The Value of a House

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old postcard 53 western

by Prudence Fish

Since 1923 when the Leonard Kraske statue of the Gloucester Fisherman, the “Man at the Wheel” was dedicated on Gloucester’s newly constructed Stacy Boulevard this iconic portrayal of a fisherman looking out to sea has become part of Gloucester’s identity.  It is a rare visitor to Cape Ann who doesn’t go to the Boulevard to view the landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and perhaps have their picture taken in front of it.

In fact, thousands upon thousands of photos, including postcards and even paintings depict this famous statue.  Just look online at sites such as eBay and the endless images of the Man at the Wheel. Its importance is immediately apparent.

In the background of these pictures stands a long row of old houses lining the inland side of the Boulevard.  Some go back to the 18th century; many are from the 19th century.  Over time they have changed as old houses do but all are still standing, forever recorded in these photos.

 

The Inn at Babson Court, 53 Western Avenue/Stacy Boulevard, is an important element in the iconic streetscape of Gloucester Harbor’s Boulevard

 

Babson’s History of the Town of Gloucester, 1860, says that at the close of the Revolutionary War there were only three houses between the “Cut” and Tally’s corner.  The “Cut” is the canal connecting the Annisquam River with Gloucester Harbor.  When Babson wrote about this neighborhood in “View of the Town at the Close of the War”, only two of the original three 18th century houses remained. The “close of the war”, by the way, means the Revolutionary War.

One of the two has not been identified but we know that the old house at 53-55 Western Ave. now the Inn at Babson Court, was one of these 18th century houses.  This mid 18th century house had to be one of the two remaining houses. It was owned by Samuel Stevens. Samuel Stevens was the owner of the Pine Tree Tavern built on land purchased by his ancestor, William Stevens.

inn at babson

Photo courtesy of Cape Ann Museum  (House numbers can change over the years. Now 53 Western Ave.)

In the 18th century it is hard to believe but there were nearly 300 slaves in the Town of Gloucester owned by the wealthiest merchants and sea captains.   Once each year these blacks were given a day off.  They congregated here in this neighborhood at the Pine Tree Tavern on the Boulevard for a day of fun and games and conviviality.  Clearly, the Pine Tree Tavern occupied one of the three houses that were extant at that time.  It is not certain which one was the tavern but there is the distinct possibility that it was the Inn at Babson Court.  The location of the Pine Tree Tavern was some 300 feet from the bridge bringing it into the immediate neighborhood.  It is nice to think that the hospitality given out so generously by the modern day innkeepers at the Inn at Babson Court is a continuation of the hospitality shown by Samuel Stevens at the Pine Tree Tavern so long ago.

 

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The Inn at Babson Court, 53 Western Avenue/Stacy Boulevard, stands directly across from the Fishermen’s Memorial

But now, that familiar backdrop of old houses standing as they have for centuries is in peril of changing.  In the near future that familiar scene on the postcards and souvenirs may never look the same. Why?  After trying to sell the Inn at Babson Court off and on for several years the innkeepers received an offer; the only one the eager sellers have received.  They have long wanted to retire and here was their chance.  There is a catch!  The offer comes with the terrible news that the new buyer’s plan for an eight unit condominium project calls for demolition of the Inn at Babson Court.

 

stacy

This is sad news for all of us and especially the present owners.  I know personally how much of themselves Paul and Donald have put into this house, especially Paul with all his artistic surprises and delightful details that have charmed their guests for many years.

Gloucester has no demolition delay ordinance or demolition review of any kind whatsoever and no historic district covering the Boulevard.  There is nothing to stand in the way of the demolition.  If this happens the view from the Man at the Wheel with the familiar background, will forever be changed.

 

 

But that is not all the bad news!

Just a few doors down the street another antique house, a survivor from the 19th century is facing imminent demolition.

This house at 73-75 Western Avenue is a dignified center entrance late Federal period residence.

 

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3. George Davis, brewer

Photo courtesy of Cape Ann Museum. (House numbers can change over the years. Now 73-75 Western Ave.)

I have not been inside and do not know what antique features are left but I know the façade well and have admired the integrity of its exterior and front façade including the long side ell on the left side.  Old photos portray this house painted white with shutters and a tidy fence surrounding the yard, not unlike so many on the Boulevard over one hundred years ago.

