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Historical Materials: Cape Ann Locales

Historical Materials  »  Cape Ann Locales  »  Town / Public Landings

Town / Public Landings

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (5) »

From Colonial times to the present, Gloucester and other shore-side communities have maintained certain tracts of land as public landings, assuring everyone the right of free access to and from tidal waters. Such ways are carefully delineated in deeds, are to be kept clear of encumbrances and be available for all to pass over. For communities like Gloucester whose economies were based solidly on maritime pursuits throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, allowing access to navigable waters was essential.

Public landings were designated across Cape Ann including at Folly Cove, the historic Town Green, Done Fudging, Lobster Cove, Cripple Cove and Stanwood Point in West Gloucester.  While public access to the water has gradually constricted in recent decades, even during Fitz Henry Lane’s lifetime, landowners guarded their property rights fiercely, making public landings all that more important.

Gloucester's first public landing was on the Annisquam River at the site of the old First Parish (now occupied by the Grant Circle rotary where Route 128 intersects Washington Street). Given the shallows of the river, most goods had to be landed in scows or gundalows—goods such as marsh hay, lumber, livestock, domestic needs, and business wares—in short, everything from the rest of the world.

As one of the earliest pockets of settlement in Gloucester, Fresh Water Cove was another logical and practical place for a public landing to be located and indeed one was laid out there by the town’s founders. It was over that tract of land that granite from the upland quarry, located in what is now Ravenswood, was transported to awaiting sloops in the Cove.  The landing was also how shore fishermen would access their boats and carry supplies to and from their homes.  

– Martha Oaks

Related tables: Done Fudging »  //  Fresh Water Cove »  //  Gundalow / Scow »  //  Salt Marsh Hay / English Hay »

map
1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of Old First Parish)
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."

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. 

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.

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."

Citation: "Cape Ann Locales." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/historical_material/index.php?type=Cape+Ann+Locales§ion=Town+%2F+Public+Landings (accessed July 21, 2017).
Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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