Buildings in yellow, pretty much, removed in Urban Renewal I.
(A) Building on the corner of Duncan and Roger St. saved.
(B) Police Station and Fishermen's Institute torn down, turned into a parking lot.
(C) Building Center store saved, corner buildings removed for parking.
(D) Fitz Hugh Lane's Building saved.
(E) Some of these buildings saved and would become the Heritage Center.
Almy, Bigelow and Washburn Department Store fire. (18)
"Gloucester Wharf" by Eric Kreuzer
Originaly Fitz Henry Lane's building, also known as the "Old Stone Jug"
from Pavillion Mercato LLC - Birdseye - Gloucester
"Flash forward to 1959. Gorton's and Clarence Birdseye with his frozen fish sticks have pretty much put Frank Davis out of business, but things are still booming in Gloucester. They're bringing in more than 150 million pounds of food fish annually and it looks like things will only get better. However, in order to capitalize on the upswing, City Fathers realize that outmoded waterfront facilities need a major upgrade. The big question is, how will they get the money to do it?
Enter Urban Renewal, already a hot concept in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Revere, Somerville, and out as far as Lowell, Lawrence and Worcester. Don't forget, this is the Nineteen Fifties. People wear bow ties and crew cuts and definitely do not think outside the box. The whole Urban Renewal concept is based on the allure of that lovely Fifties romance with the brand, spanking New. And to get the New you have to destroy the old. Simple as that.
In fairness, the program was primarily aimed at eliminating substandard housing, and it did open up vistas and improve surface traffic. But our local planners saw Urban Renewal primarily as a tool to improve the waterfront. At the urging of HUD, the original Urban Renewal plan had been slated for a slice of “blighted” housing along the 128 extension and the B&M tracks. However, in the Fall of 1959 the City Council voted to drop the original plan and transfer their application for Urban Renewal to Gloucester's waterfront. The feds would provide ¾ of the funding. Gloucester's share was estimated at $850,000 but the Commonwealth of Massachusetts promised to pick up half of that amount. It looked like a great deal for Gloucester. So they got down to specifics.
Now it's December 1961, and a consultant named Dorn L. McGrath, of the Planning Services Group of Cambridge, pitches a bold concept to City Fathers. He proposes what he calls “a radical real estate redevelopment program.” He tells the assembled city councilors and other dignitaries that, “the waterfront is a naturally fascinating place, but we must keep foot traffic out of the marine railway area and other industries on the waterfront.”
The plan, which stretches from Vincent's Cove to the beginning of Harbor Cove, includes about 36 acres of waterfront property, and identifies 166 buildings, of which 96 are “substandard.” Sixty-five families will be displaced, but that's OK. The plan calls for each family to be given a $200 relocation payment. This typifies the kind of thinking that had been going on for decades in Gloucester, ultimately displacing hundreds of families in the downtown area.
The Fisheries Commission, Gortons, the Chamber of Commerce, Cape Ann Bank & Trust, the Planning Board, the Industrial Development Commission, the Housing Authority - Everybody likes it! Everybody, that is, except people like Margaret Mason, who lives down behind the Fitz Hugh (now Henry) Lane house. At this meeting she tells McGrath, “Where we live now is where we can afford. How are we going to be able to find someplace else for the same price?” McGrath says this is “an important question.”
It was a “radical real estate redevelopment program,” all right. In the end, among the demolished buildings were the Quincy Market warehouse, the Thomas Sail Loft the Gas Co. Building, Thurston's Garage, the Gloucester Hotel a multitude of bars, restaurants, retail establishments, dwellings and, of course, the old Frank E. Davis factory, which was built so solidly they had a hell of a time tearing it down. All gone forever – the teeming diversity, the organic fit of function and form that consultants now refer to as “authenticity,” supposedly much in demand among the tourist set… Gone."