Bear Skin Neck, Beauport Mansion, Cape Ann MA, Dogtown MA, Gloucester MA, Ipswich MA, Massacheusetts Bay Colony, Motif #1, New England Historic Places, Old Seacoast Towns and Villages, Rockport MA, Stage Fort Park, Yankee Clipper Inn
We ushered May in this year with an overnight trip to Cape Ann, Massachusetts. We had driven through the area a few years before and were intrigued. My husband Pat arranged a birthday weekend there recently and we were on our way!
Leaving home and heading south, we meandered along the coast and drove through many old seaside towns and historic seaports like Hampton NH, Newburyport and Ipswich MA where several of the antique homes had plaques declaring the degree of their antiquity.
Once we reached the Cape Ann region, we noticed a concentration of old sea captain-like and other vintage homes made of granite. Our first stop was the Yankee Clipper Inn http://yankeeclipperinn.com Rockport MA, an early 1900s mansion overlooking a rocky bluff, right on the ocean. A very inspiring building! First Floor Landing Window
We left our luggage, admired the view and did a bit of exploring around the old inn which retains most of its vintage decor and grandeur; high ceilings, incredible woodwork around every door and window, carvings on the stairs with a large Palladian window on the first landing… The inn was very charming, full of antiques and well cared for. We took a last look around the public rooms and then we were back outside as the weather was too nice to ignore.
We ventured forth to Stage Fort Park https://essexheritage.org/attractions/stage-fort- in nearby Gloucester, a spot we’d found a few years before when we drove down to spend the day at a Rennaissance Faire , parking at Stage Fort Park and catching a bus a few moments later to Hammond Castle https://www.hammondcastle.org/ .
I’d seen just enough of the unusual park site that day to be intrigued. We added it to our ‘check it out later’ list and went to the Faire.
Well, later was now. So, this park is visually unusual. You drive in and a stone visitor center, about 100 years old, surrounded by a wide veranda greets you. As you look around at the open expanse with ocean beyond, you see some enormous boulders, granite outcroppings, several stories high. These were our first destination.
When we approached the first one, we noticed a plaque attached, declaring this as the site of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlement in 1623.who knew? All this awesome scenery and history too! Upon closer inspection, the park contains picnic areas, a ball field and 2 beaches. There’s a walking trail along the ocean which surrounds the park on 3 sides. This park would be the perfect place to bring an active family for an outing or to come alone with a book and seek out one of the many well placed benches and pass the day in historical contemplation…
Bay Colony Plaque
We saw a lot of dog walkers, joggers, a soft ball game in process, picnickers, couples strolling and a metal detectorist. Something for everyone here it seems.
After exploring this natural and cultural treasure, we drove to downtown Rockport and wandered like the rest of the early season tourists, stopping at a restaurant with a nice view overlooking the ocean and had a leisurely mid-afternoon meal.
Meal with a View
After our repast, we headed in the opposite direction, searching for a way to access the iconic building (Motif #1) we kept glimpsing from various waterfront locations, a barn red colored lobster/fishing equipment shed. Eventually, we found a circuitous route down an alley and behind some commercial buildings.
Motif #1 from a Distance
Once we’d exhausted our curiosity there, we continued walking down Bear Skin Neck, poking our heads into several quaint little shops and finding a good spot to sample some ice cream.
Another local place of mystery, Dogtown http://historyofmassachusetts.org/the-witches-of-dogtown/ was on my list of things to see in the area.
Dogtown is truly a well-kept secret and I would not have known if a co-worker, native to this area, who knew my penchant for interesting New England history, hadn’t clued me in. Dogtown, once an inland Colonial settlement, was abandoned about 200 years ago with only a few cellar holes and old granite quarries as evidence, and it has been the subject of lore and legend ever since. There are many that would swear the area is, and has been, haunted for centuries. We drove as far as the dirt road there would take us, through the mostly wooded area, and felt in that short space of time, on that otherwise glorious day, the sense of abandonment and prickly ambiance that is said to pervade the entire approximately 5 square miles there. This is a place that will support more research when time is less valuable.
Entrance to Dogtown
Our next stop was a historic home owned by Historic New England, Beauport Mansion, https://www.historicnewengland.org/property/beauport-sleeper-mccann-house/ built in the early 1900s. This is a Historic New England property I’ve always wanted to visit but unfortunately, it does not open until Memorial Day. We drove down the road and checked it out over the wall though and I’ve put that on the ‘maybe next time’ list.
Once we’d done all the things in the area we’d aimed to do, we headed back to our inn. Pat wanted to catch the end of a game on TV and I wanted to explore the grounds of the inn while the glorious daylight persisted. It’s no wonder this area was a foremost artist colony for many years. The light here is special and the view of the ocean is ever-changing.
The inn sits on a promontory surrounded by the sea. Spring flowering bulbs and trees dotted the foreground with the omnipresent waves in the background. Every so often a lobster boat chugged by while I walked about. Finally, I headed in, explored the Victorian interior some more before grabbing a book and heading to the deck which surrounded our room on 2 sides with an endless view. From there, I read a book about the sculptor, Leonard F. Craske https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/maritime/glo.htm , who created the Gloucester Fisherman, famous as the Groton Fish Company Icon, and watched the last of the lobster men pulling traps in the waning light as it cast interesting shadows and streaks across the water.
Sunday dawned drizzly and overcast and I was glad we’d spent most of the day before outside. None the less, we ventured forth to take another look at the grounds around the inn. We followed the trail to the gazebo where we watched the diligent lobster fisherman tending their traps in the rain.
One of the interesting formations that caught my eye was a long rocky structure, appearing about 1/2 mile off shore. Inquiries yielded that it’s the remains of a granite jetty constructed as an FDR project that was never completed. It was meant to connect with the adjacent harbor and create a larger professional grade, protected harbor area. I couldn’t find out much more but it is an interesting concept.
After a leisurely start to the day, we decided to bee-line for home as the day was not ideal for exploring. Thus concluded a wonderful holiday weekend on Cape Ann.
Thank you Pat!