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Catalog entry

no image available
inv. 681
View of Gloucester
The Old Fort
1856
[dimensions unknown]

Commentary

It is usually assumed that most of Lane’s paintings show the landscape exactly as it appeared at the time he sketched it. There are at least a few works in which he deliberately painted a landscape that had vanished, however, for example, Town Parish, 1863 (inv. 127). A painting of the townscape of Gloucester, unfortunately destroyed in the large Gloucester fire of 1869, was an example of one of these nostalgic works.

By 1860 the painting was on exhibition at the Gloucester Bank. The work is described as showing the Fort at the center of town. In the 1840s the revolutionary Fort was in disrepair, although the land around it was being used for flakeyards. During the next decade, as Erik Ronnberg has documented, George H. Rogers and others developed the area. A later newspaper account of this painting relates it to Lane's lithograph of the period View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 446). Some idea of the appearance of the Old Fort can be gleaned from The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 28) and The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30).

In 1862 a Cape Ann Advertiser article noted, “The improvements at this point during the last fifteen years have left no traces of its former appearance, almost every landmark having been obliterated. A very good idea of the place as it then appeared may be obtained from the painting of Fitz H. Lane, Esq., now on exhibition at the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank.”

Evidently the painting remained in the Reading Room for the next several years, and Lane left it to the city in his will. “I give to the inhabitants of the town of Gloucester, the picture of the old fort, to be kept as a memento of one of the localities of olden time the said picture now hanging in the reading room under the Gloucester bank and to be there kept until the town of Gloucester shall furnish a suitable and safe place to hang it.” It was moved to the City Hall after that structure was completed in 1867 and destroyed in the fire less than two years later.

– Melissa Geisler Trafton

 

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Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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1867 Cape Ann Advertiser 10.25.1867
Procter Brothers
10.25.1867
Newspaper

Letter to the editor: "Fitz H. Lane's will and gift of the Old Fort painting in the Town Hall, sketched in 1859, from T. Sewell Lancaster and Joseph L. Stevens, executors."

Reply from Selectmen: "Mr. Lane was much esteemed by his townsmen not only for his skill as an artist, but also for his character, as a gentleman of Honor and Integrity."

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publication
1849 Unknown Newspaper 6.13.1849
6.13.1849
Newspaper clipping from scrapbook with clippings from other dates
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

References Mr. Joseph Stevens as secretary of the American Art-Union, having provided Transactions for 1848, containing 'two paintings by Fitz Henry Lane Esq., of this town, viz. "Rockport Beach" and "Ipswich Bay."' 

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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publication
1859 Cape Ann Advertiser 12.2.1859
Procter Brothers
Various dates
Newsprint
From bound volume owned by publisher Francis Procter
Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck

"MARINE PICTURE – Mr. Fitz H. Lane has at his studio a fine painting of our harbor. – The picture is painted from a sketch taken in 1843, from the spot now occupied by Mr Fears' new wharf. It represents the old fort as it was at that time, before any of the present buildings were erected; in the harbor cove is represented an old fashioned 'banker,' at anchor, near which is a 'down east' lumber coaster being towed in by a row boat. A small pink stern boat lies near by, and near her an old-fashioned punt being rowed by a fisherman. To the left of these is a view of the Island, and a brig with sail set preparing to get underweigh. The painting reminds one of days agone, and it is one of the Artist's first productions. We hope to see it on exhibition ere long in some public place."

Image: Collection of Fred and Stephanie Buck
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publication
1860 Gloucester Telegraph 6.30.1860
6.30.1860
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

About picture of Old Fort hanging in the Gloucester Bank: "This picture is chiefly of interest on account of its preserving so accurately the features of a view so familiar to many of our citizens and which can never exist in reality."

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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 8.22.1862
8.22.1862
Newsprint
Cape Ann Advertiser
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Fort Hill was occupied by Capt. H. C. Mackay and John Lowe, as a flake-yard, and there were but one or two old fish-houses in the vicinity. The improvements at this point during the last fifteen years have left no traces of its former appearance, almost every landmark having been obliterated. A very good idea of the place as it then appeared may be obtained from the painting of Fitz H. Lane, Esq., now on exhibition at the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank."

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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publication
1865 Gloucester Telegraph
1865
Newspaper
Gloucester Telegraph

"By the will of the late Fitz H. Lane, Esq., his handsome painting of the Old Fort, Ten Pound Island, etc., now on exhibition at the rooms of the Gloucester Maritime Insurance Co., was given to the town... It will occupy its present position until the town has a suitable place to receive it."

