Welcome to Gloucester

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Welcome to GloucesterGloucester — America's Oldest Seaport
Just as it says on this sign that welcomes you to the city, Gloucester is America's oldest and original seaport. Three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, a splinter group searching for favorable fishing grounds found Gloucester Harbor. Soon thereafter, the remarkable natural resources of this area made Gloucester an important part of American history.

The early settlers had to rely on farming, hunting, and fishing for survival. Here they found a sheltered, deep water port — a safe place to keep a large vessel, even in harsh winter storms. It is also located within a day's sail of George's Bank, one of the richest fishing grounds ever known. In later years, fishermen were heard to say that the water was so thick with fish you could simply reach down and scoop them out with your hand. With these natural advantages, Gloucester soon became America's premier fishing port and today is a vibrant small city of approximately 28,000 residents. Fishing activity here has substantially diminished over the past several years, slowed by government regulation in an attempt to allow the fishing stocks to recover. However, Gloucester remains unique and steadfast as a seaport. Unlike many other historic seaports whose heyday is behind them, Gloucester's waterfront is alive with activity every day. Fishermen and lobstermen go to sea daily and there are plenty of opportunities to see it for yourself.

Visitor's Center at Stage Fort Park 

Visitor's Center at Stage Fort Park

There are two places to get oriented to Gloucester, the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, located in the downtown area at 33 Commercial Street, and the Gloucester Visitors Welcoming Center, located at Stage Fort Park, just off Route 127. If you enter Gloucester by Route 128, take exit 14 and follow the signs to the Maritime Trail and the Welcoming Center. The Welcoming Center is located on the land that the original settlers set the "fishing stages" (fish drying areas) and was the location of a fort that was built to defend against the British in the Revolutionary War-thus, the name "Stage Fort Park." It is now a beautiful city park with two beaches and recreational facilities, open to the public for a fee. Parking for the visitor center is free.

1623 Rock 

1623 Rock at Stage Fort Park

The Gloucester Maritime Trail is a new and interesting way to enjoy Gloucester's waterfront, downtown and harbor areas. This organized trail is divided into four walks, one that includes Stage Fort Park. You can pick up a Maritime Trail Map at the visitor center or Chamber of Commerce.

Many of Gloucester's shops and restaurants are located in the harbor front area, mostly in the Rogers Street and Main Street areas. This entire area is easily walk-able, and you'll find specialty shops, restaurants and cafes and some authentic Italian bakeries and Pizzerias in the West End of Main Street. On Rogers Street there are harbor front restaurants and walking areas where you can see the fishing and lobstering fleets up close. There is a map of the downtown area called the "Gloucester TourMap" that describes this area in detail. You can pick one up at many hotels and information booths. The downtown area is also home to museums and exhibits, whale watch companies, and water tours.

Another place to visit is Rocky Neck in East Gloucester. The Rocky Neck Art Association is the oldest continuously operating art colony in America, and there are other shops and restaurants here, some with decks overlooking Smith's Cove, which is beautiful in the late afternoon and evening. The Maritime Trail runs through this area, so you can take this organized walk, or just find your way over by car, or take the water shuttle from Rogers Street at Seven Seas Wharf, which runs during July and August for a nominal charge.

The Beaches Beckon

Artist on the Waterfront 

Artist on Rocky Neck

beaches are major attraction, especially in the summer, of course. There is more information in our Cape Ann Beaches article, but Gloucester's beaches are worth a trip from anywhere, especially Wingaersheek and Good Harbor Beach, the two most popular. The problem with both beaches is parking of cars on hot summer days. The beaches themselves are not overcrowded, but the parking lots fill up fast on hot days. Each beach has a public (fee paid for non-residents) lot, but get there early on hot summer weekends or forget it.

Where to Stay in Gloucester
Gloucester has a number of large and small inns, hotels and B&B's. You can find them easily, as well as all the attractions of Gloucester by using our Find Lodging and Find Attractions search engine.


Fisherman's Memorial 

 The Fisherman's Memorial

The Fisherman's Memorial
Each year, thousands of visitors to Gloucester take pictures of each other in front of the fisherman statue on Stacy Boulevard. The statue is a nationally recognized landmark and an imposing sight as it overlooks the harbor every day of the year. Viewing it is as meaningful to your Gloucester visit as anything else you'll see.

The idea for the statue was conceived by a committee that first met in 1923. They wanted to prepare for the celebration of Gloucester's 300th anniversary in 1925 and to create a permanent memorial to fishermen lost at sea. The committee held a design contest, which was won by sculptor Leonard Craske. The statue, sculpted of bronze, was installed in 1925.

Over ten thousand Gloucester fishermen have been lost at sea while earning their living.

Before the invention of the radio and radar, fishermen would have little or no advance warning of an approaching storm. In the schooner fishing days, the only way back to port was by sail-a treacherous and often-fatal journey. During the World Wars, additional tragedies occurred when Gloucester fishing vessels were attacked or destroyed by German submarines.

Fishing Boats in Gloucester Harbor 

Fishing Boats in Gloucester Harbor

Often tragedies occur during rough winter weather when the sea spray ices up, making the boats become heavier and heavier. The fishermen chop off the ice with axes, but not always quickly enough to prevent the boats from sinking.

Another memorial to these men is located on the second floor of Gloucester City Hall. The mural here lists about fifty-five hundred men lost at sea, dating back to 1874, but it is estimated that forty-five hundred were lost during the preceding ten years alone.

Visitors are welcome to walk in and view the mural. During regular business hours you can walk into City Hall and go upstairs until you see it surrounding the staircase. City Hall also offers one of the best views of the harbor and downtown areas, and houses a collection of paintings of prominent Gloucester citizens and past mayors that is well worth a visit.



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