His Spirit Keeps Fishing Heritage Alive
by REGINA COLE
When Geoffrey Richon and a small group of people started up the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center in 1999, he said it was a practical thing: in a city full of historical and art museums, none were dedicated to Gloucester’s industrial marine heritage. What’s more, the oldest continuously operating marine railway in the country, a historical landmark that hauls fishing boats and other deep-draft vessels, was in danger of demolition. To jump-start what is now one of the best tourist destinations on Gloucester’s waterfront, he mobilized the citizenry, bought the marine railway, and raised money “the old fashioned way – asking people.” He took people to the state fish pier and told them, “If you like the way the harbor looks now, you need to help me.”
Just as the Geoffrey H. Richon Company is well known for high quality construction work, its owner is well known as a peerless community organizer who doesn’t know the word `quit.’ Largely because of his efforts, Gloucester can boast about its professional theater, about the sensitive historical preservation of a number of downtown buildings, the nurturing of arts on all levels, the encouragement and support given to marginalized members of the community, and about the joie de vivre Richon brings to them all. It’s his spirit that makes him so well liked, unusual for a person who does this much good.
Soon the Center’s new addition will provide a dramatic showcase for exhibits that examine and interpret Gloucester’s relationship with the sea. The evolution of Gloucester’s fishing industry is a classic American story of enterprise, innovation and immigration. Opening in July the Center’s first exhibit in its new addition, called “Fitting Out,” recalls the old days when 80 active businesses operated in the Harbor Loop neighborhood including sail lofts, spar sheds, ice houses, chandleries, cooperages, blacksmith shops and a foghorn manufacturer. Fishing took place at sea, but the edge of the harbor pulsated with energy and productivity.
Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center
HOURS: Memorial Day to Labor Day: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
23 Harbor Loop