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publication
1867 Gloucester Telegraph, 10.23.1867
10.23.1867
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

At the dedication of the Town House, speaker, "read the following letter:

To the Selectmen of Gloucester: / Gents: The will of our late Townsman, Fitz. H. Lane, contains this provision: / I give to the inhabitants of the Town of Gloucester, the picture of the Old Fort, to be kept as a memento[sic] of one of the localities of olden time; the said picture now hanging in the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank, and to be there kept until the Town of Gloucester shall furnish a suitable and safe place to hang it. / The original sketch was taken twenty-five years ago, but the boats and vessels introduced are those of a quarter of a century earlier still. The painting was executed in 1859, six years before his decease."

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publication
Undated clipping
1892?
Newspaper clipping in "Authors and Artists "scrapbook
p.42
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

This painting was considered by far the best of the several paintings by Fitz H. Lane and was a view of Gloucester from Rocky Neck at the time Mr. Lane painted it in 1856. From this painting Mr. Lane had finished a number of lithographs which were sold at a very low price. This did not bring to Mr. Lane much ready money and he was somewhat disappointed so he mounted several of these on canvas, painted them in oil and sold them to several of his friends for $25 and there are a number of these at present held in Gloucester and valued very highly.

The original painting was given to the town about the time the new town house was built and was put on the wall back of the stage in the large hall. When the building was found to be on fire it was impossible to get into the big hall to save anything and so this picture was destroyed. It was a genuine regret that this happened because of its historic value and being considered as the best work that Mr. Lane had done. A study of the pictures finished by Mr. Lane from this original is very interesting and particularly by reason of the type of fishing vessel and shipping in the harbor. In the foreground of the painting is a fine type of the Surinamers of those days which sailed out of Gloucester and brought wealth to many Gloucester families.

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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PDF
view ]
manuscript
Will of Fitz H. Lane
FItz. H. Lane
October 3, 1865
Essex County Probate Records, Volume 424, Leaves 34 & 35

The will disposed of Lane's property (including watch and diamond breast pin), his monetary assets, and gave to the city of Gloucester a painting of the Old Fort. Joseph Stevens, Jr. and T. Sewall Lancaster were named executors. It was signed by Lane on March 10, 1865.

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Gloucester Buildings & Businesses: Gloucester Bank

The Gloucester Bank is listed in the 1860 Gloucester Directory as being located at No. 56 Front Street. It was incorporated in 1796, and had capital of $300,000. Isaac Somes was president in 1860.

map
1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of west elevation)
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
Henry Francis Walling, Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Philadelphia, A. Kollner, 1851
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Publisher. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 8.22.1862
8.22.1862
Newsprint
Cape Ann Advertiser
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Fort Hill was occupied by Capt. H. C. Mackay and John Lowe, as a flake-yard, and there were but one or two old fish-houses in the vicinity. The improvements at this point during the last fifteen years have left no traces of its former appearance, almost every landmark having been obliterated. A very good idea of the place as it then appeared may be obtained from the painting of Fitz H. Lane, Esq., now on exhibition at the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank."

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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publication
1860 Gloucester Telegraph 6.30.1860
6.30.1860
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

About picture of Old Fort hanging in the Gloucester Bank: "This picture is chiefly of interest on account of its preserving so accurately the features of a view so familiar to many of our citizens and which can never exist in reality."

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Gloucester Buildings & Businesses: Town House

In 1844, the citizens of Gloucester erected a town house just up from the harbor to be used for meetings and the storage of town records. The building (which today is home to the local chapter of the American Legion) served as the seat of local government for just 20 years by which time the community had outgrown the facility. A new, larger Town House was erected on Dale Avenue and dedicated on October 21, 1867. Less than two years later, on May 16, 1869, the new structure was destroyed by fire. Several Lane paintings were destroyed in fire, one of which was copied by D. Jerome Elwell who also painted the ruins. Gloucester's current City Hall was built on the same site, at the corner of Dale Avenue and Warren Street, in 1871.

artwork
Burnt Ruins of Town House on Dale Avenue
D. Jerome Elwell
1869
Oil on canvas
15 x 24 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Harold and Betty Bell, 1980 (2211)
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photo (historical)
Harbor Cove and skyline from the fort
unknown
c.1870
4 x 6 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Benham Collection

George Steele sail loft, William Jones spar yard, visible across harbor. Photograph is taken from high point on the Fort, overlooking business buildings on the Harbor Cove side.

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publication
1859 Gloucester Telegraph 9.2.1859
9.2.1859
Newspaper

Loring Moody lectured at Town Hall on "Spiritualism and its relations- Scientific, Theological, moral and social."

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publication
1867 Gloucester Telegraph, 10.23.1867
10.23.1867
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

At the dedication of the Town House, speaker, "read the following letter:

To the Selectmen of Gloucester: / Gents: The will of our late Townsman, Fitz. H. Lane, contains this provision: / I give to the inhabitants of the Town of Gloucester, the picture of the Old Fort, to be kept as a memento[sic] of one of the localities of olden time; the said picture now hanging in the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank, and to be there kept until the Town of Gloucester shall furnish a suitable and safe place to hang it. / The original sketch was taken twenty-five years ago, but the boats and vessels introduced are those of a quarter of a century earlier still. The painting was executed in 1859, six years before his decease."

