Marblehead Historic District
Has Don Doliber lived in Marblehead all his life?
“Not yet!” he quips.
Doliber’s not finished with the bon mots, though. “I was born in an alley,” he says. “Mary Alley Hospital.”
Jokes aside, being born in Mary Alley Hospital is a point of pride for many Marbleheaders of a certain age, since it means they were actually born in the town, which hasn’t had a maternity ward in decades. But Doliber’s Marblehead roots go much deeper than Mary Alley Hospital: His family has been in Marblehead since 1629.
“By legend, they were the first European settlers in Marblehead,” he says. And legends happen to be Doliber’s specialty as town historian. Luckily, Marblehead’s Historic District—which includes sites like the harbor front, Fort Sewall, King Hooper Mansion, and the Jeremiah Lee Mansion—is filled with them. “Every house has a story, every street has a story, and every person has a story, and Marblehead is a great place just to come and see it,” he says.
There are legends of pirates and patriots, ghosts and gravestones—some say you can still hear the otherworldly screams of the “Screeching Woman of Oakum Bay,” who was said to be murdered by pirates, Doliber says.
Stroll down Lee Street to Crocker Park, Tucker Street, and Washington Street to see some of the district’s colonial architecture and historical plaques marked with the “Sacred Cod,” a symbol of hospitality that “reminds us that our living came from the ocean, that we made our money in salted cod,” Doliber says.
The architectural charm isn’t the only reason to explore, though. Beth Ferris, executive director of the Marblehead Chamber of Commerce, points to the district’s great shops, restaurants, art studios, and friendly people. “There are nice little treats around the corner everywhere you go,” she says.
Ferris jokes that she’s still considered a newcomer even though she’s lived in town almost 30 years. But truly, you don’t need to be a 10th-generation townie to be a true Marbleheader.
“If you love Marblehead,” Doliber says. “You’re a Marbleheader.”
Gloucester has been synonymous with fishing for centuries, and its busy working waterfront proves that the industry is still alive and well, even if it’s shrunk significantly from just a generation ago. But there’s been a lot of other change, too, which has put Gloucester on a different kind of map: the tourist map.
As little as 15 years ago, tourism was something of a “dirty word” in Gloucester, but “now it’s embraced,” says Joey Ciaramitaro, creator of the popular blog Good Morning Gloucester and co-owner of Captain Joe and Sons Lobster.
He says Gloucester has always had beautiful beaches and boating, but today the downtown is a world-class tourist destination, with The Beauport Hotel as its crowning glory. There are also great restaurants (such as The Franklin Cape Ann, Short & Main, Tonno, Sugar Magnolias, and the newest addition, Yella on the Water), shops (like The Brass Monkey and Pastaio Via Corta), and events (summer block parties and the Harvest Music Festival). And then there’s the Cape Ann Museum, which Ciaramitaro calls an “unbelievable treasure. There are paintings from super-famous painters and artifacts from the old fishing industry.”
Karen Hanson, license partner at Engel & Völkers By the Sea, which has an office in Gloucester, loves the way Gloucester has married its strong community and rich heritage with a creative revitalization of its downtown. “My favorite thing about downtown Gloucester is just the mix of people. It’s a working waterfront,” she says. “It’s so exciting to see the mix of the old and the new.”
Of course, one of Gloucester’s most important treasures is the ocean itself, which continues to be central to Gloucester’s identity and always will be. “I don’t know too many cities that are right on the water,” says Hanson. “There’s always something going on in downtown Gloucester.”
Every summer, tourists from around the world flock to Oak Grove on Martha’s Vineyard to see the colorful, whimsical gingerbread cottages on the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. But did you know that just such a community exists right here on the North Shore, complete with pretty Victorian-era cottages and a rich history of its own?
It’s the Asbury Grove Historic District, a Methodist camp meeting community in Hamilton that was established in 1859 as part of the camp meeting movement. “We like to think of ourselves as a hidden gem,” says William Zoldak, president of the Asbury Grove Historical Society.
Asbury Grove, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was established as a response to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. “It was specifically for the people on the North Shore so they wouldn’t have to travel,” Zoldak says.
Today, Asbury Grove is still an active community, with a mix of summer and year-round cottages and activities throughout the summer season. Asbury Grove also welcomes visitors for free tours of its historic grounds, including during Essex National Heritage Area’s annual Trails and Sails event (held September 20-29 this year), when visitors can see inside some of the cottages as well as the chapel, tabernacle, library, a historically preserved cottage museum, and other sites.
Main Street Rowley
Rowley’s meandering Main Street on Route 1A, with its antiques shops, grassy town common, and neighborhood Rowley Pharmacy, has retained the same small-town feeling for decades. “You run into people on the sidewalk,” says Bill Mehaffey, co-owner of Mehaffey Farm and a descendant of Rowley’s first European settlers. “You run into people that you know and you stop and chat.”
For outsiders, it may seem like the town hasn’t changed much. But Mehaffey and other lifelong Rowley residents have seen the town’s population grow and its farmland shrink as it’s welcomed more people who commute from Boston and want to live “in the country.”
