In Beverly, the arts, culture, and history collide in an inspiring ocean setting. By, Meryl D. Pearlstein
Tradition, spirit, and the arts are the backbone of seaside Beverly. Offering more of a small-city feel than its immediate neighbors, Beverly mixes the young spirit of a college town with the stability of an established residential and business community. Neighborhoods like Beverly Farms, Prides Crossing, and Montserrat offer green spaces not just for those with private estates along Route 127 but also for younger families living in single-family houses or singles occupying downtown apartments. This, together with 16-acre Lynch Park, earned Beverly the moniker “The Garden City” of the North Shore.
Inspiring controversy to this day, Beverly considers itself the birthplace of the American Navy, citing the departure of General Washington’s first armed ship, the Hannah, from its harbor in 1775 as qualification. (Neighboring Marblehead begs to differ, as the crew and outfitting of the Hannah originated there, so goes the dispute.) Another “first” inspiring continued discussion is Beverly’s claim of being the birthplace of the American industrial revolution, with the first cotton mill in the United States (1787) once located at the corner of Cabot and Dodge streets. Other sites, such as Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, contest vehemently, pointing to the unprofitability of the Beverly Cotton Manufactory as a disqualifier.
In Beverly, the arts filter into all aspects of life. Visual arts are showcased in Montserrat College of the Arts’ galleries, which are open to the public. Performing arts are free to the community as well, with outdoor concerts drawing spectators to Lynch Park and other locations. Pop-up poetry events are one of the city’s newest endeavors, with “The Improbable Places Poetry Tour” making appearances in venues as varied as the shallow end of a swimming pool or a bike shop.
The town has been a destination for music, dance, and theatre for more than 50 years, thanks to the North Shore Music Theatre’s celebrity concerts, musical productions, and children’s programs. Recently bought by a private organization, the North Shore Music Theatre is particularly well known for its summer stock program, with classic musicals and touring companies regularly including Beverly on their schedules. Endicott College’s new performing arts center offers the promise of even more arts for the community.Â The longest-running magic show in the country, “Le Grand David and His Spectacular Magic Company,” takes place every Sunday at the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre, a 1920 classic movie palace, originally designed with both live performances and movie screenings in mind. The theatre also showcases art films along with other more popular titles. Beverly’s second classic playhouse, the Larcom, dates from 1912 and was restored from top to bottom 30 years ago. It again delights audiences with the magic troupe’s second production, “An Anthology of Stage Magic.”
On the North Shore, Beverly has a reputation as a jazz city. Replacing the long-gone but cherished jazz club Sandy’s, Chianti is now as much a jazz spot as a Tuscan trattoria. Brenden Crocker’s Wild Horse Cafe mixes martinis with music, and Tryst serves up a weekend jazz breakfast (reservations are strongly advised).
Beverly gives residents another reason to stay in town and for visitors to stop by: the Cummings Center. This quarter-mile expanse of buildings was the original location of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation, known as “The Shoe,” and home to a flourishing industry in the early-to-mid 1900s. Purchased in 1996 by Cummings Properties and transformed into a collection of stores, restaurants, and businesses, the architecturally and historically significant site has created new jobs as well as new options for dining and entertainment, plus a museum setting for viewing historical shoe manufacturing equipment and vintage photographs.
With its seaside setting and beaches, vibrant downtown center, public outdoor park, stately homes and estates, affordable condos, focus on in-city employment and the arts, a public golf and tennis club, and five railway stops on a commuter route running from Boston to Rockport, you can understand why so many people call Beverly a city with a small-town feel.
Dream Theatre Beverly’s crown jewel of performing arts affords entertainment and a dose of nostalgia.
