Explore a selection of Gloucester school house properties built circa 1800s-1920s. There is a greater quantity of structures still standing than not.
Note: Pinch and zoom and/or click to enlarge photographs, depending upon your device. There are three galleries of images (side by side comparisons; all vintage; and all contemporary), a self-guided map for a driving tour, excerpts from James Pringle 1892 Gloucester history, and newspaper coverage of then “new” schools. Don’t miss the Boston Globe feature about the Eastern Avenue school published in 1905. There’s another wonderful piece about a very special elementary school class –which enrolled more girls than boys–offered at Sawyer school on Friend Street.
Student enrollment in 1892 was 4196
Side by side then vs. now views:
School name, year built, 2021 status
Bold indicates extant structure; italicized indicates structure no longer there; GLO = MACRIS id state’s archives- “The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) allows you to search the Massachusetts Historical Commission database.”
Leonard 1834 (GLO.701), reverted to city in 1953, now Annisquam Exchange (since 1955)
Forbes 1844 (GLO.390), (Old Town Hall), now Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3
Forbes Extension, 1851 (GLO. 417, architect Gridley JF Bryant also co-architect for City Hall 1869), leased to Gloucester G.A.R. Hall 1897; now Action, Inc 47 Washington St.
Forbes Extension, (GLO.414) , now Forbes apartments 37 Washington St (restored 1996)
Bradstreet and annex in Bayview 1850, back to city in 1956, demolished, now private home, (some old stone, grounds)
Parsons on Western Ave. 1850, now Girl Scouts (gsema) since 1957
Rogers on Elm St. 1850 (GLO.416), now private home
Riggs Wash. at Reynard, 1850, sold at auction in 1894
Bray1852 (GLO.1068), discontinued 1949, now BSA Troop 60
Point Grammar Plum Street 1852, reverted to city 1955
Lane 1860, abandoned and turned back to city in 1966, now Rebecca’s Playground
Mt. Vernon 1860, reverted to city in 1958, now church real estate
Haskell 1862, discontinued 1949
Collins 1864, turned back to city 1941, McPherson Park apts.
Point Primary on Chapel 1867, discontinued 1946, now private home
Wheeler School at Stanwood 1867, now cape ann amateur radio communication center (CAARA) purchased from City in 2013
Wonson School on Rocky Neck 1867, Wonson School Cartesian Society in 1925, now private home(s)
Sawyer 1869, turned back to city 1941, now no structure, a section dedicated as playground: Edward “Gint” Middleton Playground, 1974
Babson 1880 Pleasant St (at time “park street”), now John W. Sheedy apts.
Stone Court 1882, discontinued 1946, now Stone Court apts.
Hildreth 1884, reverted to city in 1958, now Masonic Lodge
High School 1888 (GLO.317) (Principal Albert Bacheler), now Central Grammar apts.
Maplewood 1889, now Maplewood apts.
Blynman 1895 (GLO.112) new Blynman replaced old one; reverted to city in 1956; community center 1956-64, now Magnolia Historical Society purchased from city $1000 in 2013
Hovey 1896, now apts.
Eastern Avenue 1907, now commercial real estate
1892 School notes from Pringle
“The High school-house on Dale Avenue was erected in 1888 and ’89, the total cost, including land, being $100,000. This building, one of the most imposing and commodious of its kind in New England, is built of brick with granite trimmings.” and “The first High school-house was erected in 1851 on the southwestern corner of the present lot at a cost of $3,100 including the land. It was enlarged in 1870 and 1878, and was destroyed by fire May 11, 1887.”
“The Hildreth school-house on Eastern Avenue was erected in 1884, at an outlay of $18,000 for building and furnishing and $4,000 additional for grading.”
“Lord Bros, were awarded the contract to build the Babson school-house on Park Street for $17,498. This edifice was erected on site of an old burial ground.” and “The first brick structure, the Babson school house, was built in 1881, the entire expenditure including heating, etc., being $25,944.”
