Catherine Ryan confirms Rockaway Hotel as another Gloucester Edward Hopper match with help from the Sibley family

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Hi Joey,

I am hoping readers may think about this Gloucester Edward Hopper project when they peruse old family albums. Why? There are still more Edward Hopper locations in Gloucester to uncover, and the photos may help identify the original sites that inspired Hopper. More importantly, the photographs may provide opportunities for us to share and preserve Gloucester stories and create some new ones. As inspiration, I’d like to share photos and a personal account from Liz Fletcher and the Sibley family that has helped to support the identification of the Rockaway Hotel in one of the Hoppers, thanks to its distinctive staircase. The water and rocks endure.

Thank you so much Liz Fletcher and the Sibley family!

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Artist Liz Fletcher wrote me:

“How well Hopper caught the higgledy piggledy hillside-clinging way people built these sturdy wooden houses.” She included the photo with her cousin climbing a fence, “because it shows the old Rocky Neck Yacht Club, the rest of the smaller buildings in the foreground of the (Hopper) painting were torn down when the condo conversion was done…The colors of the building are the same as it still was in the 50s, when we used to play there as kids in the off-season — that 4 or 5 story fire escape going up the back of the hotel was scary to climb. And those smaller buildings down at the water’s edge look just like the ones I remember as part of the hotel complex. The beach to the left of those buildings could be Oakes Cove, where they do the New Year’s Day Plunge nowadays.”

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From the time artist Edward Hopper created his Gloucester images–in 1912, and then summers in the 1920s–there have been approximately 25 or so positive id’s on Gloucester homes, landscapes and structures that are featured in his art.

This core group of Gloucester Hoppers has been reproduced, studied, and included in important exhibitions. In the 1970s, Art Historian and Curator, Gail Levin, photographed then/now comparisons. Since Levin’s work, many other artists and Hopper aficionados have created series inspired by Hopper’s Gloucester images. But there are so many more Gloucester Hoppers! This quantity is news for Gloucester and for MA. Inspired by the Gloucester HarborWalk, I expanded on that core group to a count of over 100, and have identified the bulk of them. They’re collected into an on-line catalogue with contemporary snapshots and a google map of the locations, which Good Morning Gloucester featured here:  https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/catherine-ryan-kicks-the-ny-times-in-the-nuts-with-her-killer-edward-hopper-interactive-maps-and-photos-and-other-stuff/

Please contact cryan225@gmail.com if you find any photos that may help identify some Hoppers locations, and capture some additional Gloucester stories.

I’m looking for pictures of the homes and neighborhood around the Fort. Hopefully we can identify all of them, and who knows maybe inspire a gift of an original Hopper back to Gloucester for the Cape Ann Museum .

The most recent Hopper location I’ve identified is near Russell’s Florist and right before Lee’s Restaurant, on Eastern Ave. , as you’re heading into Gloucester downtown.

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15 comments

  • I really enjoyed this excellent post and what a wonderful project!

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  • Thank you Catherine and the Sibley’s. I grew up just off Rocky Neck on Mt. Pleasant Ave. and spent many happy days in those locals and Ratcliff Beach. I remember sittting on the old hotel wall the night the City burned the old fish hatchery buildings on Ten Pound Island as the grand finale to the 4th. July fireworks – and watched all the rats swimming ashore after they abandoned the island. Seriously, the old hotel, the yacht club, the Chisholm, Goulter and Wheeler homes bring back many memories.

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  • jose smoothtrax

    There was a bar in the basement of the Rockaway and lots of people went there for last call in the ’70s.

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  • When our cousin asked our family ‘permission’ to send a copy of the photo of our parents and ourselves in Gloucester, we were really touched – Gloucester was, for me, my earliest memory. I was about 2yrs old at the time, but remember running in a carpark, with black cars reflecting bright sunlight around me, my buggy behind me, and the freedom of having permission to run with my elder sister! How exciting to help in a project to place Hopper paintings in the locality – I will search out the family albums to see if there is anything else that might the detective work! Good luck with the project. Sadie Longstaff

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    • Thank you so much, Sadie, for your contribution and for your gracious nod to delve further! I’m sure photos– whether Hopper site or not– are special as they frame a certain time in Gloucester!

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  • As another sibley it is wonderful to see a piece of our lives preserved by such a prestigious artist. For us as Liz says it was a place to play and we had special permission as our friend was Bobby Publicover whose parents owned the hotel at the time. The hill in front was a great place for sledging, and we would spend time hanging out in the Lookout and watching our Dad’s boat the Peggy Bell come home after a days fishing with the sun going down. All those artists who came to Gloucester loved the luminous clear light. Annie Horsley-Sibley

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    • Thank you for filling in even more of the picture, Annie! There’s poem-like word play in your details which is fun to read: Bobby Publicover and Dad’s boat the Peggy Bell~

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  • I worked at the Easterly Inn in the summer of 1972. Great restaurant and even better crowd of summer workers.. Lived in John Parker’s building on pilings next to the marina. The Rockaway was a hoppin spot late night. My best summer ever.

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  • Virginia Publicover

    My name is Virginia Publicover. My husbands father Victor was the chef. and his grandmother was the bakery chef. He told some story about his time at the old hotel that he loved. He wrote a story Storm,that he dreamed up about a little boy and time in RockyNeck. I was going though some of old boxes and found some old postcards and the story. If you are interested you can let me know .
    Thank you Virginia Publicover. virg118@msn.com
    w

    r

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  • The one of the girl with her leg over the railing is not of Oakes Cove. The seawall and beach in the background are at the end of Fremont Street facing Ten Pound Island. Oakes Cove is the next cove north of this one.

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  • The building in question IS indeed the Rockaway hotel in Rocky Neck. My great great grandfather, Mr. William Alexander Publicover (the first, not to be confused with his son and grandson [my father] of the same name) was the man who built that hotel in the tail end of the 1800s. i still have a Thomas & Co mantle clock from the lobby that was presented to the family on the 50th anniversary of the hotel opening.

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  • annie horsley, the “bobby” you speak of was my dads little brother bob. William (aka “skip” ) was my father. sadly, he lost the good fight on tuesday.

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  • Thank you for highlighting Hopper’s works. Our family home on the corner of Sargent and Cleveland Streets was in the background of his painting, “The Box Factory.” This painting is not mentioned in the Cape Ann Museum brochure. It’s a wonderfully dramatic work with lots of interesting angles. Last I heard, it was stored in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and not on exhibit.

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