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Historical Materials

Historical Materials  »  Cape Ann Locales  »  Pavilion (Publick) Beach

Pavilion (Publick) Beach

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (7) »

Pavilion Beach is an approximately 1/5 mile long sandy beach that runs along the south side of Commercial Street from Fort Square to the public landing at the easterly end of Western Avenue. The beach faces out over Gloucester Harbor.

Pavilion Beach has long played an important role in the history of Gloucester’s Harbor Village. During Colonial times, the sandy beach was recognized as a crucial barrier between the potentially turbulent waters of Gloucester’s Outer Harbor and the tranquility of Harbor Cove, an inlet which offered a safe area for the construction of wharves and the berthing of vessels. So important was the barrier that during the 1720s town officials awarded a handful of respected merchants a land grant encompassing 80 feet of uplands with the proviso that they promptly build a wharf and maintain it in order to prevent the sea from washing over. During the 1730s, as maritime based commerce slowly took hold around Gloucester Harbor, additional grants were made designed to increase investment in the land and encourage its responsible use. Historian John J. Babson noted  that at that same time (c.1730) a group of citizens was enlisted to form a committee… to repair the beach, that the sea might not break over it ‘& spoyl the harbour…” In 1742, funds were appropriated by the General Court of the Commonwealth for the construction of a fortification at the seaward end of Pavilion Beach.  The citizens of Gloucester had been asking for protection from possible attacks by sea since the early 1700s. Once commitments were made to the project, the preservation of Pavilion Beach became even more crucial. 

For many of Fitz Henry Lane’s generation, here on Cape Ann and afar, Pavilion Beach was synonymous with sightings of the famous Gloucester sea serpent. Reports of a serpent frolicking in Gloucester Harbor were first made in August 1817. So credible were the reports that testimony was formally gathered under oath by the New England Linnaean Society and published in a small tract. The serpent returned in subsequent years generating a flood of publicity which helped jump start Cape Ann’s early summer tourist business in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  

– Martha Oaks (April, 2015)

Related tables: Pavilion Hotel »

Pavilion Hotel and Beach from the Fort
c.1870
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Pavilion Hotel and the beach looking west from the Fort, Beach Court and Western Avenue. 

Also filed under: Pavilion Hotel »

photo (historical)
Pavilion Beach
c.1900
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

From Gloucester Picturesque, published by Charles D. Brown.

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.

photo (historical)
Pavilion Beach
James Cremer, Publisher
c.1870s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Pavilion Hotel »

map
1830 Mason Map
John Mason
1830
Series Maps. v. 13: p. 17
SC1 / series 48X
Massachusetts Archives, Boston
map
1834-35 Mason Map: Gloucester Harbor (detail 4)
John Mason
1834–35
Lithograph
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 1834–1835."

This section of the map shows the location of the Pavilion Hotel and ropewalk along the beach.

Also filed under: Maps »   //  Mason, John »   //  Pavilion Hotel »   //  Ropewalk »   //  Windmill »

map
1834–35 Mason Map: Gloucester Harbor (detail 2)
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 helpful in showing the wharves of the inner harbor at the foot of Washington Street. 

Billet head
Unknown
1855
Carved wood with paint and gilt
12 x 22 x 8 in.
Cape Ann Museum. Gift of George W. Woodbury, 1936 (747)

This sea serpent billet head came from the schooner "Diadem" which was built in Essex, Massachusetts, in 1855 and owned by D. Elwell Woodbury and John H. Welsh of Gloucester.

Sea serpents were reportedly sighted here on Cape Ann from colonial times through the mid-nineteenth century. In 1817, more than 50 people, many of them prominent members of the community, reported seeing a serpent in the waters of Gloucester Harbor just off Pavilion Beach. So credible were the reports that the Linnaean Society of New England collected depositions from witnesses and published their findings in a small pamphlet entitled Report of a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England relative to a Large Marine Animal Supposed to be A Serpent, seen Near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August 1817.

photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 20 The Pavilion
John S. E. Rogers, Publisher
c.1870s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Stereo view of the Pavilion from the southern or sea side.

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Pavilion Hotel »

photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: Unique Series No. 19 Pavilion and Beach, from Old Fort
Procter Brothers, Publisher
c.1870s
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Pavilion Hotel »

photo (historical)
Pavilion Beach and Hotel
c.1870
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Taken from Fort Point looking west. Ropewalk just to west of hotel.

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »   //  Pavilion Hotel »   //  Ropewalk »

photo (historical)
Pavilion Beach and Hotel
From Gloucester Picturesque, published by Charles D. Brown
c.1900.

Also filed under: Pavilion Hotel »

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/historical_material/index.php?section=Pavilion+%28Publick%29+Beach (accessed March 23, 2017).
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