Through those changes, Rowley has maintained that elusive balance between tradition and transformation. A great example of that is the new Briar Barn Inn, a boutique hotel with a restaurant and spa that’s proving as popular with locals as with out-of-towners. “We want to blend the neighborhood place and feeling and doing the specialty events,” says Briar Forsythe, owner and operator of Bramble Hospitality, the group behind Briar Barn Inn and its sister property, Willowdale Estate in Topsfield. “I think the community is very excited that we’re here.”
Briar Barn Inn might be new, but its aesthetics and sensibilities blend seamlessly with the historic downtown. Similarly, Rowley’s farmland might not be as extensive as it used to be, but the town still has lots of open space and conservation land.
Jena Haag, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Topsfield who’s lived in Rowley 11 years, might be considered a newcomer by some, but her love for Rowley runs deep. “I do everything I can in Rowley,” she says, which includes grabbing a scone from Old Town Bread or a slice of pizza from the Rowley Pizza Factory. “We’ve maintained that small town, neighborly kind of feel.”
When a big new development enters a tight-knit town, residents worry about everything from increased traffic to how it’ll change the town’s character.
But Lynnfield residents didn’t need to worry about MarketStreet. There you can find people outside mingling with their neighbors, playing with their kids and dogs, and enjoying the small-town feeling of being together, ice skating, doing yoga, or having an ice cream in the grass.
“Lynnfield is such a tight, wonderful community,” says Lorraine Sacco, co-founder of the Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Alliance and Lynnfield resident for more than 40 years. “MarketStreet has literally brought communities together.”
MarketStreet has more than 80 restaurants (such as Davio’s, Gaslight, and Otto Pizza) and shops (from lululemon athletica and Vineyard Vines to Polka Dog Bakery), but as Sacco notes, it’s so much more than shopping. Unlike a typical mall, MarketStreet is an open-air venue with shops surrounding The Green, a community gathering space that invites play with free weekly fitness classes from June to October, movie nights, live music, a wintertime ice skating rink, and other outdoor fun.
“It’s nice to be outside,” agrees Danielle Berdahn, Lynnfield resident and co-owner of Yella restaurants in Andover and Gloucester. “In New England I think that we hibernate a lot of the year, and to have that opportunity to be outside and walking around encourages that outdoor entertainment vibe.”
The phrase “best of both worlds” gets tossed around a lot, but we’d like to make the case for using it to describe Amesbury. On one end are the characteristic brick mill buildings in and around Market Square, Amesbury’s bustling heart, where you can sit on the sidewalk with a coffee and scone outside Market Square Bakehouse and watch the town’s comings and goings; grab a drink at Crave and a pizza at Flatbread; see a concert and marvel at the beautiful Powow River falls in the Amesbury Millyard; and take in the arts during the annual Open Studios & More festival in November.
Right up the street, though, is another side of Amesbury that’s just as fun and vibrant, but with a distinctly rural sensibility: Cider Hill Farm, located just over a mile from Market Square.
“We consider ourselves very much a part of the downtown,” says Jennifer Durocher, Cider Hill Farm’s general manager. And over the years, they’ve done much to make Cider Hill a community destination. On top of the traditional CSA, pick-your-own, and farm stand, store, and bakery, Cider Hill has added Cider Hill Cellars, with free hard cider tastings on Saturday and Sunday, plus a food truck called the PitchFork and monthly farm tours.
It also has a packed event schedule that includes the Golden Apple Makers Market in the spring, regular farm yoga classes, and this fall, weekend autumn festivals, Spooky Halloween Family Yoga on October 27, and the Under the Stars: Cider & Cheese event on November 2.
“The most important thing to do is to continue the vision of driving community,” says Valerie Rosenberg, Cider Hill’s events and marketing coordinator. “The mission of the farm is just that; it’s about cultivating community.”
North Andover has a good problem: It’s hard to choose a favorite neighborhood.
“It depends on where you are in your life,” says Deborah Lucci, team leader of the Deborah Lucci Team of William Raveis in Andover. And she’s right. North Andover almost feels like it has several downtowns, packing a variety of landscapes into its 28 square miles. And with great schools, lots of open space, and a stop on the commuter rail, North Andover really does have something for everyone.
For young urbanites: The Machine Shop Village District is a beautiful example of how to revitalize historic mill buildings. The East Mill and West Mill have become exciting mixed-use properties featuring airy lofts with exposed brick and beams, great restaurants (visit Jade, Jaime’s Restaurant, and Good Day Café), and lots of other businesses.
For the country mouse: For a quieter, more bucolic landscape, meander to the area around Lake Cochichewick, which both Brooks School and North Andover Country Club overlook. “It’s rural,” Lucci says. “It has a quieter feel to it, and good-sized lots of land.” Nearby Smolak Farms charms visitors with its farm stand, pick-your-own heirloom apples, animals, and special events like the Whim Dinner Series.
For history lovers: With the Town Common and historic homes like the Parson Barnard House, the Stevens-Coolidge Place, and the Stevens Estate, the area around Osgood Street and the Old Center Historic District provides a quaint glimpse into North Andover’s past. “I love the Common area,” Lucci says. “That almost feels like a small center of town over there.” Look for events like North Andover’s annual sheep shearing festival on the
For downtown dwellers: North Andover’s Main Street is a bustling district that’s perfect for strolling. It’s home to the library and post office, North Andover Farmer’s Market, plus shops like Dani Kaye, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, and Wine ConneXtion.