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publication
1868 Gloucester Telegraph 12.5.1868
12.5.1868
Newspaper

"It is proposed to purchase by subscription and place in Town Hall a painting of Gloucester, by our late lamented artist-citizen Fitz H. Lane."

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publication
Undated clipping
1892?
Newspaper clipping in "Authors and Artists "scrapbook
p.42
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

This painting was considered by far the best of the several paintings by Fitz H. Lane and was a view of Gloucester from Rocky Neck at the time Mr. Lane painted it in 1856. From this painting Mr. Lane had finished a number of lithographs which were sold at a very low price. This did not bring to Mr. Lane much ready money and he was somewhat disappointed so he mounted several of these on canvas, painted them in oil and sold them to several of his friends for $25 and there are a number of these at present held in Gloucester and valued very highly.

The original painting was given to the town about the time the new town house was built and was put on the wall back of the stage in the large hall. When the building was found to be on fire it was impossible to get into the big hall to save anything and so this picture was destroyed. It was a genuine regret that this happened because of its historic value and being considered as the best work that Mr. Lane had done. A study of the pictures finished by Mr. Lane from this original is very interesting and particularly by reason of the type of fishing vessel and shipping in the harbor. In the foreground of the painting is a fine type of the Surinamers of those days which sailed out of Gloucester and brought wealth to many Gloucester families.

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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Through the years, this point and its fortifications had many names: Watch House Point, the Old Battery, Fort Defiance, Fort Head, and now just "The Fort." In 1793, Fort Defiance was turned over to the young United States government and was allowed to deteriorate. During the War of 1812 it was described as being "in ruins," and any remaining buildings burned in 1833. It was resuscitated in the Civil War and two batteries of guns were installed. The City of Gloucester did not regain ownership of the land until 1925.

The first fortifications on this point, guarding the entrance to the Inner Harbor, were put up in the 1740s, when fear of attack from the French led to the construction of a battery armed with twelve-pounder guns.  Greater breastworks were thrown up in 1775, after Capt. Lindsay and his sloop-of-war the "Falcon" attacked the unprepared town. They were small and housed only a few cannon and local soldiers.  Several other fortifications were at various times erected around the harbor: Fort Conant at what is now Stage Fort Park, another on Duncan's Point (near site of Lane's house) and the Civil War fort on Eastern Point. None of these preparations was ever called upon to actually defend the town.

Lane during his lifetime created a long series of images of the point and the condition of its fortifications. In 1832 there were still buildings standing, and the point had not yet been used for major wharves and warehouses. By the time of his painting Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38), one can see that the earthwork foundation, but no superstructures, survived. 

– Sarah Dunlap

artwork
Gloucester from the Outer Harbor
Fitz Henry Lane
1852
Graphite and watercolor on paper (2 sheets)
9 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (24.1 x 80 cm)
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass.

Detail showing fort.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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photo (historical)
Harbor Cove and skyline from the fort
unknown
c.1870
4 x 6 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Benham Collection

George Steele sail loft, William Jones spar yard, visible across harbor. Photograph is taken from high point on the Fort, overlooking business buildings on the Harbor Cove side.

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illustration
View of the Old Fort and Harbor 1837
Fitz Henry Lane, attr.
1860
In John J. Babson, History of the Town Gloucester (Gloucester, MA: Procter Brothers, 1860)
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, Mass.

See p. 474.

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publication
1860 Gloucester Telegraph 6.30.1860
6.30.1860
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

About picture of Old Fort hanging in the Gloucester Bank: "This picture is chiefly of interest on account of its preserving so accurately the features of a view so familiar to many of our citizens and which can never exist in reality."

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map
1834–35 Mason Map: Gloucester Harbor (detail 3)
John Mason
1834–35
24 x 38 in.
Gloucester City Archives

"Drawn on a scale of one hundred feet to an inch. By John Mason 1834–45 from Actual Survey showing every Lott and building then standing on them giving the actual size of the buildings and width of the streets from the Canal to the head of the Harbour & part of Eastern point as farr as Smith's Cove and the Shore of the same with all the wharfs then in use. Gloucester Harbor 1834–35."

This map is especially useful in showing the Fort.

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1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail showing wharves)
H. F. Walling
1851
44 x 34 in.
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Publisher. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

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publication
1862 Cape Ann Advertiser 8.22.1862
8.22.1862
Newsprint
Cape Ann Advertiser
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Fort Hill was occupied by Capt. H. C. Mackay and John Lowe, as a flake-yard, and there were but one or two old fish-houses in the vicinity. The improvements at this point during the last fifteen years have left no traces of its former appearance, almost every landmark having been obliterated. A very good idea of the place as it then appeared may be obtained from the painting of Fitz H. Lane, Esq., now on exhibition at the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank."

