statue(left).  Being so close to Independence Day I found the American flags adoring each post of the railing along the sea wall to be a perfect complement to the majesty that is the tribute to Gloucester’s fishing heritage.  The eight-foot tall bronze statue not only looks out over Gloucester Harbor, but also faces several plaque listing the names of all of the brave souls from Gloucester that have lost their lives out on the sea.  The most well known names are those of the crew of the Andrea Gail whose loss was depicted by the film The Perfect StormThe Man At the Wheel is definitely the most well known landmark in Gloucester but it is hardly the only spot to visit.
            Not far from the historic downtown area of Gloucester sits a place that a first time visitor might not expect to see.  On Hesperus Avenue there is a medieval castle, that’s not a misprint, a medieval castle.  Hammond Castle(left), built by John Hays Hammond Jr. between 1926 and 1929, sits on a classic North Shore rocky cliff.  The view is simply amazing as you gaze across the harbor toward Eastern Point Lighthouse.  There is also a short path to walk through a sweet smelling flower garden as well.  The castle is complete with several fearsome looking gargoyles and an impressive drawbridge.
            Hammond Castle was built by Mr. Hammond to serve as his home and to house his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts.  Hammond was also a prolific inventor, second only to Thomas Edison as far as patents.  He is known as the ‘Father of Remote Control’ thanks to his works with remote control via radio waves.  His grave is located on the grounds and is guarded by a pair of lion statues.  The castle now doubles as a museum and is opened all through the summer it is another must see spot in Gloucester.
            Another favorite spot of mine is the amazing Stage Fort Park on Hough Street.  The site of the first settlers to the Gloucester area from Dorchester, England, Stage Fort Park has a nearly fifty-foot tall boulder containing a gigantic plaque commemorating this fact.  The view from the top of the boulder is breathtaking as you can see all across the wide open park to the east, historic downtown Gloucester to the north, and Ten Pound Island and lighthouse to the west.  This island received its name either from the amount of money paid to the local Indians, or for the number of sheep pens, known as ‘pounds,’ located on the island.  The wide open scope of the park is what I tend to take away from this place, there is nothing like it on Cape Cod.  I also enjoyed Half Moon Beach(above), one of the two beaches at Stage Fort Park; it is very small and secluded amongst the rocks, a sort of lagoon.  This beach is traditionally accepted as the spot where the first settlers made landfall.
            Much like Hammond Castle, the abandoned village of Dogtown on Cherry Street is a spot not expected to be seen in the historic fishing village of Gloucester.  The story of this place is amazing.  Originally settled in 1693 because of its direct road to neighboring Rockport, and also because being inland served as protection from pirates, Dogtown peaked at around a hundred families around the turn of the 19th century.   When new coastal roads opened after the end of the War of 1812 many of the residents left the settlement due to the new roads possibly inviting invaders to their area. 
            Dogtown’s name is something for debate.  One story is that the abandoned homes were used for years by vagrants and other unsavory characters that were said to have acted like dogs.  Another story has the name coming from the fact that as the last remaining families left in the area, dealing with these vagrants, bought dogs for protection.  When these folks died their dogs remained and became feral and howled during the nights.  The area is now dense woods with great hiking trails that used to be roads.  There are also thirty-six ‘Babson Boulders’ which are adorned with inspirational quotes.  These were commissioned during the Great Depression and make for a fun sort of treasure hunt.
            Speaking of a treasure hunt, my final destination was a spot that I was not able to find on my last trip to Gloucester: Annisquam Lighthouse(left).  It is a tough place to find even with a GPS but this time I did.  Located on Wigwam Point the current lighthouse was built in 1897 but the station was established in 1801.  The view along the coast is spectacular; the fact that the keeper’s house is private actually makes it better.  This fact means that to see the lighthouse up close you need to go along the shore, with the lighthouse up on some rocks you end up almost underneath it.  I have never seen a lighthouse from this vantage point.  It was a perfect end to another perfect trip to one of my favorite places.                  
            Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport lives up to its reputation as a beautiful getaway for those in Boston.  It is also well worth the trip from anywhere in the state or New England.  It only gets better each time I go.  At times it felt as though I had one foot in the present and one foot in the past.  Lighthouses, medieval castles, spacious parks, legendary abandoned villages, historic memorials; Gloucester has everything you could want in a vacation or a day trip.  I suggest taking more than just a day to discover it all though, or you will find you have missed so much.  Have fun and happy traveling!

Check out a short video featuring a slideshow of my photos from Gloucester on YouTube here:  In My Footsteps - Gloucester, Mass.

Directions: Hammond Castle Museum: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 5 miles, turn right at Hesperus St., castle is .7 mi on left.
Stage Fort Park: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 6.5 miles, turn left onto Hough Avenue.
Man At the Wheel Memorial: From I-95 N take Exit 47A, turn right onto Maple St., continue on to Poplar St.  Slight right at Elliot St., merge onto Rt. 128.  Take Exit 15, follow School St. to Rt. 127.  Follow Rt. 127 approx. 7 mi., statue and memorial is on the right.
Annisquam Lighthouse: From Rt. 127 turn onto Leonard Street, next to the white Annisquam Village Church. Turn right at a large ‘Norwood Heights’ sign. Follow the road across an intersection, past a ‘Dead End’ sign. Continue toward the water. Follow as the road turns to the right and then take an immediate left. Continue to the lighthouse at the end of the road The parking lot is very small.
References: ReferencesHammond Castle Museum
            Annisquam Lighthouse
            Cape Ann Historical Museum       
            The Story of Dogtown


Author/Psychic/Rieki Therapist; Laura Elizabeth said...

I simply love love love your blog. You write well. I can imagine everything you say!

Christopher Setterlund said...

Thank you so much, I am so glad that you enjoy what I write. I enjoy it so much and am glad that I won't run out of places to go anytime soon!