Gloucester Daily Times: Honoring craftsmen, both past and present
December 12, 2020
Artisans who worked on Cape Ann Museum Green honored
An 1863 landscape painting by Fitz Henry Lane became the blueprint as local craftsmen sought to recreate elements of the new Cape Ann Museum Green.
The 3.7-acre Cape Ann Museum Green boasts open space, three historic structures, and a state-of-the-art storage facility, exhibition space and curatorial center. It is located at 13 Poplar St., near the gateway to Gloucester just off Route 128's Washington Street traffic circle.
After its opening this fall, museum officials held a ceremony to honor the 14 artisans and craftsmen who worked to restore to the sprawling open space some elements of historic accuracy based on the Lane's painting "Babson Meadows at Riverdale." Their work includes the replicated field stone wall and the gates.
Another 1863 Lane painting, "Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester," and "Babson Meadows at Riverdale" inspired all involved in this project, said museum Director Oliver Barker.
"The contribution that they have each made to the creation of the new Cape Ann Museum Green is deeply meaningful and a real testament to the great talents that are so integral to our community," said Barker.
Those honored for the Johnson Quarry granite gate posts and Fitz Henry Lane-inspired gates were Bobby Frontiero, Gil Roderick, Stephen Goodick, Kyle Dutton, Terry Dutton, Peter Giordano Sr., Peter F. Giordano, Larry Hale, Dick Cooper, Harold Parsons, Tim Latoff and Thiago DaSilva.
Those honored for the 5,000 square-foot field stone wall were Peter Giordano Sr., Peter F. Giordano, Richard Giordano, Larry Hale, Dick Cooper, Thiago DaSilva, Roberto Ferreira, Marcio DePaula and Tim Latoff.
The ceremony also was attended by Suzi and Peter Natti of Blood Ledge Quarry, which donated the roughly 10-ton granite boulder that marks the entrance to the CAM Green.
Plaques were unveiled on the various structures on the property to honor these workers for generations to come.
William "Wilber" Ellery James and wife Janet James spearheaded this effort of the CAM Green Committee to create this extension of the downtown museum, with its focus on celebrating both the historic and the contemporary. Their vision led to the creation of the Janet & William Ellery James Center, located off to one side of the property to allow for more open space.
The CAM Green Committee wanted to celebrate the workers who labored on this project.
"These local people are super special. I've watched them in their chosen careers. They are artisans of immense capabilities and they take great joy in what they do. This whole (CAM Green) project was intended to develop something creative and innovative," said William James. "When I took out the picture of the Lane painting in 1863 to look at with them, they said let's replicate that wall and that gate."
James further noted how excited they were to have the senior Giordano come out of retirement. The senior Giordano orchestrated the building of the fieldstone wall, like putting together an igneous puzzle, using the plentiful rocks found throughout the property.
Born in Terrasini, Sicily, the 75-year old master mason was surrounded by his children and grandchildren as he was honored with the others.
In his opening at the ceremony, James talked about the historical diversity of Cape Ann that contributed to its development.
"Some 400 years ago, immigrants came to Cape Ann and they kept their traditions and culture. These are the people that built the boats, forged the anchors and built the community. They are the pillars of our economy and culture, and we have the finest artisans in the world — let's applaud them," he said. "Cape Ann is diverse in its cultures. People came from dozens and dozens of countries and they are the backbone of our community, both then and now. They cut the granite and went to sea to fish, and they all exist in the spirit of the people who do that work today."
Charles Esdaile, chairman of the museum board, said the artisans and craftsmen of Cape Ann are part of the creative energy and story of this place.
"I'm thrilled to see that these artisans will be memorialized in this way because it will help the residents and visitors to understand their contributions to the greater story of Cape Ann. The authenticity of Cape Ann is something that is so important to us as an institution," he said. "It's about understanding that we celebrate those here today and those who came before them. You have brought us your brushstrokes and that we will never forget."
Highlighting one group of immigrants common to this area, Suzi Natti gave a shout out to her fellow "Finns" who live in the woods of Lanesville.
When approached by James about the plaque on the granite boulder at the CAM Green entrance, she joked that it should be in both English and Finnish, a suggestion that materialized at the ceremony.
"Wilber (James) instantly saw that this was yet another way to tell the story of Cape Ann," Natti said. "Because of the quarry industry and the great wave of immigration in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Cape Ann attracted a large number of Finns. Our Finnish grandfather arrived in 1899 and quickly found employment in the quarries."
She noted that one of his sons, Eino Natti, worked as a brakeman on the Polyphemus, the engine that pulled cars loaded with stone from Blood Ledge Quarry to the granite pier at Hodgkins Cove in Gloucester for shipment all over the United States.
"The tons of stone that were quarried there supplied paving blocks to major cities, dimension stone for buildings, bases for statues, fountains, the facing for the Holland Tunnel in New York, and we're told, stone for the Longfellow Bridge, connecting Cambridge to Boston. The base for a statue of General Winfield Scott in Washington D.C., came from Blood Ledge, and at the time it was installed, it was the largest single piece of granite ever used for a statue base in the United States," Natti said.
Noting that the Finns were just one group of immigrants who came to work the quarries here, she said they came in sufficient numbers to impact the demographics of the northern part of Cape Ann.
"Even into the late 1950s, Finnish was still being spoken and saunas dotted the landscape," she added.
Natti expressed gratitude for the efforts to preserve this piece of local history.
"The rock tells its own story if you take a closer look at it. You'll see the drill marks where it was split," said Natti. "Our family is honored to have this stone represent one of Cape Ann's incredible resources — granite. This is literally a piece of Cape Ann."
About Cape Ann Museum Green
Although the Cape Ann Museum Green campus off Grant Circle is currently closed, the museum has a dedicated space within the refurbished Fitz Henry Lane gallery in which there is a special temporary feature of the two paintings and three drawings that Lane made of the Babson-Alling and White-Ellery houses, which are located on the CAM Green. These works are supplemented by other archival documents and furnishings that relate to the site and the people who lived in these historic homes. CAM Green will re-open next spring.