The house was built on land owned by Joseph Procter, just one of a long line of Joseph Procters.  It may not have been his homestead but was the homestead of his son, Joseph Johnston Proctor followed by Joseph Osborn Proctor.  The Procters’ role in the history of Gloucester is huge.  They were heavily involved in the fisheries and many local organizations.  Ultimately they owned a number of houses along the Boulevard including the Inn at Babson Court as well as the stately house at 73-75 Western Avenue.

Joseph J. Procter was born in 1802 and married Eliza Ann Gilbert in 1826.  This couple had eleven children before Joseph died unexpectedly in September 2, 1848.  His death was followed by the death of a one year old son just two weeks later.  Eliza Ann lived in the house until her death in 1887.

At this time the house was sold to Hiram Rich, a poet (1832-1901), who worked at the Cape Ann National Bank.  Hiram Rich was widely published in many periodicals including the Atlantic Monthly.  Not too long ago in the Gloucester Times John Ronan called Hiram Rich an underrated poet who was important to Gloucester.

The stories of the people who occupied these two houses and what they meant to Gloucester are extensive.  It is sad to think that soon, in a matter of hours, all traces of these historic houses can be obliterated.

 

If this bothers you, please attend the Demolition Review Workshop and voice your thoughts.

Regional Demolition Review Workshop

 Open to the public. Free.

Hosted by the Gloucester Historical Commission

Monday, September 28, 7-9 pm

Kyrouz Auditorium, Gloucester City Hall, 9 Dale Ave.

 

Find out what a Demolition Delay Ordinance would mean for you and your community.
See how demolition review is working in nearby cities and towns.
M. E. Lepionka, Co-Chair, Gloucester Historical Commission

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  There is now a lively discussion of this issue on the Enduring Gloucester facebook page.

 

Pru's photo for book (2)Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses.

Click here to read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Value of a House

  1. So surprised these buildings don’t have historic landmark status. Too bad the city can’t purchase them as something for all those tourists staying at the new hotel to visit.

    Like

  2. COMMENTS FROM FACEBOOK:

    Enduring Gloucester
    Open to the public. Free.

    Regional Demolition Review Workshop,

    hosted by the Gloucester Historical Commission… See More

    Unlike · Comment · Share · Edit · September 8
    Top Comments
    Enduring Gloucester, Michael Foley, Don Pollard, Bing McGilvray and 10 others like this.
    34 shares
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Enduring Gloucester http://www.bostonmagazine.com/…/market-53-55…/…

    On The Market: 53-55 Western Avenue, Gloucester
    BOSTONMAGAZINE.COM
    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 2 minutes ago

    Enduring Gloucester Public pressure is the only thing that can save this house at this point. The purchase and sale agreement is contingent upon the owner getting variances and permits. If he can’t get his variances and permits for a 4 storey, 8 unit condo monstrosity, t…See More
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 9 at 1:55pm

    Amanda Nash Hear hear!!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 2:31pm

    Dave DeAngelis The developer won’t sell it at any cost?
    Like · Reply · Yesterday at 2:35am
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Enduring Gloucester It’s in pristine condition.
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Bing McGilvray · September 9 at 7:08am

    Enduring Gloucester this is what the new owner has in mind
    Enduring Gloucester’s photo.
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 3:55pm

    John Russell Reilly Ugly and repugnant !!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 3:29pm
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Amanda Nash This is not a case of eminent domain, if you want to be outraged about eminent domain be outraged about the pipelines that they want to put in in Massachusetts. This is just a case of the sellers selling to a buyer who wants to tear it down and build condos. It’s not illegal. It just sucks. I’m not sure that the sale has already gone through, do we know that for sure?
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 7:23pm

    Enduring Gloucester P & S was signed last week, but no closing yet….
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 8:44pm

    Amanda Nash Ah, I see. I wondered, as it seemed quick to have changed hands already.
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 9:10pm

    Enduring Gloucester BUT the P&S has contingencies! (that the new owner will get the demo permit, construction permits, height variance, etc etc.) If he can’t get his huge condo complex, , the deal is off . The CITY ie- the PEOPLE) can still say NO!!
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 21 hours ago

    Amanda Nash Oh, ha, yes, this is exactly what I just wrote in a letter to Mary Ellen and Lois (is that you, Lois, behind the EG name?) It does sound like the sale is contingent on the developers’ getting permits, and if that is so, there are still ways to stop it. I wish this weren’t at the current owners’ expense, but I think losing the house is at Gloucester’s expense.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 18 hours ago

