Natives peopled the North Shore for eons, drawn by the excellent fishing and, we can only surmise, by the beauty of the land as well. An early 17th century epidemic, probably smallpox, decimated our local tribes, facilitating the ability of English colonists to establish a foothold on Cape Ann, beginning in Gloucester in 1623.
The original settlers were Puritan, drawn by the promise of religious freedom, their presence most visibly noted in the infamous Salem Witch Trials, which actually inspired fear as far north as modern Maine.
But waves of other immigrants defined the North Shore as well. Portuguese and Italians made Gloucester synonymous with fishing, French Canadians and Poles arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries to work in world famous textile mills and shoe factories.
History is still visible today in countless historic sites like the Saugus Iron Works, museum collections, historic societies, even our shopping districts residential neighborhoods.
The grand captains’ houses of Newburyport’s High Street or Salem’s Chestnut Street speak to the wealth derived from the Asian trade, while many North Shore estates stand as monuments to 19th and early 20th century captains of industry.
Innovation by the ocean
Three historic firsts
Marblehead and Beverly share honors as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Salem is considered the birthplace of the National Guard, and, in 1938, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site became the first of the National Park Service’s historic sites.