May 18, 2017 – The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage), in keeping with its long tradition of supporting the region’s unique cultural heritage, announced the 2017 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program recipients at the Commission’s spring meeting in Methuen on May 18. 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 and the Merrimack Valley.

“We recognize the importance of supporting local organizations and we are proud that we are able to award twenty partnership grants again this year” said Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO, “Over the 19-year life of the program we have provided grants to every community in Essex County – and we know that this seed money greatly impacts the region by leveraging more investments in the Essex National Heritage Area.”

2017 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Recipients:


Whittier Home Association
As an all-volunteer organization, the Whittier Home Association knows well the challenges of preserving and maintaining a historic house museum. In their case it’s the Amesbury home where abolitionist and poet John Greenleaf Whittier lived for 56 years and wrote most of his poetry and prose. In an effort to better protect and preserve the museum rooms where Whittier’s artifacts, furniture and artwork are displayed, the association will use its Essex Heritage grant to insulate the home’s attic. The project will provide the additional bonus of reducing the energy costs of this National Historic Landmark.


Town of Andover
Once the center of Andover’s economic and social life, the Shawsheen River is experiencing a renaissance of interest, both as a connection to the past and a beacon to the future. A key to building renewed support for the greenway corridor will be engaging young families. To that end, a team of community partners are taking a page from the National Park Service playbook and creating a Junior Ranger Program. Designed to support the public schools’ third grade “know your state and community” curriculum, the team seeks to engage 500 elementary school children in family friendly activities that will demonstrate the value of the river. 


Beverly Historical Society
With the goal of improving the visitor experience, the Beverly Historical Society is creating self-guided tours. The new tours will allow visitors to navigate the John Cabot House on their own, at their own pace, while focusing on the exhibitions and objects that interest them the most. This departure from the standard “greatest hits” guided tour will increase visitor awareness and understanding of Beverly’s rich history while reducing the society’s daily staffing needs. The year-long re interpretation project will advance in three stages: all exhibit labels will be changed; audio tours will be created; and new specialized tours will be developed and scheduled throughout the year.


Danvers Historical Society
Now in its ninth year, the Danvers Historical Society’s “Come Grow With Us” program provides a peaceful and quiet setting for young adults with learning disabilities. Students and their learning institution coach work at the society’s Glen Magna Farms where they take part in assigned tasks amongst the pathways and garden rooms of the historic grounds. Through the program the young adults are provided entry level job skills for the horticultural industry, including the safe handling of tools, punctuality, and communication skills. The historical society will use its Essex Heritage grant to purchase much needed tools, equipment and supplies to keep the program flourishing.


Seaside Sustainability
With the goal of empowering future generations to become responsible stewards, Seaside Sustainability offers programs that educate youth about the vital role the ocean plays in their daily lives. Through its Seaside Education Adventure program, participants age 8 to 15 get their feet wet and their hands dirty as they learn about their connection to, and influence over, the marine world. Seaside will use its Essex Heritage grant to purchase essential program equipment that will allow the organization to grow the number of participants in its marine-based summer program from six to 25 per session. 


Cape Ann YMCA
The Cape Ann YMCA is partnering with Maritime Gloucester and others to pilot Maritime Discovery Camp, a six-week summer youth program. Based on Gloucester’s historic working waterfront, the program will inspire learning, leadership and personal growth through sailing activities, marine science and maritime heritage explorations, both on and off the water. Approximately 120 campers ages 8 to 13 will participate in the hands-on experiences. Funding from the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program will enable the Cape Ann Y to provide scholarships to economically disadvantaged youth who could not otherwise afford to attend camp. 

Manship Artists Residence and Studios
Best known for his Prometheus Fountain at Rockefeller Center, sculptor Paul Manship developed a 15-acre site for his home and studio in the Gloucester village of Lanesville. Purchased in 1944, the property includes two relocated 19th-century buildings, a culturally significant landscape, and two water-filled quarries. The property and its occupants were central figures in Lanesville’s well-known art colony. The grant project entails the engagement of specialists who will document the site’s existing conditions and research its history. The resulting information will be incorporated into the group’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and a master plan for the creation of a culture center with an artist residency program.

Rocky Neck Art Colony
Since its rollout in 2008, the Rocky Neck Historic Art Trail has become an unparalleled interpretive tool for researchers and visitors seeking to experience Rocky Neck’s rich cultural heritage. Over the years, the art trail has served to further the Colony’s mission, foster the economic and cultural vitality of the Rocky Neck community, and undoubtedly helped Rocky Neck become one of the earliest state-designated cultural districts in the Commonwealth. Recognizing the need to remain relevant in 2017 and beyond, the Colony is using its Essex Heritage grant to make significant updates to its Art Trail materials, including a redesigned map and new racks cards. 

Sargent House Association
Prominently situated in downtown Gloucester, the Sargent House was built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Stevens Murray, a celebrated philosopher, writer and an early advocate of women’s equality. The house contains an exceptional collection of 18th and 19th century furniture, objects and documents. Last year’s annual inspection revealed that a number of the building’s cedar roofing shingles had fallen off due to corroded nail heads – a growing problem within the New England historic house community. The all-volunteer association, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, will use its Essex Heritage grant to restore the most compromised sections of the roof.