Washington St. at “the crotch of ye old highway”- Townhall | Forbes School | Legion
1896 Sawyer School
“Grammar Pupils Taught How to Box Compass
If one were to look for a school for skippers he would naturally turn to Gloucester, but he would hardly expect to find the rudiments of the fishermen’s art taught in the public schools. But such is the fact. This “skippers’ class” has been for some years part of the regular course of the Sawyer grammar school, the progressive principal of which is N.D. Tingley…The skippers recite in one of the halls of the school, in the center of which is drawn a large compass encircled by an iron railing. This compass is some four feet in diameter, and all the points are given by their abbreviations in the same manner as on the regular mariner’s compass. In addition to the pole, as given by the needle, the true north is also indicated by a black line, the variation of the needle in Gloucester being quite marked, some 13.5 degrees…The class numbered a dozen, three quarters of whom were girls from 7 to 12. But before they had finished their lessons they demonstrated that they could give their brothers “points” in every sense concerning the boxing of the compass. Possibly Principal Tingley was giving a class of new women instruction in the art of navigation, for one of the first new women of recent times is a pilot on the Mississippi, and perhaps one may officiate in a like capacity aboard of a cape Ann fishing steamer… What is one point west of south? Five pointes east of north? Six points west of south, etc…After the skippers have become proficient and have been graduated they pass the “board.” The board in this case is Mr. Tingley, and he issues to the proficient graduate this certificate, which is highly prized by the holders, as it is printed on cardboard in gilt letters as follows:
Sawyers School Skipper’s Certificate–The Bearer, John Smith, having successfully boxed the compass and answered the required practical questions upon the same is herby awarded this Certificate of honor.–Gloucester, Mass., 1996.”
Boston Globe, 1896
1905 Eastern Avenue School
“Proposed New Grammar School in Ward 2, Gloucester
After much discussion the school committee and the public property committee have selected plans for the proposed schoolhouse in ward 2. The lot where the school is to be built is especially adapted for the purpose. It is on Eastern avenue nearly opposite Day’s pond, and commands a magnificent view in all directions, including an outlook of Little Good harbor beach and Bass rocks, which, from the contour of the lands, can never be shut out by building operations. The building will be 60 x 125. it will contain two main floors and a roof section, the latter being designed for a gymnasium or large hall should such be needed. In the basement will be the usual heating apparatus, the janitor’s room and separate playrooms, with accessories for boys and girls. On the two main stories there are eight rooms…On the second floor, besides the four main rooms, there is a library and teachers’ room…The exterior will be of the colonial style, the material being red brick, with stone trimmings. The estimated cost above ground clear of the furnishings is $31,000. It is intended to have the building ready for occupancy sometime next year. Taking the cost of furnishings and everything it is estimated that the entire cost will approximate 45,000.”
Boston Globe 1905
1920 46% of Fathers of Public School Children are Foreign-Born
Gloucester history 1920 may just be as much if not more current than 2021
Furthermore, whereas formerly the majority of the people in Gloucester were native born, now 46.6 percent of the fathers of public school children are foreign-born: 19 nationalities are represented. They include the following countries, Canada, Denmark, England, Italy, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Holland, Newfoundland, Norway, Nova Scotia, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden. The largest number are from Portugal, Italy, Finland, England.
From the standpoint of the school, this means that the educational problem is far more difficult than formerly. It means that the school must now not only teach the three R’s, but to use a much over-worked term, it must really be the “melting pot” of all these diverse elements. It must be a social agency in the community where all elements may meet on a common footing. It must be a school where the children may have the opportunity to develop the particular gifts, which all these different nationalities bring to America, rather than a dye vat where all these different vivid colors from all over the world are dyed into one monotone.
