Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ocean View

People on the Land at Halibut Point, Part 2
Alfred J. Wiggin, Pigeon Cove Harbor, painted in 1846
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Recreational visitors began to find tranquility in the North Village of Rockport in the 1840s. Summer boarding houses that hosted the bright adventurers of Cambridge and Boston expanded their comforts into seasonal hotels as the railroad reached Town from the City. The mastermind of development potentials in Pigeon Cove was Eben Phillips of Swampscott.

Eben Phillips (1808-1875)1
The train reached Rockport in 1862. Eben Phillips had begun acquiring land north of Pigeon Cove in 1855.2 The transportation link to Boston freed the seaside pastures from the humble limits of subsistence farming. Rail patrons could commute to the occupations and wealth of the cosmopolitan world. Society flowed in, guided by entrepreneurs. Diverse livelihoods for local youth opened up both on and off Cape Ann. The family farms that had always been a marginal solution for children, and to their own estate integrity, gave a new harvest to recreational and suburban living.

Promotional map of Ocean View
Rockport Town Hall archives
Eben Phillips began his offering with 175 residential lots bordering Phillips Avenue, a mile and a half in length. His advertisement made a bridge to elysian living for city folk: Broad off the shore, easterly, is the old ocean, spread out before you in all its magnitude and grandeur.... in connection with the bathing and the healthy and invigorating atmosphere, the many pleasant drives, the rambles in the woods and by the shore, and the excellent facilities for gunning fishing, and sailing, make the place one of unequalled attraction for those who are in quest of health or pleasure.

The intersection of Babson and Ocean Avenues, c. 1870s
Phillips stereograph, Cape Ann Museum
The newspaper cheered on the progressive foresight of Eben Phillips and his local partner. "Mr. George Babson is pushing ahead the work on Ocean Avenue. This enterprise is one of great importance, and it is hoped that it will prove profitable to Mr. B. He has been assiduous in his labors and is well deserving of a handsome pecuniary reward. It has already advanced the interests of this community, enhancing the value of real estate and centering an interest here that will be of great advantage. It will be but a brief time before fine residences will dot these vacant lots, and the public will then more fully appreciate the sagacity which prompted the improvement." 3

Meadowcliff, on Phillips Avenue4
Mr. John Stowell of Charlestown began work on his Meadowcliff overlooking the ocean at Andrews Point in 1875. As he refined its surrounding moors the estate came to be considered "one of the most beautiful places on Cape Ann, if not the Massachusetts coast." 5

The Meadowcliff landscape4
"Year by year, Mr. S. who has rare artistic taste, is adding to the beauty of this place which is now as beautiful as a poet's dream." 5

Meadowcliff on the corner of Phillips Avenue, adjacent to Halibut Point
From the G. M. Hopkins Atlas, 1884
The acquisitional momentum of Ocean View surged past Meadowcliff into the pastures and moors of Halibut Point. Embryonic Glen Avenue appeared on the map next to John Stowell's estate, aimed northwest into the heart of Andrews Hollow. In 1873 The Phillips purchased the twenty acre lot from Mary Babson, between Babson Farm and the Gott House (see above). A short segment of roadway could now connect the Ocean View neighborhood with Gott Avenue and its surrounding open land.

George H. Walker lithograph, 1886
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library
Peninsulas jutting right, bottom to top, into the Ipswich Bay:
Andrews Point, Halibut Point, Folly Point

The Phillips Estate sent a team of cartographers aloft in a hot air balloon to portray the extent of their realm, published in the Walker lithograph. But the founders of Ocean View did not live to pursue further development. Eben had died in 1875 and his widow Maria in 1882. In 1885 the twenty-acre Babson Farm parcel was sold to Thomas Gaffield. Except alongside Phillips Avenue much of the Andrews Hollow acreage remained pristine for a century.

The checkered stripe discernible in Walker's aerial view, crossing the crest of Halibut Point, outlines Thomas Gaffield's early endeavors to pick up the baton of development from the Phillips. 

1. D. Hamilton Hurd, History Of Essex County Massachusetts, With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers And Prominent Men, 1888.
2. Marshall Swan, Town on Sandy Bay, 1980.
3. Cape Ann Advertiser, May 7, 1869
4. Rockport As It Was, Town of Rockport Picture History Committee, 1975. Photos from the Sandy Bay Historical Society.
5. Gloucester Daily Times, May 9, 1893.

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