Rockport, Massachusetts, along with many other eastern cities, has a long and rich history full of growth and decline. Maturing over hundreds of years, this region of the U.S. has been a part of some major historic moments, from the Boston Tea Party to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
And in towns such as Rockport, Massachusetts, everything in between includes prohibition even before Prohibition. Read on to learn more about this beautiful vacation town’s history with alcohol.
Historically, we’ve wondered if we should be or not be. But maybe the real question is whether to drink or not.
About Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport is a picturesque seaside town in Massachusetts at the tip of the Port Ann Peninsula. It’s about 40 miles northeast of Boston. Rockport and the surrounding area were originally a fishing village and timber town back in the late 1600s and early 1700s. But it later became known for its granite quarries at the turn of the 19th century.
Its rocky beaches and proximity to Boston have long been a destination for vacation seekers. And as the need for granite subsided due to increased concrete usage around World War II, the artistic scene that had popped up alongside the ever-present tourists still remains to this day.
What Is Rockport, Massachusetts, Known For?
And that artistic culture is really what draws in thousands of tourists every year to this vibrant beach community. With over 30 galleries home to over 400 artists, Rockport, Massachusetts, is a true artists’ colony – proven by a little building.
One of the most iconic sights in Rockport is the little red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf, lovingly called Motif #1. It has inspired thousands of artists over the years and is one of the most photographed buildings in the country. One really hasn’t been to Rockport unless you have photographed, painted, or captured this popular red building in one way or another.
Of course, Rockport is also known for its rocky coastline, quaint shops that line the streets, and lobster rolls, but it might be known even more for its rocky history with alcohol.
What Is Rockport, Massachusetts’s History With Alcohol?
Authorities put prohibition into law on January 17, 1920. For Rockport, Massachusetts, however, it began long before then when 200 women decided to take control of alcohol usage into their own hands. This gang of women swept through the streets one day in 1856, pillaging and destroying all things alcohol or alcohol-related.
Their reasoning? With spending extremely high on rum and other spirits, men considered rum important and gave less attention to caring for their families. This group of women decided to take matters into their own hands.
Rockport’s revolt against rum (as it’s called) was deemed successful. Alcohol was no longer allowed in Rockport. And with a short exception in the 1930s, it remained a dry town until the 21st century.
Is Rockport, Massachusetts, Still a Dry Town?
A dry town doesn’t mean that people no longer drink alcohol. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, meaning governments don’t have the power to prevent one from consuming alcohol. However, local governments can make selling alcohol in their communities illegal.
Rockport, Massachusetts, was a dry town from 1856 up until 2006, when restaurants could serve alcohol. It wasn’t until 2019 when stores were finally able to sell alcohol. Today, while Rockport, Massachusetts, is no longer a dry town, there are still eight towns in Massachusetts that are.
What To Do in Rockport, Massachusetts?
Drinking may not be a big draw to Rockport, Massachusetts, but now that you know you can enjoy an evening adult beverage, what else is there to do in Rockport? Luckily, it’s a beautiful coastal town with an artistic vibe and a lot of history. When visiting Rockport, take the time to get past Massachusetts’s early days of prohibition. You can look forward to all that there is to experience in this quaint New England town.
Bearskin Neck is a quarter-mile stretch of land in the heart of Rockport. Extending out of Dock Square directly into Rock Harbor, Bearskin Neck is home to Rockport’s iconic Motif #1, the little red fishing shack.
Not only can you capture the beauty of a dockside village here, but you can also shop and dine to your heart’s content. The local goods, markets, and seaside seafood restaurants are housed in the clapboard, whitewashed buildings typical of coastal villages. You won’t find the glitz of big box stores or fast food restaurants at Bearskin Neck, but you will still find plenty of glamor.
Halibut Point State Park
Halibut Point State Park is a beautiful spot for a day hike and a picnic. The park offers stunning views of Mount Agamenticus, located 40 miles away in Maine, and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. Hikers can explore tidepools and enjoy vistas from its many rocky ledges.
You can’t camp here, but it’s a perfectly picturesque site for a day trip. Halibut Point State Park is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and take in some incredible views while enjoying Rockport.
The Paper House
The Paper House is exactly what it says it is – a house made of paper, newspaper, that is. The original owner, Elis F. Stenman, began building this unique structure in 1922 with the goal of it becoming his summer home.
Stenman’s grandniece is now the house’s caretaker, which is currently a museum. So you’ll experience the intricate works of art that make up this unique home. That includes a piano made of paper (or at least covered in paper). To learn more, you’ll just have to pay a visit yourself.
Thacher Island is a small island located one mile offshore from Rockport, Massachusetts. The island is home to the twin lighthouses of the Cape Ann Light Station, which is now a National Historic Landmark.
You can kayak over or use your own boat to visit the island. The Thacher Launch also provides transportation. Upon arrival, you can climb the 156 steps of either of the identical lighthouses to experience 360-degree views. Or, you can embark upon a hike around the island on Anne’s Way Walk, consisting of three miles of groomed trails.
The best way to experience the beauty of Thacher Island, though, is to end your day camping. Primitive sites are available, but the island’s beauty is worth it!
Is Rockport, Massachusetts Worth Visiting?
To drink or not to drink? That was the question. Today, however, it no longer needs to be a determining factor. Maybe the better question is, “What will you do when you get to Rockport?” With its storied history, rocky coastline, seaside vibe, and New England charm, Rockport, Massachusetts, is definitely a place worth visiting.
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