Creative Haverhill
In support of the ongoing renaissance of Haverhill’s downtown corridor, Creative Haverhill will coordinate the design and installation of two free-standing interpretative panels. They will be place on the newest section of the city’s riverfront boardwalk and adjacent to the recently completed Harbor Place mixed-use development. The first panel will celebrate Haverhill’s manufacturing history with a focus on its nationally significant shoe-making industry. A second panel will profile the Great Fire of 1882 which destroyed 300 downtown businesses. The exemplary project is one of Creative Haverhill’s many efforts to engage new audiences by producing cultural experiences in the state-designated Riverfront Cultural District

Rocks Village Memorial Association
Located next to a bridge crossing the Merrimack River in the Rocks Village neighborhood of Haverhill, the Toll House is a small building with a big history. Originally built in 1828, the 10-by-12-foot Toll House sheltered toll keepers, shoe makers, and drawbridge operators before Henry Ford purchased it for his museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In 2013, students from Whittier Regional Technical High School built a reproduction Toll House using plans provided by the Ford Museum. Supported by extensive deed, genealogy and newspaper research, the all-volunteer association will create an interpretative installation on life in Rocks Village and its importance to the surrounding county. 

John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace
In 1965, a system of 15 signs about Haverhill native and abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier were erected at historically significant sites throughout Haverhill. Over the years, the signs have disappeared and the “Whittier Trail” has largely disappeared from the public’s eye. Equipped with an Essex Heritage grant, the organization’s trustees will create new replacement signage which will be installed throughout the city. In addition, a guide book to the Whittier-affiliated sites will be reprinted with a new map and lines from Whittier poems for each site. 


Ipswich River Watershed Association
To better promote conservation and recreation, the watershed association will expand its branded network of educational kiosks along the 40-mile Ipswich River Water Trail. The river, a source of drinking water for 350,000 residents and businesses, is used by thousands of people every week during the paddling season, making it one of the most utilized recreational resources in Essex County. The project builds upon the association’s prior work though the installation of seven new wooden kiosks at key access points in four communities. Featuring a unified design, the kiosks will engage river users with a regional map, photographs, and messaging about the importance of protecting the watershed. 


Lawrence History Center
Built in the 1880s by the Essex Company to house its growing operation in Lawrence, the handsome brick building complex is now home to the Lawrence History Center. As part of its strategic commitment to honoring the city’s heritage, the center is focusing attention on the heavily-used courtyard entrance to its main building. The history center is using its Essex Heritage grant to restore the existing granite staircase. Bringing the stairs up to ADA standards will help the organization safely accommodate its growing number of visitors, volunteers and staff of all ages and abilities.


Lynn Museum
Lynn Museum/LynnArts will strengthen its educational relationship with the Lynn Public Schools by hosting all 450 of Lynn’s third grade students at the Lynn Museum. While there, students will be engaged in a multi-faceted learning experience that communicates a strong sense of Lynn’s identity as a consequential player in the evolution of American society. Highlighting Lynn’s diverse history, the curriculum’s emphasis on using primary resources and material culture will ensure the students develop essential skills in literacy and historical inquiry. Aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, the program enhances classroom instruction with hands-on experiential learning, helping students develop a meaningful understanding of how the past informs the present.


Goldthwait Reservation
Now celebrating its 70th year, the Goldthwait Reservation is a nonprofit land trust formed to protect and steward a 12-acre salt marsh in Marblehead. As one of the earth’s most productive ecosystems, salt marches are critically important to the health of the region’s coastal environment. Over time, the organization has amassed an enviable record of removing invasive plants, trenching to improve water flow and reclaiming a portion of the 65-acre salt marsh that remains in Salem Sound. Essex Heritage funds will be used to support the work of licensed site professionals who will remove contaminated soil and improve grassy areas used for outdoor recreation and nature observations.


Clean River Project
For over 13 years, the Clean River Project has been cleaning the Merrimack River and its shores. To date, the volunteer organization has removed over 100,000 tons of debris, more than 8,000 tires and 72 motor vehicles. And with good reason: the river, which provides drinking water for over a half-million Massachusetts residents, has been named one of the most endangered rivers in the country. Under the leadership of founder Rocky Morrison, the team will trailer its boats and equipment to a hard-to-reach section of the river in the Andover/Lawrence vicinity. Volunteers will receive safety gear and training on how to deal with hazardous and dangerous debris, including the newest scourge—hypodermic needles.


The House of the Seven Gables
Perhaps best known as the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, The House of the Seven Gables is one of America’s most beloved historic house museums. Rescued and restored in 1908 by visionary philanthropist Caroline Emmerton, the National Historic Landmark welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year. To honor Caroline’s legacy, the association is making plans to install a new historically appropriate roof on the iconic First Period structure. The Essex Heritage grant will help fund a restoration architect who will develop design specifications and oversee the roof installation by a qualified contractor.

LEAP for Education
LEAP for Education, in partnership with Salem Public Schools and Salem Sound Coastwatch, will produce “Healthy Harbors,” a marine science, service-learning summer program for 40-50 middle school students. Program staff will teach the students about marine ecosystems and empower them to identify and address problems that endanger these fragile ecosystems. As with most of its work, LEAP focuses on high-need students, in particular those learning English as Second Language (ESL), special education and economically disadvantaged youth. Essex Heritage funding will support a service project on Misery Island where the students will help the Trustees of Reservations preserve the fragile ecosystem.

Woman’s Friend Society
Since it’s founding in 1876, the Woman’s Friend Society has been a pioneering force in the charitable life of Salem. Over the years, the organization has provided job training for immigrant women, health services for Salem’s low-income population, and the city’s first kindergarten. Today, its contributions include providing affordable housing for 20 women who are single, working, or students. Built in 1811, the society’s Emmerton House is a Federal Period double-house attributed to the son of noted Salem architect Samuel McIntire. The society will use its Partnership Grant to restore the original granite steps and exterior doors of its National Register-listed building.


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 19-year old program has invested more than $1.5 million in support of the region’s nationally significant heritage.