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Rocky Neck

View related Fitz Henry Lane catalog entries (9) »

Rocky Neck lies on the eastern side of Gloucester’s Inner Harbor and along with Ten Pound Island provides a vital block to the southerly and westerly seas running down the Outer Harbor. Called Peter Mud’s Neck in the late 1600s, it was an island at high tide until the 1830s, reachable only by walking over the sand bar connecting it to the mainland at low tide. When the stone causeway was put in in the 1830s it not only made the Rocky Neck a functional neighborhood of East Gloucester, it secured the southwest end of Smith’s Cove against swell from the Outer Harbor and made the cove a tight and secure anchorage.

In Lane’s time it was primarily sheep pasture with a small population living on the fringes. In 1859 a marine railway was built at the end of the neck which is still in operation. As a result of Gloucester’s burgeoning fish trade, wharves and fish businesses quickly sprang up along the shore of the newly secure Smith’s Cove. In 1863 another landmark Gloucester business, the marine antifouling copper paint  manufactory of Tarr and Wonson was built on the western tip. The Hopper-esque dark red building still stands and guards the entrance to the Inner Harbor directly across from Fort Point.

Lane drew the view for his second and third Gloucester lithographs from Rocky Neck looking across to the Inner Harbor to the town. He also did a major painting Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14) which shows the sheep, shepherd and dog on the rocky pasture in the foreground with the busy harbor and town unfolding before them.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Rocky Neck became an active waterfront neighborhood with a row of grand houses on its spine overlooking the harbor and town. Edward Hopper painted one of the more spectacular Beaux Arts houses on that ridge, the afternoon light catching its extraordinary trim and mansard roof, still beautifully preserved today.

Rocky Neck is perhaps best known today as Gloucester’s, and arguably America’s, most famous art colony. Beginning in the 1880’s and extending through the 1970’s, multiple generations of artists, including Homer, Duveneck, Hopper, Sloan, Twachtman and many others, representing every artistic style, have summered and worked, socialized and relaxed in the quaint and once ramshackle confines of the Neck.

photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 35 Rocky Neck
Cook and Friend, publisher
Stereograph card
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Also filed under: Historic Photographs »

photo (historical)
Cape Ann Scenery: No. 114 Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
John S. E. Rogers
Stereograph card
Procter Brothers, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, Looking Southwest. This gives a portion of the Harbor lying between Ten Pound Island and Eastern Point. At the time of taking this picture the wind was from the northeast, and a large fleet of fishing and other vessels were in the harbor. In the range of the picture about one hundred vessels were at anchor. In the small Cove in the foreground quite a number of dories are moored. Eastern Point appears on the left in the background."

Southeast Harbor was known for being a safe harbor.

Locator map: Rocky Neck
H. F. Walling
44 x 34 in.
John Hanson, Publisher
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive
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: "Cape Ann Locales." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Rocky+Neck&ref=catalog:23 (accessed July 23, 2024).
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