Cozy but sophisticated, Annisquam is the hidden jewel of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.
Nestled along Lobster Cove lies the picturesque village of Annisquam, settled in 1631 and home to several families whose ancestors go back many generations. The name derives from Native American and translates into “top of the rock” a fitting nomenclature for this hamlet of rolling hills and flinty pastureland studded with granite outcrops. In the late 19th century, Annisquam was an important area for granite quarrying and shipbuilding, launching vessels into the cove from hefty granite piers.
The shimmering light and coastline pastures also attracted many painters, and soon, the area became an established art colony, Margaret Fitz Hugh Brown and George Loftus Noyes being two of the more important artists. Today, portraits of village folk by Fitz Hugh Brown are on view in the Village Hall.
A thriving and active community belies the first impression that the village is a sleepy hollow. Annisquam is home to writers, poets, musicians, actors, and filmmakers. The village boasts one of the longest-running community theaters in the nation — the Annisquam Village Players, a troupe of semi-professional actors whose summer musicals play to sell-out audiences.
The village’s annual Sea Fair held on the last Saturday in July raises funds to maintain both the historic Village Hall and the charming Annisquam Village Church (est. 1728 and housing an important organ and harpsichord by master instrument maker Jeremy Adams) and is an old-fashioned country-style fair of games, food tables, book and white elephant sales, and the famous Wax Works, a theatrical tableaux in which local residents pose as wax figures in scenes depicting history, literature, the arts and pop culture. For history buff s, the village Historical Society is a wealth of artifacts and showcases the c.1847 stage coach that brought villagers to Gloucester Harbor.
The Market Restaurant is one of the best on Cape Ann. Owned by two young chefs trained under Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, the restaurant sits over the lazily lapping waters of Lobster Cove. By candlelight, diners look onto a quintessential harbor scene, enjoying beautifully presented courses deserving of a Michelin star. Bookings are essential, except for the morning menu where breakfast and the paper make the perfect beginning to a summer’s day.
Two beaches stretch along the outer coastline and face Ipswich Bay. Cambridge Beach is private to village residents, but Lighthouse Beach is public and reached by footpath through pastureland that opens onto sandy shores looking toward Annisquam Lighthouse, first built in 1801, later replaced in 1851, and again in 1897, with final repairs completed in 2000. Th e foghorn is in use only in summer and only during daylight as not to disturb the tranquility of summer residents.
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Those hunting for antiques and oddities will be beguiled by the Annisquam Exchange, housed in the original one-room schoolhouse in the village center. Open Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day, the Exchange is nonpareil for treasures. Occasionally, one will spot a rare textile by the famous Folly Cove designers, a coveted find! Upstairs at the Exchange Art Gallery, paintings by local artists rotate through summer exhibitions and make for lovely mementos of this unspoiled community.
What would summer be without a good book? Next to the Exchange, the Village Library is open on Monday afternoons and Thursday evenings. Remember the rubber stamp that noted the due date on a yellow card? Th at stamp is still in use in the library; although the stamp may be quaint, the shelves are stocked with contemporary editions as well as historical literature and books by local authors.
Sailing is in the blood of Cape Ann residents and is no less the case for Annisquamers. The Annisquam Yacht Club (founded 1896) provides its members a haven for sailing, yachting, tennis, and friendship. The club has a limited number of guest moorings and can accommodate visiting boats up to 45’.
Where to stay? The Brynmere looks out at Cambridge Beach, “at the point where the river meets the open sea,” and has been a summer hotel since the late 19th century. Step onto the porch, through the screened door and into the warmth of another era. In 1905, the Brynmere was listed as one of Gloucester’s “grand hotels.” Although rooms are no longer $3 a day, the hotel is a favorite among those who return year after year to its charm.
By Beatrice E.
Featured image: Annisquam’s Lobster Cove (Credit: Ren Fuller; Courtesy: The Market Restaurant)