With the kids out of school the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we took a bunch of little day trips to places we had always been meaning to visit in about a 100 mile radius of home. One of the first trips we took was to historic Essex, Massachusetts which serves as the home to Woodman’s of Essex, one of the best old school New England fried seafood places known to man and the place where fried clams were literally invented in the early part of the 20th century. Few people realize (other than us locals) that Massachusetts has two “capes”. Everyone knows Cape Cod, but lots of people don’t know about Cape Ann, which is about 30 miles north of Boston and has a ton of great history on its own. The area was settled in the early part of the 1600s, is where the famed fishing town of Gloucester (pronounced – Glos-ta here) is located and contains a lot of great old farms, wineries, and a landscape indicative of the English countryside.
After walloping down a pile of fried seafood, we hopped back in the car and decided to do some exploring. We discovered a real gem in the Essex Shipbuilding Museum which is a place that honors the great shipbuilding history of the small town (population 3,500). Essex Schooners were considered the finest of the breed at the height of their popularity. The little town had some 15 shipyards in the 1800s and those yards were launching up to 50 schooners a year. These schooners were used as fishing vessels, mostly for the huge fleets that went out of Gloucester, but also for some fleets in Maine and other east coast locations. Unfortunately, planning for the future was not high up on the list of priorities and by the 1940s, the market for wooden fishing schooners was all but dried up and the area didn’t make the changes necessary to adapt to modern metal construction. Essex’s run as a shipbuilding hub was over.
The Essex Ship Building Museum stands to keep that history alive and it does so by hosting lots of programs and activities, housing some awesome artifacts and even a old 85-foot Essex schooner that was pulled from the bottom of a harbor. It is believe to be the last known to exist. Right next to the museum is a family owned ship building company that continues to build amazing wooden boats just like they did in the old days, wooden nails and all.
The day we pulled in, the museum was closed, but they had an awesome array of old modified trucks, Jeeps, rusting equipment, and plain cool stuff in their yard, so we pulled in for a closer inspection.
HERE’S WHAT WE FOUND – HIT THE GALLERY LINK BELOW FOR THE WHOLE COLLECTION OF PHOTOS!