Beverly, settled in 1626, is certainly one of the oldest cities in the United States. It has 17th-century buildings and historic lore, and even lays claim to being the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. However, as old as it may be, the Beverly of today is irrepressibly young at heart, says Leslie Gould, executive director of the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce. “Wherever I go in Beverly, there is such a cool, youthful vibe and spirit here,” she says.
Beverly is perched on the Atlantic and borders Danvers, Manchester, Wenham, and Salem. Though its coastline may be the city’s most famous feature, anyone who takes a closer look discovers a diverse collection of neighborhoods and people that give the community a distinctive and appealing character.
The heart of the city is its downtown, defined by the two main thoroughfares, Cabot Street and Rantoul Street. For the past decade, the area has been evolving into a vibrant neighborhood for businesses and residents alike. Cabot Street has become a destination for its small independent retail stores; visitors can look for a good read at Cabot Street Books and Cards, shop for quirky gifts at Roost & Company, or hunt out fashionable finds at the Worthy Girl consignment shop.
Perhaps the most iconic location on the street is the historic space now known simply as The Cabot. Built in 1920 as a venue for vaudeville shows and silent movies, the theatre features ornate ceilings, painted murals, and an ample balcony. For many years it was home to local performers Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company, but when the troupe came to an end, the building went on the market. In 2014, a group of locals banded together to buy the theatre and turn it into a venue for musical acts and popular movies, keeping its legacy alive.
On Rantoul Street, which features a commuter rail station, local company Beverly Crossing has built more than 400 units of amenity-rich housing in recent years, many with mixed-use components combining retail and residential spaces. These developments have a twofold goal: to let residents experience the quality of life Beverly has to offer and to help enhance the city’s economic and cultural growth.
All together, the changes on the two main streets have made Beverly’s downtown a new place, says Gin Wallace, executive director of Beverly Main Streets, the community group that has spearheaded the changes. “The downtown has really been transformed in the last 10 years,” she says. “It’s been a very focused and intentional shift.
A point of particular pride is the downtown dining scene, she says, noting that of the more than 30 restaurants, only one is part of a major chain. Hungry visitors can choose from organic fare, indulgent burgers, Mexican street food, Hawaiian-style poke bowls, and dozens of other options.
The arts are also central to the lure and identity of downtown Beverly thanks in no small part to two local colleges.
Montserrat College of Art has been located in the city center for nearly 30 years, bringing a constant stream of young and creative energy to the area. The school’s galleries bring art to residents and visitors alike, and Montserrat students interact with the community by holding internships with local organizations, working in the city’s small businesses, and volunteering throughout the city. Many stick around after graduation, finding jobs in the city or making art in local studios, says college president Kurt Steinberg. “Our students are definitely out in the community.”
A few miles outside of its center, the city’s other institution of higher learning, Endicott College, also contributes to its cultural life. Every year, in association with Beverly Main Streets’ annual Arts Fest, the galleries at Endicott host a juried show of work by artists who live, work, or attend school in Beverly.
Beyond the downtown, a collection of distinct neighborhoods give the city even more texture. On the western side of town, Prides Crossing is known for stately homes and sweeping ocean views. The adjacent neighborhood of Beverly Farms has a casual elegance. Its village center boasts a collection of independent shops and restaurants offering best-selling books, mouthwatering donuts, classic cocktails, and charming gifts. Across town, the Ryal Side neighborhood is a family-friendly up-and-comer that combines a community feeling with easy commuter access.
Uniting the distinct parts of Beverly, however, are a genuine sense of community and an energetic vibe, Gould says. On a recent night, dining at A&B Burgers, she was struck by the constant flow of foot traffic she saw on Cabot Street—people walking dogs, young couples, grandparents with their grandchildren. “What I love about Beverly is that everybody is out and about,” she says. “It’s not a sleepy little town.”
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