Nearly 300 Years of Shipbuilding in Essex, Massachusetts
Periwinkles Restaurant is located on what is perhaps the most historically significant area of Essex, a community famous for wooden shipbuilding for nearly 300 years, and one which has produced close to 4,000 wooden vessels from as many as 16 different shipyards. The land immediately adjacent to the restaurant is public land set aside by the town in 1668 "for a yard to build vessels and to employ workmen for that end."
Fishing Schooners, Cargo Ships, Passenger Steamers
& More Were Built in Essex, Massachusetts
Beyond this land lies what was the Story shipyard, established in 1813 and from which came hundreds of the Gloucester fishing schooners as well as the great racing schooners "Henry Ford", "Columbia" and "Gertrude L. Thebaud". Here also a various times were the yards of Captain Parker Burnham, Luke Burnham, David Burnham and Oliver Burnham. Across the street were the yards of Adam Boyd, Samuel Burnham and Moses Adams, as well as the spar yard of mastmaker Timothy Andrews. Just over the bridge at the current site of Perkins Marine was the great James Shipyard, established in 1838 by John James, followed by John Frank James, Everett James and Lyman James. Here in 1881, "Vidette", the biggest ship ever built in Essex was launched, totalling 810 gross tons and 191 feet of length. Also built in this yard was the "Mattie W. Atwood", the largest sailing ship built in Essex. Hundreds of Gloucester schooners were also built in this yard as well as the previously mentioned Story yard.
Although the great majority of vessels built in Essex shipyards were fishing schooners, the Essex yards also produced many cargo ships, passenger steamers, tugs, work boats of many kinds and quite a number of beautiful yachts as well.
A Taste of Essex History
So you see that this place where you now dine is indeed rish in the history of our town of Essex. We hope it may help to enhance the enjoyment of your meal, and of your time in this beautiful, historic town.
Essex Shipbuilding Museum
Much of Essex history is involved with shipbuilding, and this heritage is available for you to see and enjoy at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, just adjacent to Periwinkles. The museum is open at varying hours during the year. It is a fascinating exhibit, and definitely worth more than the small admission that is charged.
Periwinkles is indebted to the late Data Story for providing this historic summary, and to the Essex Shipbuilding Museum for providing the photographs. During his life, Dana Story was a local historian and author, and was regarded as the leading authority of Essex shipbuilding history. Dana was a shipbuilder himself, and the Story Boat Yard described in the first paragraph above, established in 1813, was run by Dana for many years. Historic boat building continues today by H. A. Burnham, located next to the Essex Shipbuilding Museum.