Massachusetts Masterpiece

Fisherman’s Wharf One of Rockport’s claims to fame is a picturesque fishing shack, known as Motif Number 1, that has inspired countless artists to sketch and paint its likeness.
Fisherman’s Wharf: One of Rockport’s claims to fame is a picturesque fishing shack, known as Motif Number 1, that has inspired countless artists to sketch and paint its likeness.
photo by Emily Fagan

Rockport paints its picture-perfect scenery in broad brushstrokes

An hour north of Boston, Massachusetts, the quaint and historic seaside town of Rockport welcomes visitors who come to play on the beach and window-shop at the charming boutiques and art galleries around town. Embracing a small working harbor that looks out on Sandy Bay, this quintessential New England town evokes wistful images of America’s early days.

Just behind a row of shops and waterfront homes at one end of Front Beach, we listened as the bell of the historic First Congregational Church chimed every hour. In 1814 when the British navy invaded Rockport, the bell sounded an alarm to alert the townspeople. In an attempt to silence it, one of the British ships fired at the bell but missed, lodging a cannonball in the steeple instead. The church has that cannonball to this day.

Known in the late 1800s for its granite quarries, Rockport was also a hub for small-scale fishing and lobstering, and later evolved into a colony of artists. Today, artists can be seen painting on easels at the most picturesque spots in town, and the tiny harbor is home to a fleet of lobster boats that still ply the waters around Cape Ann to catch New England’s clawed delicacy.

As we took photos of the famous red fishing shack in the heart of Rockport Harbor, a man told us it is the most-painted building in New England. Some sources claim it is the most-painted scene in America, if not the world. Known as Motif Number 1, the original 1885 shack was so beloved that, when it was destroyed by a blizzard in 1978, the town rebuilt it.
The dozens of boutiques, eateries and galleries that fill the narrow peninsula protecting the harbor where Motif Number 1 stands were once rustic fishing shacks, too. Although it’s hard to imagine thick woods and wildlife on the tourist-filled walking streets, legend has it that back in the 1600s, settler Ebenezer Babson killed a bear with his knife to protect his nephew. He left the skin to dry on the rocks, which gave rise to the strip of land being named Bearskin Neck.

For RVers looking for a taste of New England’s charm and colorful past, Rockport is a wonderful day-trip destination that is easily reached from Cape Ann Camp Site in nearby Gloucester or Winter Island Park not much farther away in Salem.


 

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