An online project under the direction of the CAPE ANN MUSEUM
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.
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 provisioin: / 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."
Newspaper clipping in "Authors and Artists "scrapbook
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.