April 14, 2016 – The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage), in keeping with its long tradition of supporting the region’s unique cultural heritage, announced the 2016 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program recipients at the Commission’s Spring Meeting in Newburyport on April 14. Over the next year, the 20 grant recipients will be working to implement a diverse range of educational, interpretive, and preservation projects throughout Boston’s North Shore.

“We recognize the importance of supporting local organizations” said Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO, “and we are proud that we are able to award twenty partnership grants this year– not only in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Congressional Act that designated the Essex National Heritage Area but also because we know that this seed money greatly impacts the region by leveraging more investments in Essex County.”

2016 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Recipients:


Lowell’s Boat Shop
Seeking to enhance the visitor experience and usability of its site, Lowell’s Boat Shop will landscape a portion of its riverfront property in Amesbury. The nation’s oldest operating boat shop is a working museum and wooden boat enthusiast must-see destination that welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually. The National Historic Landmark structure stands atop a steeply slope riverbank covered with invasive weeds that inhibit access to the water. With Essex Heritage funding, Lowell’s will create a scenic overlook featuring newly installed native plantings, an appropriately scaled fence, and interpretive signage describing the history of the shop and its ties to the Merrimack River.

Union Congregational Church Restoration & Preservation Alliance
Beautiful in its simplicity, the Union Congregational Church was built in 1835 at the confluence of the Merrimack River and the Powow River in Amesbury. In 2010, as the church council contemplated the church’s sale and likely demolition, concerned neighbors pledged to restore the church if the council placed a permanent preservation restriction on its three buildings. Following conveyance of the deed restriction to the City of Amesbury the complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Now, several projects later the restoration alliance will use its grant to help restore the badly compromised roof of the 1892 hall attached to the main sanctuary of this Amesbury landmark.


City of Beverly
It is hard to overstate Nathan Dane’s impact on U.S. history. A son of Beverly, Dane was known variously as an influential delegate to the Continental Congress, the “Savior of Harvard Law School,” and the “Father of American Jurisprudence.” Less known was his 1808 construction of a powder house in which to store the town’s gun powder, firearms, and other military supplies. Long neglected and surrounded by a densely settled residential neighborhood, the brick structure is the subject of a restoration effort befitting its status as the last eight-sided powder house standing in New England and the second oldest publicly owned building in Beverly.


Danvers Alarm List Company
The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is a circa 1678 farmstead museum in current day Danvers. The 25-acre gem was the home of Rebecca Nurse, a 71-year old woman hanged during witchcraft hysteria of 1692. Thousands flock to the site each year. As the first of several planned capital repairs, the nonprofit Danvers Alarm List Company will utilize its Partnership Grant to repoint the massive central chimney using traditional techniques and materials. The chimney was rebuilt in 1909 by well-known historical architect Joseph Everett Chandler whose other notable preservation projects included The House of the Seven Gables in Salem and the Paul Revere House in Boston.

Friends of Endicott Park
Owned by the Town of Danvers, Endicott Park encompasses 165 acres, incorporating pastoral views, historic farm buildings, orchards, woodlands, marshes, and a trail network. Over 160,000 people visit each year. In partnership with the town, the Friends of Endicott Park are helping to convert a section of a former carriage house into a nature and environmental center. Staffed by naturalists, the center will offer educational programs to the general public, school groups, scout troops, and summer camps. The Essex Heritage grant will be used for the installation of exhibits and interactive experiences that will connect visitors with the park’s diverse ecological sites and habitats.


Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church
Employing a multi-phased approach the comprehensive preservation of a beloved city landmark, the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church is currently restoring the stained glass windows of its 1806 meetinghouse. Created in the early 1900s of imported Italian glass, the 28 windows and medallions are a visually important decorative and symbolic asset of the city’s last remaining meetinghouse. Following the findings of a recent assessment, the church will engage a qualified contractor to address the most pressing needs of three windows. Concerns include missing glass, cracked lead support bars, and buckling frames. Storm panels will be installed to prevent further weather damage.