    Enduring Gloucester Thank you Amanda! The Gloucester Historical Commission misses you! EG is a group of people but I seem to be the most talkative one of the group on this thread. (LM)
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 18 hours ago

    Enduring Gloucester but here’s a note from Debbie Downer: If the developer is using the 40-B process, no permits and no public input will be required.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 18 hours ago

    Amanda Nash Yeah, I wish I were there for the GHC now, it looks like there is a chance for the Demo Delay to go through, I sure hope so.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 18 hours ago

    Amanda Nash But isn’t 40-B for low income housing? This sure doesn’t look like low-income housing.
    Like · Reply · 18 hours ago

    Enduring Gloucester no it doesn’t, but all they need to do to qualify for 40-B is to make a percentage of the units “affordable”
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 18 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Judith Ross Chandler Why is it to late. Building looks in decent shape?
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 10:33pm

    Enduring Gloucester It’s in excellent shape.
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Bing McGilvray · September 9 at 7:08am

    Enduring Gloucester too late because it’s been sold to developers who want to demolish it and build a large condo-box
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 9 at 10:24am

    J.p. Boudreau Enduring Gloucester It’s not too late if it’s challenged.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 12:59pm

    Enduring Gloucester That should be the job of Ward councilor @Steven LeBlanc Jr.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Bing McGilvray · September 9 at 1:04pm

    Enduring Gloucester LeBlanc is on it. He does NOT like this!
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 21 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Laurel Tarantino With 19 Shares and 3000 plus viewings, I think it’s time the Gloucester Daily Times, Globe and anyone else we can think of does a story on this.
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · September 9 at 1:49pm

    Enduring Gloucester Ray? Ray Lamont? Where are you?
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 9 at 1:50pm

    Laurel Tarantino Calling him now.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 9 at 1:50pm

    Laurel Tarantino He is aware of it, has talked to Steve LeBlanc (The Ward Councilor) and is going to get back to me. Trying to get correct information and agrees that a lot of folks in town (my Mom’s age group) depend on the paper to know what’s going on.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 1:59pm
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Julie Haselgard Kesterson How did this happen.. I don’t remember reading about it in the paper, Gloucester has too many special buildings… tearing them down is just horrendous. If I can rearrange my schedule I will be there
    Unlike · Reply · 3 · September 8 at 3:06pm

    Enduring Gloucester We only learned of it when Sefatia posted it on her facebook page….Nothing in the paper….
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 3:15pm

    Julie Haselgard Kesterson Wouldn’t something like this fall under the Community Preservation Committee?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 3:23pm
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Flavia Stanley a look inside the house, it is ridiculously beautiful http://www.bostonmagazine.com/…/market-53-55-western…/

    On The Market: 53-55 Western Avenue, Gloucester
    BOSTONMAGAZINE.COM
    Unlike · Reply · Remove Preview · 2 · 9 hours ago · Edited

    Enduring Gloucester Thank you Flavia!
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Bing McGilvray · 8 hours ago

    Retha Jensen Can’t it be saved by naming it a Historic Site?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 7:42pm

    Laurel Tarantino They can raze it and put a plaque on it that says “Here once stood” sadly.
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 8:21pm

    Retha Jensen So sad..
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 8:24pm

    Enduring Gloucester Gloucester has virtually nothing on the books in the way of protection for historic buildings, streetscapes, views)
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 9 at 7:29am

    Retha Jensen That’s terrible. Hopefully, all of the research Paul Jensen did on the building can be preserved.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 10:25am
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Amanda Nash IS it too late?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 2:28pm

    Enduring Gloucester unless you have superpowers, Amanda smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 2:29pm

    Laurel Tarantino As one who was up against the rezoning down the Fort. We beat it when the Marriott was proposed, we beat it when Mac removed his proposal… no, we didn’t beat the big money, but we held it off a few good years. So I say, it’s NOT too late. Time for some in City Hall to grow a spine.
    Like · Reply · 2 · September 8 at 4:37pm

    Amanda Nash Right, until the sale has gone through and the demo permit is granted there is still a fight to be fought.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 8 at 8:18pm

    Scott Smith This is a pretty cool building and it’s a shame it might be coming down. There are a number of eyesores on the Boulevard that are better candidates for improvement.
    Like · Reply · 8 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Charlie Vogel that’s oqwned by Donald Roby and Paul Jensen
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 3:55pm

    Enduring Gloucester not anymore
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 4:21pm