Image: Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
[+]
publication
1865 Gloucester Telegraph
1865
Newspaper
Gloucester Telegraph

"By the will of the late Fitz H. Lane, Esq., his handsome painting of the Old Fort, Ten Pound Island, etc., now on exhibition at the rooms of the Gloucester Maritime Insurance Co., was given to the town... It will occupy its present position until the town has a suitable place to receive it."

[+]
publication
1867 Gloucester Telegraph, 10.23.1867
10.23.1867
Newsprint
Gloucester Telegraph

At the dedication of the Town House, speaker, "read the following letter:

To the Selectmen of Gloucester: / Gents: The will of our late Townsman, Fitz. H. Lane, contains this provision: / I give to the inhabitants of the Town of Gloucester, the picture of the Old Fort, to be kept as a memento[sic] of one of the localities of olden time; the said picture now hanging in the Reading Room under the Gloucester Bank, and to be there kept until the Town of Gloucester shall furnish a suitable and safe place to hang it. / The original sketch was taken twenty-five years ago, but the boats and vessels introduced are those of a quarter of a century earlier still. The painting was executed in 1859, six years before his decease."

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photo (historical)
Fort Point
E. G. Rollins
1870s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

View from top of Unitarian Church on Middle Street looking southeast, showing the Fort and Ten Pound Island. Tappan Block and Main Street buildings between Center and Hancock in foreground.

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photo (historical)
View from Belmont House, of a fishing wharf, with the Old Fort of 1812 opposite
William A. Elwell
1876
Photograph
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Ignatius Weber's windmill (now defunct) is shown.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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D. Jerome Elwell was born in 1847 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He and his Gloucester-born cousin, Kilby W. Elwell, painted in 1850s and 1860s, many of same landscape subjects as Lane. Towards the end of his life he travelled through Europe and died in 1912 in Naples, Italy.

"He doubtless saw all he could of the artist Fitz H. Lane; but whether he ever received any instruction from Mr. Lane, the writer is not aware. He admired his work, and once said of a marine by Mr. Lane, then owned by James H. Mansfield: "He painted that sky con amore, didn't he?"

—Helen Mansfield, Daniel Jerome Elwell (unpublished document in the collection of the Cape Ann Museum)

artwork
Burnt Ruins of Town House on Dale Avenue
D. Jerome Elwell
1869
Oil on canvas
15 x 24 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Harold and Betty Bell, 1980 (2211)
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artwork
Moonlight View of Gloucester Harbor
Probably by Mary Blood Mellen, or possibly by D. Jerome Elwell
1870s
Oil on canvas
13 x 20 1/4 in.
Shelburne Museum, Vt.

This picture is less clearly an exact copy and more of a variation on the theme. It could be by either Mellen or D. Jerome Elwell, a Gloucester artist of a generation younger than Lane who very much admired the older man's work and consciously began his own career working in Lane's style. In this case there is an obvious hardness of surfaces, an over-meticulousness in the lighting of details, and an obviousness in the stark silhouettes—all atypical for Lane.

Elwell is a more complicated personality, but his copies after Lane are equally challenging. One was his recreation of Lane's 1856 view of Gloucester burned in the 1864 fire. After Lane's death, Elwell also "touched upon" several pictures. Others in the family, like Kilby Elwell, had artistic tastes, and as a boy, Jerome began to make pencil copies after other works.

Much younger than Lane, D. Jerome Elwell completed high school in Gloucester in the last years of Lane's life and shortly after went to Antwerp to study. This travel was made possible by the generosity of Samuel Sawyer, a patron as well of Lane's in the 1860s. During the seventies Elwell traveled around the Low Countries and elsewhere in Europe, at one time (it was said) sharing a studio with Whistler in Venice. Like Lane before him, he cultivated a taste for twilight and moonlight effects, though Elwell's style tended to be harsher and his colors more metallic.

– John Wilmerding

Also filed under: Mellen, Mary Blood »

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artwork
Untitled (Ships Anchored in Gloucester Harbor)
D. Jerome Elwell
1892
Watercolor on paper
8 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Rev. and Mrs. A. A. Madsen, 1950
Accession # 1468

Fishing schooners in Gloucester's outer harbor, probably riding out bad weather.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Exhibition History

No known exhibitions.

Published References

Wilmerding 2005: Fitz Henry Lane, pp.69, 77-78, as View of Gloucester.
Citation: "View of Gloucester, 1856 (inv. 681)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=681 (accessed July 28, 2017).
Record last updated March 21, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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