Asbury Grove Historical Society
Through its restoration and interpretation of the “History Cottage,” the Asbury Grove Historical Society seeks to educate the public about daily life in a camp meeting community, circa 1900. Operating continuously since 1859, the Victorian-era cottage community in South Hamilton has a prominent role in the camp meeting movement. Over the past three summers society members have worked to stabilize and restore one of Asbury Grove’s 120 original buildings, a Carpenter Gothic-style summer cottage built in 1880. During the upcoming building season volunteers will use Essex Heritage funding to install a new, period appropriate roof and restore the cottage’s elaborate gingerbread ornamentation.


Buttonwoods Museum
With the goal of building community through a shared sense of place, the Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill is revamping its long running Past Finders summer program for children aged 6 to 12. Interdisciplinary learning objectives in math, reading, science, and health will be met by engaging the children is historical activities such as gardening, food preparation, boat making, map reading, theatrical performances, and native games. Healthy snacks and hikes along the Merrimack River will encourage healthy life-styles. Essex Heritage funding will be utilized to conduct a survey regarding family learning needs, to help market the summer program, for field trip transportation, and to provide four scholarships to economically disadvantaged children.


Lynn Community Association
In keeping with its mission is to promote pride in Lynn, the all-volunteer Lynn Community Association will work with teenagers to research and produce video re-enactments of important figures in the city’s history. The middle and high school students will be coached in research methods to identify and collect information about Lynn luminaries from local and online resources. Adult volunteers will work with the teens to formulate scripts for the characters, develop stage sets, music, and costumes. Lynn Community Television will provide directing and video production support. The project will culminate with the teens and their video being recognized at a community “dinner and a movie” night.


Town of Marblehead
Once commonplace in early 19th century Essex County and elsewhere, today’s remaining “ten footer” shoe shops can reveal much about the regional economy before the industrial era. To that end, the Town of Marblehead will hire a consultant to research and design an interpretive program for the town’s original shoe shop located in Fountain Park. With the primary goal of designing, fabricating, and installing interpretative panels at the site, the Essex Heritage funded project scope will entail researching and creating story boards, the exhibit’s visual elements, and its physical specifications. The town will restore the shoe shop as a separate project.


Parker River Clean Water Association
As a healthy environment advocate, the Parker River Clean Water Association believes in the power of experiential and emotional learning. To better support the protection of the Little River in Newburyport, the association seeks to educate area residents about the watershed’s value by fostering access to it via an enhanced trail system. Leveraging Essex Heritage grant funds, the all-volunteer organization will upgrade the current 5.4 mile network by improving trail head parking areas, installing trail signage, relocating existing trails away from sensitive habitat, and making the existing bike trail fully handicap accessible.


Museum of Old Newbury
“Captains and Currency: A Chronicle of the Perkins and Brown Families of Newburyport” will tell the story of Newburyport as a microcosm of American history as seen through the lens of its maritime enterprises and entrepreneurial spirit. Based on a collection of materials recently donated to the museum, the exhibition will examine the ways two very different families bolstered the city during its economic prime. While one family produced several illustrious ship masters, the other developed revolutionary printing and engraving technology. Essex Heritage grant funds will be to purchase professional exhibition services, an exhibit case, and movable display walls.


North Andover Historical Society
Inspired to create a shared community space, the North Andover Historical Society will enhance the historic landscape of its Parson Barnard House. Constructed in 1715 to house the first ministers of the nearby North Parish Church, the house is a significant example of First Period architecture. Working in partnership with the North Andover Garden Club, new permanent seating and interpretative signage will be installed to convey a sense of welcome to area residents and museum guests. The signs will incorporate QR code technology which will provide visitors with easy access to information about property and its prized 18th-19th century herb and dye garden.


