All About Wingaersheek
A picture of Wingaersheek
beach in 1890. Notice the
prevalence of sand dunes
around the beach.
'Discovered' by John Smith
Captain John Smith was the first white man to set foot on Wingaersheek (1614) and on his
return later to England wrote that this was the most beautiful beach he had seen in his
world travels. Other early discoverers had named the area "Vineland" because of the beauty
and lush growth of fruit bearing bushes and vines. In later years new settlers arrived to find
the area occupied by friendly Indians who had established their own culture, living on
seafood, wild berries, fruits and native plants. Numbers of deer and varieties of birds
produced the complete diet. Bow and arrow was used for both fishing and hunting.
Venison and fish were cooked with special flavor on sticks over salt-saturated driftwood
fires. A favorite drink was a tea made with red tassels of Sumac " to keep sickness away."
First Home Built by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson built the first home on the beach. He was soon followed by other
settlers and by visitors who enjoyed the variations of New England clam bakes using salted
driftwood fires over pudding stones covered by lobsters, clams, fish, and rick week from
Bald Rocks. It is difficult to believe the true volume of seafood. Lobsters were simply
picked up around the rocks by anyone who desired them. Not until later years were lobsters
sold in the market at one cent per large lobster. Clams were so profuse they were shipped
as ballast by boat from Annisquam and used in France for fertilizer
Wingaersheek grows in stature
In the early 1900's the news of Wingaersheek spread over New England about the
mountainous sand dunes, Ipswich Bay with its multi-colored waters, its varied-colored
rocks, and the incredible beauty of its fruit bearing trees, bushes and flowers. The tales of
its abundance of seafood spread everywhere.
Each morning dozens of horse drawn surreys arrived for the day which was spent canoeing
on the pond exploring the dunes, enjoying the beach, searching Bald Rocks for the
hundreds of stone arrow heads used 300 years earlier. The center attraction, however, was
the food. Lobster was no longer just boiled. A revolution in cooking was taking place. The
lobsters were stuffed with herbs and spices from the nearby English Stonecutter's gardens
which produced a delicacy never before experienced. This was served with the already
famous "Beach Chowder". Unique "Fruit Pie" made with local blueberries, currants,
raspberries, and black walnuts from trees that overhung the restaurant remained for those
who could make it.
The news spread like wildfire. The Wingaersheek Hotel opened and catered to the carriage
trade of Salem and Boston, and eventually Washington, D.C. Presidents Roosevelt and Taft
chose to vacation here to savor the now-famous new-found seafood dishes with herbs
Today, the Wingaersheek area is almost exclusively a residential area. Wingaersheek
Beach is a public beach for everyone to enjoy and is especially a favorite for families with
young children because of the very gradual slope of the beach and war, protected waters. It
is almost a forgotten part of Gloucester, which carries on a rich tradition of fishing.
As America's oldest seaport -- and one of the most productive in the nation -- Gloucester
has inspired writers as diverse as Rudyard Kipling, Longfellow, T. S. Elliot, and Charles
Olson; painters such as Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer, and Marsden Hartley; and, most
recently, readers of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm.
When Bostonians say they're going to "the Cape," they're generally talking about Cape Cod.
Fewer people consider regular weekends at the northern Cape, Cape Ann, which is a
shame because it's equally convenient, usually much less crowded, and lovely at any time
of year. But for those of us who know this area, that's just fine with us.
How Wingaersheek Got It's Name
The origin of the name "Wingaersheek," which its promoters gave to their summer colony at
the east end of Coffin's Beach in the 1890s, remains a mystery. Some historians thought it
was the Indian name for Cape Ann, some thought it was the name of the indian tribe who
settled the region, while James Pringle suggested that it might be a corruption of the Dutch
"Wyngaerts Hoeck," a land abounding in grapes.
Whatever the name, to us it still means beautiful.
A picture of Wingaersheek
beach in 2005 from
approximately the same
vantage point. Preservation of
sand dunes has kept the beach
much as it was over 100 years