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Historical Materials

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Town House

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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.

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

1859 Gloucester Telegraph 9.2.1859

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

1867 Gloucester Telegraph, 10.23.1867
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."

1868 Gloucester Telegraph 12.5.1868

"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."

Undated clipping
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.

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. (accessed July 23, 2024).
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