    Charlie Vogel thank you for the response,i believe Paul and Donald ran it as a bed and breakfast
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 4:39pm
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Amanda Nash Have you any doubt?? But, seriously: yes it is too late to get demo delay in place for this one, but is there no room
    for negotiation? Are contracts signed? Are demo permits in place?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 2:42pm

    Enduring Gloucester They’re looking for height Variance I believe… if they get that, then the council truly is criminal. How can you give this kind of permit to one developer, but not a permit for someone to convert their barn to a garage right next door.
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Laurel Tarantino · September 8 at 3:29pm

    Bethany Ericson buyer is awaiting permission from zoning, apparently, Amanda.
    Like · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 3:49pm

    Amanda Nash Okay then I think there is still a fight to be had.
    Like · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 8:19pm

    Flavia Stanley what is the best tactic for us? call city council members? Is there a zoning board number list out there?
    Like · Reply · 1 · 9 hours ago

    Amanda Nash Contact Historical Commission and ask them. Mary Ellen Lepionka, Leon Doucette, Bob Whitmarsh.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 9 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Bethany Ericson Oh that’s my old home!!
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 8 at 3:13pm

    Amanda Nash Yup. I thought I sent this info to you already, no?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 3:15pm

    Bethany Ericson I didn’t realize it was too late.
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 3:16pm

    Amanda Nash Call them!! Argh, actually that could be sticky. I think folks are saying it is too late to get demo delay in place and use it; I don’t know if it is past the point of discussion?
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 3:17pm

    Enduring Gloucester Amanda- call whom?
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 3:44pm

    Enduring Gloucester definitely too late to invoke any demo delay (which in Glo does not even exist…) The house is in the hands of the new owners now……
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 4:19pm

    Enduring Gloucester but others could be saved by strong historic preservation ordinances, a more comprehensive historic district, and LONG demo delays. a 6 month demo delay may as well be nothing to some moneyed and patient developers
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 8 at 4:21pm

    Amanda Nash Oh I was just talking to Bethany when I said call them (tho I didn’t really mean it) because she used to live there, but of course I don’t really think it would help.
    Like · Reply · September 8 at 8:11pm
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Don Pollard The house is 1700’s. Ask Gloucester’s house history person about it.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 9 at 8:40am

    Enduring Gloucester we have Don. thanks
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · September 9 at 10:15am

    Enduring Gloucester Prudence Fish’s thorough report on this house is now a post on the blog Enduring Gloucester. http://www.enduringgloucester.com

    Enduring Gloucester
    All that endures, abides, and inspires in Gloucester, Massachusetts
    ENDURINGGLOUCESTER.COM
    Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 22 hours ago

    Don Pollard I just got the posting from Lois & reposted on my Fcaebook page.
    Like · Reply · 21 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Sarah Elizabeth What is wrong with these developers?!!! What are they putting in??!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 8:06pm

    Enduring Gloucester
    Enduring Gloucester’s photo.
    Like · Reply · Commented on by Bing McGilvray · Yesterday at 6:32am

    Sarah Elizabeth Dumb!
    Like · Reply · 22 hours ago
    Enduring Gloucester

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    Don Pollard Why are you tearing down an historic structure all in the name of money & progress. So much for saving black history.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 8:16pm

    Enduring Gloucester see Pru Fish’s story on this house for the details of how slaves were entertained there on their one day off a year…..wwww.enduringloucester.com
    Like · Reply · 1 · Commented on by Lois McNulty · 20 hours ago

    Laurel Tarantino I’m glad to see so many “Shares” and concerned comments. Thank you everyone for your concerns on this matter. I truly feel (and hope) this will not take place, too many people would have to hide! Let’s hope that if it doesn’t go to this developer, that the current owners get some kind of relief.
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 9 at 4:40pm · Edited

    Flavia Stanley If we want to prevent the jersey shorification of Gloucester, we really need to act on this! Count me in!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 17 hours ago

    Pamela Paul Hoysradt The planned building looks huge!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 8:18pm

    Heather Graves Such a gorgeous property.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 9 at 12:46pm

    Karen Connolly WHY ? is it happening …and by WHO ?
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 8 at 3:19pm

    Arol Oore Too bad. It’s a lovely house…
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 16 hours ago

    Mary Page Is there a height restriction for buildings?
    Hope this lovely house remains untouched
    Unlike · Reply · 1 ·

    Like

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