In other words, although Gloucester is a small town of only a few thousand inhabitants, yet from an educational standpoint it is faced with the same problems which confront school systems in the average city…”
Regarding the high school on Dale and Forbes School Branches (multi building complex)
High School I claim for my administration a savings of $250,000 on the high school alone, and when completed we will have a high school building second to none in Eastern Massachusetts and at a cost of less than half what other cities are paying. And right here I wish to publicly commend and thank the teachers and scholars of our high school for the splendid spirit of co-operation and patience they are exhibiting in cheerfully walking back and forth through mud and rain. The school displaying such fine spirit deserves a good building, and I shall never forget their good and fine cooperation. Money cannot pay Mr. Ringer for his fine leadership in this school under very trying conditions, but now I wish he would confine his activities to the position he was hired for.
I think our school troubles are soon to be relieved. Mr. Fellows, our new superintendent, will, I hope, prove a second Putney. I hope to see our small neighborhood schools again running as under Mr. Putney. I believe, and I have letters from educators that agree with me, that a small school with two or three grades offers equal advantages to small children as single grade schools, as the lower grade pupils are all the time learning something from the higher grade recitations. With the completion of the Washington Street primary school, both the high and primary situation will be relieved, and those garages on the town landing will be taking out of our schools forever. And now with that building on the lot standing the city $5,000 (the cost of moving), does anyone think it should have been given away? For that is all the building stand the city—the cost of moving—for a foundation would have to have been built anyway.
woodcut illustration for 1890 Boston Globe article | photos: c. ryan, mostly 2021
The first Massachusetts home featured in this Boston Globe historic house article was Gloucester’s “Ellery house”, as a classic First Period saltbox:
“OLD HOMES, OLD FAMILIES. Houses in New England, Each of Which Has for Three or More Generations Sheltered the Same Race. Romances Drawn from Wood and Brick
The Sunday Globe begins today to publish stories and pictures of old New England homesteads which have sheltered at least three generations of the families now living in them.
This is not so endless a task as some may suppose it to be. New England, no doubt, contains a greater number of old houses than any other division of the country, but it is rare indeed to find one among those that has been long in the possession of the same family. Such a shifting of ownerships may reflect the growing prosperity of the original occupants who perchance have built greater homes than those of their fathers, but often the disappearance of the inheritors of these ancestral houses signifies either the utter extinction or the scattering and breaking up of the family.
The sketches in this series opening today appeal, therefore, in a peculiar way to the public curiosity, and the Sunday Globe would thank any of its readers if they would call attention to any houses within their own knowledge which may be occupied by a family who have possessed the property through three or more generations continuously or otherwise.
There are various periods in the history of Gloucester house building, each marked quite as distinctly to the architectural student as the different strata of the earth’s crust indicate to the geologist the various periods of formation. In the case of the old houses of note it may be said that they all belonged to the upper crust.
The houses of the first settlers of Gloucester, with rare exceptions, have long since been replaced by others of more elaborate design, and the few remaining in the suburbs are small one-story edifices of no particular architectural pretensions.
In common with Boston, Salem, Newburyport and other colonial seaports, Gloucester once owned a large fleet of ships, brigs and barks, that sailed to foreign ports, exchanging the products of the town and of the county for Spanish gold and Surinam molasses, which was converted into New England rum.
These merchants built commodious residences and dispensed a hospitality commensurate with their position as leaders of the social and intellectual life of the town.
The most historic edifice in town is the Ellery house, which stands just below the old meeting house green on Washington street in Riverdale, a suburb of the town.
It was built by Rev. John White shortly after he came here in 1702 to minister to the spiritual wants of the First Parish, receiving a grant of land from the town on which to build his home. At that time the main settlement was in that portion of the community, but the necessities of commerce and fishing made it convenient for the inhabitants to remove nearer the seashore, deserting their first habitations on what is now known as “Dogtown Common,” where the remains of their cellars can still be traced today.
The type of architecture is well portrayed by the accompanying cut. On the projection which overhangs the lower story in front there were four balls pendant, a style of decoration of the times, which have long been removed.
