Rockport is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,952 at the 2010 census. Rockport is located approximately northeast of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula. It is directly east of Gloucester and is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.
Before the coming of the English explorers and colonists, Cape Ann was home to a number of Native American villages, inhabited by members of the Agawam tribe. Samuel de Champlain named the peninsula "Cap Aux Isles" in 1605, and his expedition may have landed there briefly. By the time the first Europeans founded a permanent settlement at Gloucester in 1623, most of the Agawams had been killed by diseases caught from early contacts with Europeans.
The area that is now Rockport was simply an uninhabited part of Gloucester for more than 100 years, and was primarily used as a source of timber—especially pine-for shipbuilding. The area around Cape Ann was also one of the best fishing grounds in New England. In 1743, a dock was built at Rockport harbor on Sandy Bay and was used for both timber and fishing. By the beginning of the 19th century, the first granite quarries were developed, and by the 1830s, Rockport granite was being shipped to cities and towns throughout the East Coast of the United States.
Rockport had consisted primarily of large estates, summer homes, and a small fishing village while Gloucester was becoming increasingly urbanized. Rockport was set off as a separate town in 1840 as its residents desired a separate enclave with an identity of its own, and was incorporated in 1840. As the demand for its high-grade granite grew during the Industrial Revolution, the quarries of Rockport became a major source of the stone. A distinctive form of sloop was even developed to transport the granite to parts far and wide until the second decade of the 20th century. For many years, there was a large number of residents of Scandinavian descent, dating from the days when Finnish and Swedish immigrants with stone-working expertise made up a large part of the workforce at the quarries.
Although the demand for granite decreased with the increased use of concrete in construction during the Great Depression, Rockport still thrived as an artists colony—which began years earlier due in part to its popularity as a vacation spot known for its rocky, boulder-strewn ocean beaches, its history as a prominent fishing harbor, and its mentioned in media like that of Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous. A red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf in Rockport, known popularly as "Motif Number 1", has for years been one of the most famous sites on Cape Ann as the subject of hundreds of paintings and photographs, and visited is by aspiring artists & tourists alike from all over the world. Rockport is the home of the Rockport Art Association.
In 1856, a gang of 200 women led by Hannah Jumper swept through the town and destroyed anything containing alcohol in what is called "Rockport's revolt against rum" and banned alcohol from the town. Except for a period in the 1930s the town remained one of 15 Massachusetts dry towns. The town remained dry for many years until recently, when it was voted that alcohol could be served at restaurants, but liquor stores are still illegal.
In 1933, the Rockport American Legion Post. No. 98 built a scale model of "Motif No.1" for the Legion Parade, which was held in Chicago, Illinois, site of the 1933 World's Fair. Designed by Aldro Hibbard and Anthony Thieme, with participation by the RAA, Board of Trade and townspeople "from high to low", the float was commissioned in June, completed by the end of September, and driven in daylight only, from Rockport to Chicago, in less than a week. On October 3, 1933, among 200 floats, it won first place in the historic float competition. Upon the float's return to Rockport, a crowd of over 4,000 people lined up and down the Great Hill (5 corners) to welcome the float home.
Today Rockport is primarily a suburban residential and tourist town, but it is still home to a number of lobster fishermen and artists. Its rocky beaches and seaside parks are a favorite place for visitors to walk and contemplate the power and grandeur of the Atlantic Ocean.