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Historical Materials: Gloucester Buildings & Businesses
You have navigated to this pages from catalog entry: Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38)
Brick Houses / Gloucester House Hotel
The Brick Houses were a cluster of buildings and a center of commerce and residence for wealthy local merchants. The brick hotel, the Gloucester House, was built by Col. James Tappan in 1810. It was four stories high, and scoffers of his grandiose hopes called it Tappan's Folly. It was from this hotel that stage coaches, before the 1847 extension of railroad to Gloucester, left for Boston every morning at 7:00 and returned every afternoon at 4:00. The hotel was opened year round, and was used by tourists and business people, as well as by local organizations. The John Mason family owned the hotel since the 1820s, and John's son Sidney Mason was the proprietor. Lane had perhaps already made an advertisement lithograph of this hotel in 1836. Sidney Mason also built the elaborate and luxurious summer Pavilion Hotel directly on the beach of the Outer Harbor. Both hotels are prominent in, and perhaps therefore the reason why Sidney commissioned Lane to paint that view. Col. Abijah Peabody, "one of the best landlords in the country," managed both hotels in 1852. Through the years, this brick hotel has also been named the Atlantic House, the Mason House, the Puritan House, and Blackburn Tavern. It still stands, offering a basement restaurant and upstairs public rooms.
The Gloucester House was the only brick building in the West End of town at the time of the disastrous fire on September 16, 1830, that wiped out blocks of wooden buildings and wharves. The brick buildings to the south and east of the Gloucester House replaced houses destroyed by that fire. Fire was an ever-present fear to Lane, who limped and walked with some difficulty. The story of the burning at sea of a merchant vessel on May 26, 1830, caught his attention, and the young artist, still Nathaniel Rogers Lane, paintedsoon thereafter. A few months later, Lane, 26, lame and still living at home, experienced the panic and destruction of the September fire. His family's house on Middle Street was in danger, but survived intact. In 1849, after Lane returned to Gloucester from his lithography years in Boston, he built a fire-resistant stone house on Duncan's Point.
These brick houses were inhabited by wealthy merchants, owners of the wharves and businesses, next to the Town Landing and the intersection of Washington and Front Streets. Among them were Samuel Gilbert, James Mansfield, and Cyrus and Zachariah Stevens. Zachariah Stevens was the grandfather of Lane's friend and future executor, Joseph L. Stevens, Jr. Joseph lived with Zachariah from 1840 until his grandfather's death in 1846. Although still in Boston during this time, Lane frequently returned to his family and friends in Gloucester, and the two probably often met in the grandfather's house. Joseph and Lane made frequent trips to Joseph's parents' home in Castine, Maine.
Current address: West End of Main Street.
– Sarah Dunlap (August, 2013)