Inside, the old-fashioned low studded style of room is at once apparent, and the antique furnishings and general air of the place make one realize more vividly the age of the house and fixtures, which are of a nature to bring joy to the heart of an antiquarian.
Some of the furniture in the parlor is about 200 years old. The house was bought in 1710 by Capt. William Ellery, and it still remains in the hands of his direct descendants, the occupants being John Ellery and his wife. Thus it will be seen that it has been in this family 150 years.
The purchaser of the house was a son of the original settler, William Ellery. The Ellery family were prominent in the social and intellectual life of the place from the first, being leading merchants. Hon. Benjamin Ellery, called in the family “Admiral,” was the eldest brother of William. He went from Gloucester and settled in Rhode Island and was the father of Deputy Gov. William Ellery and grandfather of William Ellery who signed the Declaration of Independence, the signer being a grandnephew of the first owner of the house.”
The White Ellery House is part of the Cape Ann Museum collection. There are inaccuracies in the 1890 nutshell above. James Stevens and the tavern he operated is absent. The rum trade is acknowledged; any NE slave trade economic connections are not. [Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery. Vermont was the first to abolish (VT 1777 vs. MA 1783).] The article predates the build out of Rt. 128 which rallied a preservation relocation.
Maybe CAM might commission a set of woodcuts of the historic properties as they are now by various local artists.
Beautiful improvements on the grounds of Cape Ann Museum
note: pinch and zoom or double click to enlarge photos.
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“…an around-town stroll to the many houses and scenes painted by Edward Hopper on his five extended painting journeys here. They’re captivating, and in one case, crushing: The spectacular mansard-roofed captain’s house perched high on a Rocky Neck cliff that Hopper painted in 1924 now shares its view of Gloucester Harbor with a sprawling McMansion next door whose aesthetic might best be described as haute Florida strip mall.”
Register for Cape Ann Museum upcoming walks like Feb. 20 (Spiritual history) and Feb. 27 (Edward Hopper) HERE
Happy to see the Cape Ann Museum guided walking tours featured!
Not to worry! The historic house on Clarendon is gorgeous. Edward Hopper customized his take on Gloucester vistas, as did artists before him.
Here is the Gardner Wonson home (built circa 1873) in horse and buggy days, a scene cropped for commercial keepsake photographs published by the Procter Brothers who were flying high in the 1870s [collection New York Public Library].
This home was an architectural attraction Hopper may have seen before he stepped foot off the train for his first visit to Gloucester.
In 1846 entrepreneurial publishing dynamos and developers, brothers Francis with George H. Procter, set up a book and printing shop. By 1850 they moved to Main Street. As the business grew, their news dispatch morphed from “Procter’s Able Sheet” to “Gloucester Advertiser” to “Cape Ann Advertiser”, and then in 1888 to “Gloucester Daily Times”. By 1892 the printing press for the newspaper branch alone could churn out 4000 papers, eight pages long, every hour (see Pringle). Any small business operating for decades and successive generations will suffer its share of adversity. Procter Brothers was leveled not once but twice by fire, and rebuilt. They published or were the go to printers for all manner of media: books, periodicals, photographs, lithographs, even a circulating library from their headquarters in 1874; building back and then some after that 2nd conflagration. The Wonson home was featured in a tourist photograph series, “Cape Ann Scenery”.
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photo caption: Santa visiting sign at white lights home on Reynard St. Dec 17-23. 5:30-7pm (no pix with Santa)
Holiday Lights and Cocoa Drives Map 2020 edition features 250+ decorated residential homes with Christmas light displays in Gloucester. Massachusetts. The map was viewed more than 30,000 times within 7 days of going live this year.
Gloucester is tough to match for winter lights charm and show stopping homes. From Beach Court to Stage Fort; West Gloucester to East; Magnolia to Annisquam; and Portuguese Hill to Plum Cove- Gloucester is illuminated. Many neighborhoods join in together glittering, and have for years. With each passing new day more join in.
