My first article for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism was posted today. The article is part one (highlighting fall and winter) of a two part series about our Harbortown Cultural District. Part two showcases events that take place during the spring and summer, for example, the Feast of St. Joseph, St. Peter’s Fiesta, and the Schooner Festival, and will appear early this spring.
Gloucester HarborTown Cultural District
By Kim Smith
I stand on a rooftop facing east toward Gloucester Harbor. Brisk autumn breezes and fresh salty scents lend color to the air of the moment. I can see far out to the Dog Bar Breakwater and Eastern Point Lighthouse, and still further beyond to the white diamond-studded sparkling sea. I see a single seagull arcing through the sky followed by hungry bevies chasing vessels. But it is the view of the harbor’s inner beauty that causes me to standstill and absorb all that I see. The beauty is in the mix of large fishing ships and smaller lobster boats powering through the water—coming and going—in and out to sea; the beauty is in the mix of flat-topped boxy ice buildings, the old Paint Factory, hipped-roof homes, and fish shed peaks; the beauty is in the mix of ships’ masts and riggings, hulls painted shiny red, ochre, and marine blue, new wooden docks and weathered wharf pilings, and everything playing to a soundtrack of gull cries and ships’ engines.
Surrounding the harbor is a blanket of golden hills, made rugged from granite outcroppings formed of earth’s crusty movement long ago, glowing golden from the angled sun’s light and brilliant fall foliage. Saffron tree ribbon circling the harbor runs into silhouettes of neighborhoods with bright sandy beaches that meet ultramarine water. I turn to the west, and looking north and south are the densely packed rooftops of nineteenth- and twentieth-century gables, pitched in shapes and sizes manifold, their architecture mirroring the many cultures and centuries that have shaped this city’s skyline.
This is my adopted city, Gloucester. Like many New England cities and towns Gloucester has riches thought unique to their community, but unlike many hometowns Gloucester’s richly varied and thriving cultural community is grounded from the inside by a framework created from families long associated with her working waterfront. Abounding in maritime heritage, Gloucester is the oldest seaport in America; Gloucester is home, too, to Rocky Neck, the nation’s oldest art colony. For over four hundred years her beauty and bounty have attracted fishermen and artists alike. Along with Rocky Neck, Gloucester’s Harbortown Downtown district is a designated Massachusetts Cultural District; Gloucester is the only city in Massachusetts to boast two such cultural districts! Throughout the four seasons visitors from near and far travel to Gloucester to enjoy her beautiful shores, take part in her fiestas and festivals, dine on fresh seafood, meet her friendly people, and explore her arts, architecture, and entertainment.