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Sanders-Davidson House

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Thomas Sanders built the house in 1764. For many years it was the home of John Beach, owner of a ropewalk that extended from Middle Street to almost Prospect. John Beach, Jr. was the creator of an image of an angel that adorned the pulpit at the Universalist Church at the other end of Middle Street. At the time of Lane's painting, the house was owned by the Davidson family. Dr. Herman E. Davidson was a prominent doctor in town, and his home was frequently visited by Lane. It was in this house that Lane spent many Sunday afternoons, and where he sought refuge when life in his Stone House was too disrupted by disputes with his brother-in-law, Ignatius Winter.  Here it was, also, that Lane had the dream of the image of the dismasted and beached vessel, after which he drew a sketch for his hostess, Mrs. Sarah M. Davidson, and later created the famous Dream Painting, 1862 (inv. 74).

This house became the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library in 1884. Lane had been a member of the Gloucester Lyceum from the early 1840s, joining while he still lived principally in Boston. Once he moved back to Gloucester, he became a director. During Lane's life, the Lyceum met at 2 Spring (Main) Street, near the present the intersection of Duncan Street and not far from Lane's Stone House, built in 1849–50 on Duncan's Point. Samuel Sawyer, a wealthy businessman, philanthropist and patron of the arts, bought the elegant Sanders-Davidson house and gardens in 1884, and immediately donated it to the City for use as a library.  The Library and Lyceum were thereafter placed in the center of the civic life of Gloucester, between the Unitarian Church on Middle Street and the 1871 City Hall on the newly-laid-out Dale Avenue.

Current Address: 88 Middle Street, Sawyer Free Library, corner Middle Street and Dale Avenue.

– Sarah Dunlap (October, 2013)

photo (historical)
Thomas Sanders / Dr. H.E. Davidson house Middle Street
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Middle Street looking west. At the corner of Dale Avenue is the Sanders-Davidson house, later Sawyer Free Library. Also shown: Unitarian Church, Congregational Church.

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Sanders-Davidson+House (accessed July 23, 2024).
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