The Moorland Hotel and Motor Inn
by CAM Library & Archives Intern Vivian DeRosa, January 2023
How did a star of Gloucester’s golden age of summer resort hotels survive two World Wars, the Great Depression, and a devastating fire — and turn into a Motor Inn? The Moorland Hotel’s journey from hotel to motor inn tells the story of tourism in Gloucester; from the rambling summer hotels in the early 1900s to the financial struggles in the 1930s-40s to the introduction of modern amenities, the Moorland shows us what a vacation might look like over 80 years.
The Gloucester Daily Times once referred to Moorland as a star in the “Gilded Era of Great Summer Hotels.” During the late 1800s, Gloucester had the largest concentration of resort hotels between Boston and the southern coast of Maine. Built in 1896 and opened in 1897, the Moorland was certainly grand — it included a 4 and 1/2 story main building, cottages, a large dining room, an annex, and a casino with a stage for musical shows. Hundreds of guests (including Alexander Graham Bell in 1906) came to visit. At Moorland casino shows, actresses such as Lucille Ball entertained audiences upwards of 350 people on summer weekends with shows featuring music, drama, and dancing.
But Gloucester’s golden era of tourism was not to last — the Great Depression and World War II put many hotels out of business. The Moorland closed from 1942 - 1945, but unlike many of its contemporaries, it survived. By the 50s, the Moorland was back to welcoming visitors every summer, opening a cocktail lounge. Finally, it seemed the Moorland had met its match when it faced the same fate that destroyed many Gloucester hotels: fire.
On October 29, 1958, the Moorland Hotel went up in flames. Gloucester’s firefighters arrived quickly to the scene, but flames had already enveloped the entire building, and a 50 ft chimney fell, nearly crushing a firefighter. No one was injured, but the hotel was utterly destroyed — newspaper reporter Bill Cahill noted that “it’s as though someone diced the structure with a meat chopper.” The Gloucester Daily Times wrote that the burning seemed to mark the end of the great summer resorts — “no more would the quietly rich and famous rock on the Moorland long porch overlooking the rocks and sea.”
Perhaps it was the end of an era — but it wasn’t the end of Moorland.
Hotel owner Myer G. Jasper decided to reopen the Moorland as a motor inn. On the same location at Bass Rocks, the Moorland Motor Inn was set up for business. Francis J. Minage served as the manager, and the motor inn featured modern amenities including a pool, tennis courts, and a cafe.
Over the years, Moorland drew visitors with its same oceanside location, but the Moorland’s changes over the years highlights what we look for in a vacation. How do we want to relax? A pool or a porch? How do we want to be entertained? A casino club, a cocktail lounge, or a cafe?
The Moorland Motor Inn finally stopped operations in the 1970s; however, you can still visit the Moorland Hotel and Motor Inn online and at the CAM Library & Archives, open each Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Consider it a vacation!