One of the few remaining grand movie palaces of the 1920s is Beverly’s own Cabot Street Cinema Theatre. The 750-seat Cabot screens “films worth seeing more than once” and is home to the world’s longest-running magic show, Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company, now in its 35th year. It was thanks to this production that the dusty Cabot was saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s. After a complete refurbishment, it reopened for movies in 1976, and then introduced in 1977 the magic show that has attracted patrons throughout the world. Today, Cabot is still pure vaudeville with filigree accoutrements, Art Nouveau murals, red fabric seat cushions, and a giant chandelier gracing a rotunda, as well as a tuxedoed usher to greet patrons. For Le Grand David, the audience enters through a dragon’s mouth into a world of illusion. Buy some popcorn, marvel at the elaborate production, and imagine yourself back in a time without the Internet, video games, or smartphones. 286 Cabot St., 978-927-3677, legranddavid.com, cabotcinemamovies.com.
On the Town Beverly’s best in shopping, eating, and relaxing
Dane Street Beach If pebbles on the sand and occasional rocks in the water don’t bother you, you’ll love this public beach in Beverly. When the tide is out, you can walk out far to explore the tide pools as you gaze across Salem Harbor. There’s a bathhouse, a kid’s play structure, and street parking. Dane St. and Lothrop St.
Lynch Park A 16-acre jewel with beaches, kayaking, an Italian rose garden, and spaces for music performances, Lynch Park hosts Beverly’s Yankee homecoming commemoration each August. 55 Ober St., bevrec.com.
The Balch House For a dose of 17th-century history, The Balch House provides a peek into one of the oldest wood-frame houses in the U.S. Tours via the Beverly Historical Society are scheduled Tuesday through Saturday in the summer and fall. 448 Cabot St., 978-922-1186, beverlyhistory.org.
Casa de Moda A destination gift shop with myriad goodies for viewing, smelling, and trying on; here’s where you’ll find the perfect ballet outfit, candle, or piece of jewelry for that hard-to-buy-for someone. 272 Cabot St., 978-922-8100.
Yarns in the Farms For the knitter, the Beverly Farms yarn store has it all, from materials to instructional books and knitting classes. 641 Hale St., 978-927-2108, yarnsinthefarms.com.
Prides Crossing Confections Fudge and handmade chocolates are North Shore traditions, and Prides Crossing Confections offers some of the best. Don’t leave without trying the chocolate-coated caramel turtles. 590 Hale St., 978-927-2185, pridescrossingconfections.com.
Marino’s Cafe A 10-minute walk from the Cummings Center and steps from the train station, Marino’s Cafe is a convenient choice for homemade sandwiches, salads, and entrees with an Italian flair. Don’t miss open mic, trivia, and wing nights. 200 Rantoul St., 978-922-9288, marinoscafe.net.
Anchor Pub & Grille Across from Beverly Harbor, the Anchor is a Beverly tradition for meals throughout the day and some of the freshest lobsters and clams in town. The bar promises a good scene into the wee hours. 20 Cabot St., 978-921-0504.
The Beverly Depot This train station-turned-eatery offers classic fare, from seafood to roast beef to aged steaks. There’s nothing trendy here, but the food is consistent and patrons of all ages are welcome. 10 Park St., 978-927-5402, beverlydepot.com.
Henry’s For more than 65 years, Henry’s has helped locals find the freshest in baked goods, deli items, meat, and produce. Ask for help assembling a picnic for the beach. 588 Cabot St., 978-922-3885, henrysofbeverly.com.
Wylie Inn and Conference Center You’ll feel like one of the Beverly elite at this 92-room inn along coastal Route 127. The inn sits on a 10-acre campus adjacent to the 1900s-era Tupper Manor (the conference center) with a striking fountain and lawn. Beach access and ocean views complete the feeling of living on an estate. 295 Hale St., 866-333-0859, wyliecenter.com.
Date of Settlement: 1626. Date of Incorporation: 1668. Zip Code: 01915. Population: 39,502 Total area: 15.4 square miles. Median household income: $68,407. Schools: Public ele-mentary: 5; public middle: 1; public high school: 1. Notable Residents: John Updike, writer; President William Taft (summer resident); Stu Irving, 1972 U.S. Hockey silver medalist; Henry Clay Frick, industrialist/financier (summer resident); Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., associate justice, U.S. Supreme Court (summer resident); Henry Cabot Lodge, politician/statesman (summer resident); Dave Leonard, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher; A.J. Barnett, FOX meteorologist; Paula Cole, singer.