Concentrated streets include:
Essex Avenue is beautiful and long– and it’s good driving from both directions. I split it up into Essex Ave stretch between Causeway Restaurant and Richdale and
Essex Avenue stretch (between Richdale and Rt.128 and then to Farnham’s)
Elizabeth Road neighborhood block
Reynard Street neighborhood block and Spruce Street expansive, elaborate displays
Hartz street charming sweet little block
Finch Lane delightful little block
Annisquam for an old timey route, mostly white & gold lights with multi colored trees at turns on the road.
Mad Merry Highlights Tour
as in deck the halls, doors, windows, roofs and yards with boughs of holly-holidays! These 20 or so Gloucester homes are LIT! Bedecked, top twinkling in 2020 (alphabetized by road):
6 Abbott Road
Centennial Road – Hope 2x
12 Concord St (next to West Parish-near Essex Ave.)
4 Elizabeth Road (entire block, multiple homes)
326 Essex Ave (all of Essex Ave is great/multiple homes)
2 *Goose Cove Lane (end of block) & Holly Street
Grove (and Maplewood)
6 Harbor Road at Bass Ave
Hesperus Ave (all trees- next to Hammond Castle)
29 High Popples
9 Lowe Drive
22 Magnolia Ave and 124 Magnolia Ave
Luzitania Ave (off Friend St.)
79 *Perkins Street
Reynard St. whole block (#22 white lights; #42 blue house)
8 Spruce Road
15R Stanwood Ave
6 Abbott Rd
Centennial – HOPE
Centennial & Emerson -look up to – HOPE
12 Concord (off Essex Ave.)
Elizabeth St block – Frosty projected on the belly
Elizabeth St block (neighbors merge their light displays)
326 Essex Avenue (from Kent Circle past Pauline’s, both sides)
This year’s trends include peace signs, illuminated words, melting multis, and a particular blue-green light (outlining windows in photo below).
Clear, mild nights make it easier to park, walk and linger. Snow and rain make for lovely routes, too.
photos below: Lanesville added, and homes missing from prior neighborhood batches
and pretty by day
Also **NEW** for 2020 — Gloucester with Manchester, Essex and Rockport (the Four Communities of Cape Ann) have collaborated to share beautiful Winter Lights on Cape Ann – 150+ businesses and organizations are merry and bright into January
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Thank you to all the road crews and good eggs shoveling public ways!
Digging out photos: A few after the winter storm scenes of downtown Gloucester by 9:30AM 12/18/2020. Any surface brick or stone is slick as can be. Evergreen pine trees & wreaths were randomly frosted like the Kancamagus Highway. Yet snow was already gone from the marsh.
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A classic Edward Hopper inspired by Gloucester will be sold at Sotheby’s auction this morning*. Architectural and natural elements in the drawing remain recognizable today. The scene overlooks the same house on East Main, Capt. Joe & Sons, and Cripple Cove (see then/now comparison photos below). The Gorton’s factory building there burned down. Cripple Cove playground is the green on the right of the Hopper image.
The drawing last changed hands in 1989 when the Horchows purchased the drawing from Kennedy Galleries in New York. Will it land in another private collection or an institution?
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Gloucester Factory and House, 1924, watercolor and pencil on paper, 14″ x 20″, from the Carolyn & Roger Horchow collection (Dallas,TX) They purchased the drawing in 1989 from Kennedy Galleries, NYC.
Lot 8 estimate $800,000-$1,200,00 currently at $600,000 bid before the auction opens
*Update- With just 56 lots to sell and two withdrawn ahead of sale, Lot 8 came up quickly with a few competing bids and a hammer price of $700,000 ($867,000 with fees), below estimate.
