Eastern Point is the southern half of the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern side of Gloucester Harbor. Without the peninsula, there would be no harbor. Eastern Point is about a mile and a half long and stretches from just north of Niles Beach to the Eastern Point Lighthouse and Dog Bar Breakwater, which are located at its southern tip.
The history of Eastern Point is both the history of shipwrecks and efforts to reduce their number and a history of the privileged class which settled and developed Eastern Point. Both facets of Eastern Point’s history are covered in detail by Joseph E. Garland’s excellent book, Eastern Point ( Beverly, MA: Commonwealth Editions 1999).
In 1728, during the heyday of the Commons Settlement in the Dogtown section of Gloucester, fifteen families lived on Eastern Point. After the Revolution, Daniel Rogers, a forebear of Joseph Garland, owned a large farm that took up most of Eastern Point. In 1844, Thomas Niles acquired this 450 acre farm, and in 1859, the “irascible” Niles, as Garland characterized him, won a state Supreme Court ruling barring the public from access to most of Eastern Point. This helped create a mystique of exclusivity for Eastern Point, which even modern visitors can feel as they drive through two gates to reach the lighthouse.
Development of Eastern Point as a vacation spot for the wealthy began in 1887, with the sale of the Niles farm to the Eastern Point Associates. The next year, construction began on what would eventually be eleven “cottages”, many of which can easily be seen today. The magnificence of the interior of these dwellings can also be experienced today by visiting “Beauport,” a 40 room house on Eastern Point designed and built by Henry Sleeper from 1907 to 1934. “ Beauport” is open to the public and operated by Historic New England, formerly The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. In 1892, the Eastern Point Associates went bankrupt, primarily because they could not provide an infrastructure on Eastern Point for the homes they were building. Perhaps the peak of Eastern Point’s caché as a vacation spot came in 1904 with the construction near Niles Beach of the Colonial Arms, a six story 300 room luxury hotel, which unfortunately burned down in 1908.
During the summer while I am on Rocky Neck, walking Eastern Point is something I do often. It is a small area packed with so many lovely and interesting things to see. This montage only begins to touch them.