Town of Rockport
Responding the site’s historical significance and the declining health of its brook and two ponds, a coalition of stakeholders is restoring Millbrook Meadow in downtown Rockport. Located across from Front Beach, the waterway hosted the town’s first sawmill and subsequently a series of industrial enterprises that operated well into the 20th century. Since the 1950s, the 4-acre site has served as cherished open space for residents of the adjacent densely settled neighborhoods. Following the current Frog Pond dredging project, the coalition will use Essex Heritage funds to remove the large population of invasive plants and replace them with a native plant shade garden and additional landscape elements.

Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport
Seeking to set the record straight regarding Cape Ann’s largely unknown role in slavery and abolition, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport will develop a web-based history trail prototype. The website will include an interactive map connected to primary source documents supplemented with images and interpretative text. Included will be the homes and churches of black activists, former slaves, slave ship captains, and others involved in the slave trade. The completed trail will be of special value to students and teachers. Promotional links to other history trails, educational organizations, and tourism agencies will help attract cultural tourists and a more diverse audience to Rockport and Gloucester.


City of Salem
The City of Salem will use its Essex Heritage grant to implement the first phase of a project to fabricate and install interpretive signs in Salem’s historic neighborhoods. The research and design of the panels was previously funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Each of the 13 interpretive sign panels feature maps, photographs, and text highlighting the historical significance of the individual Salem neighborhoods. In addition to fostering a deeper appreciation of the city’s heritage amongst its residents, the project supports efforts to diversify Salem’s tourist appeal beyond the witchcraft hysteria of 1692 by promoting its maritime and cultural heritage.

Historic Salem, Inc.
For most of its 60 years as Salem’s preservation advocacy group, Historic Salem, Inc. has been placing historical house markers on Salem buildings. This year, the organization will use a Partnership Grant to research and install eleven markers in the historic Point Neighborhood. The working class neighborhood is significant as an immigrant enclave and the wooden plaques, which will be printed in French, Spanish and English, will underscore the contributions its residents have made to the city. Historic Salem will share its research into title, probate, and social history records with building owners as a means of raising awareness and instilling pride within the underserved neighborhood.

Salem Sound Coastwatch
Salem Sound Coastwatch has been working since 1990 to increase the public’s knowledge, appreciation, and stewardship of the coastal resources of Salem Sound and its watershed. Through programs such School to Sea, the organization facilitates student connections to natural resources with experiential, place-based activities such as tide pooling, marsh exploration, and educational boat trips onboard the Endeavour. The 45’ vessel is equipped with an underwater camera, microscopes for viewing plankton, and access to a lobster trap. Last year Salem Sound Coastwatch provided place-based experiences to nearly 2,800 students. To support this year’s activities the organization will use an Essex Heritage grant to purchase binoculars and life jackets specially designed for children.


SAVE/Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment
Vinegar Hill in Saugus is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places due to its association with Native Americans dating as far back as 8,000 B.C. In addition, legend holds that in 1658 pirates made camp there to avoid capture by British soldiers. More recently, Vinegar Hill, with its picturesque views of Boston, was rescued from development by the nonprofit organization Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment or SAVE. In an effort to increase public awareness regarding the existence and history of this important yet unknown parcel of open space, SAVE will utilize Essex Heritage grant funding to design, fabricate, and install two interpretive panels at the site.


Andrews Chapel Restoration Committee
As though situated in the English countryside, the Andrews Memorial Chapel is the most prominent feature of Swampscott’s only cemetery. Commissioned in 1923, the town-owned chapel had long fallen into disrepair when it was adopted by the all-volunteer Andrews Chapel Restoration Committee. With the goal of rehabilitating the Neo-Gothic edifice for memorials, music concerts, and community events, the committee has successfully addressed many of building’s exterior and interior needs. The Essex Heritage partnership grant will be used to restore the main entry portico underneath the chapel’s distinctive bell tower. The work will entail resetting the granite entry platform and steps, and repointing the tower’s extensive limestone trim.


About the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program
The Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program is a matching grant program created to foster and support the stewardship activities of municipalities and organizations that share Essex Heritage’s mission to preserve and enhance the historic, cultural and natural resources of the Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County). Impacting many in the region, the 18-year old program has invested more than $1.5 million in support of the region’s nationally significant heritage.