Many lots before and after were short of estimate or passed (unsold) including a Winslow Homer watercolor which was “reoffered” by pausing the bidding on the final lot #56 to return to Lot #16 (which sold for 2 million hammer price) before moving back to the final lot, an Edward Willis Refield (which sold for $250,000). That whoopsie “reoffer” is highly unusual**. The auction house scrambled to bring that phone bidder forward before the close of the sale. A second Homer watercolor passed at 850,000.
The Sotheby’s December 11, 2020 auction offered a variety of American art from various collections. The sale results were a mixed bag of purchases, passes, and pulled works. Only one work sold far above estimate, thanks to a bidding war, a western scene by John F. Clymer. Scroll below the Hopper and Gloucester images to see the Homer.
above photo: Catherine Ryan
above: page from Edward Hopper all around Gloucester by Catherine Ryan, 2010
above: Sotheby’s catalogue entry page
In 2017, Christies sold a Rockefeller Hopper painting, Cape Ann Granite, also in December, which I wrote about here: Bring it Home.
**December 11, 2020 Winslow Homer Lot 16 sold at Sotheby’s after passing first in the live sale and then “Reoffered” before the close of sale. For both the first and second offer window, the bid opened at 1.8 million. In the first round the bidding went back and forth, but “passed” at 2.2 million, presumably failing to meet reserve or presale estimate (2.5 – 3.5 million). Before the final lot of the sale, the auctioneer annouced a “re-offer” for Lot 16 after the audio went silent for a brief time. The drawing was sold to a buyer placing a phone bid for 2 million hammer price (2,440,000 after fees), less than the “pass” of the first time through. This move is nearly an aftersale during the sale. Perhaps the first time around the buyer was late to the call or there was confusion determining the “up to” amount, factoring in the fees.
Property from a Prominent Private Collection
1836 – 1910
Two Girls on the Beach, Tynemouth
signed Winslow Homer and dated 1881 (lower left)
watercolor and pencil on paper
14 1/8 by 20 inches
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This is the sixth and final in a series featuring Christmas lights on 200+ decorated homes throughout neighborhoods in Gloucester Massachusetts for the 2020 season. Festive displays range from draped garland lights & wrapped trees to elaborate tableaus. Gloucester is beautiful! Streets that are covered in this post:
Magnolia area of Gloucester including Magnolia Ave., Hesperus Ave., Western Ave., Linden Ave., Lowe Drive
downtown Gloucester blocks including: Centennial Drive, Maplewood Ave., Prospect St., Riverside Ave. block, Washington St., Gloucester Avenue, Mystic Avenue, Madison Avenue (w/ Madison Sq. and Ct., and Springfield St.)
neighborhood additions: nearby Elizabeth Road; Abbott Road; East Gloucester- Mt. Pleasant area and East Main; and West Gloucester – Essex Ave.
CENTENNIAL DRIVE ADDITIONS
Abbott Road | East Gloucester additions
West Gloucester additions
Follow links to see scenes from other Gloucester neighborhoods (or follow through to the end of the post and look for/select page 1,2)
Update 5- Magnolia, downtown, additions to E. and W. Glouc. (this post)
Holiday Lights and Cocoa Drives Gloucester Massachusetts map 2020. Photos have been added to the Google maps: tour by car or keyboard!
FAQ – how to print
The map is smart phone ready with house pictures. If you want to print the map see below: (1) navigate to the map page URL and (2) click on the three dots menu bar on the upper right. Pull down and select “print” PDF as of 12/7/2020
Scenes of Annisquam: Annisquam Village Hall; Annisquam Bridge; white lights and wreaths and trees at junctions. Followed with en route detours off Washington Street via Cherry, Spruce, Gee, Finch Lane, Reynard, Holly Street | Goose Cove Lane (near Willow Rest), Dennison
Washington Street plus detours via Cherry, Spruce, Gee, Finch Lane, Reynard, Holly Street | Goose Cove Lane (near Willow Rest), Dennison