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From Beauport to Fenway Court: Five Houses at the Twilight of Gloucester’s ‘Gold Coast’ Era

June 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Gloucester 400+ Lecture Series at Hammond Castle Museum

From Beauport to Fenway Court: Five Houses at the Twilight of Gloucester’s ‘Gold Coast’ Era

Presented by Caleb McMurphy


Local historian Joe Garland dubbed the period between 1823 and 1929 the era of “The Gold Coast” of Boston’s North Shore. For over a century, from Nahant to Ipswich some dozen small villages nestled in rocky inlets, thick copses and salt marshes along this rustic coast were colonized for a second time; not by old world sailors or hardscrabble quarrymen as they had been before, but by the roots and scions of America’s growing class of elites. The city of Gloucester became an epicenter of the Gold Coast era’s most notable denizens. By the 1920s, colonists of all stripes had transformed Eastern Point several times over: from Samuel de Champlain’s le Beau Port, a “tongue of plain ground”, dotted with “saffrons, nut trees and vines”, and sketched with a scattering of indigenous inhabitants, to a row of eclectic mansions inhabited by a vibrant Bohemian set calling itself ‘Dabsville.’
Among these bright young things, products of cafe society and the new century, was an aging Boston widow whom they codenamed simply ‘Y’.

In this presentation, we will explore the twilight years of the Gold Coast in Gloucester through the private lives of four men who were undoubtedly products of the era: Leslie “Boosey” Buswell,  A. Piatt “Doc” Andrew, Henry “Harry” Davis Sleeper, and John “Jack” Hays Hammond Jr. The four unique homes built by these Gloucestermen: Stillington Hall, Red Roof, Beauport, and Abbadia Mare, better known as Hammond Castle, were each inspired, to one degree or another, by their connection to Isabella Stewart Gardner and her world-class Fenway Court museum, now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston. Each is also a singular reflection of the priorities of its own master: an actor, a doctor, a curator, and a sorcerer. What might these exceptional houses reveal about the critical moment in city history in which they were built, and how might this re-frame our understanding of them as city landmarks today?  
Caleb McMurphy is originally from Corvallis, Oregon. As an undergraduate, he attended Lyndon State College of Lyndonville, Vermont, where he graduated with a double major in Film Studies and History, with departmental distinction in English. His senior thesis was an extended analysis of race and racism in early American silent film, with a focus on the contrasting racial dynamics and broader cultural impact of the films of D.W. Griffith and Oscar Micheaux. He then attended Bowling Green State University’s school of Critical and Cultural Studies in Bowling Green, OH,  where he obtained an MA in American Cultural Studies, focusing his research on 20th Century American countercultural politics as portrayed in films of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as on industrial labor policy in the Hollywood studio system with a particular focus on the history of the Screen Actors Guild. After graduate school, Caleb returned to New England, and was hired as a tour guide for Hammond Castle Museum’s 2021 season. The following year, he was hired as the Museum’s Director of Visitor Services and Education, and moved to Gloucester, where he currently resides. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Watch and Clockmakers Association. 

Each 45 minute presentation will include a Q&A session with light refreshments available for purchase.

The series includes:

Tickets are $10 per lecture or $50 if you purchase all six lectures in advance.  All Hammond Castle Museum Members enjoy complimentary admission.


June 6, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Hammond Castle Museum
(978) 283-2080
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Hammond Castle Museum
80 Hesperus Ave
Gloucester, MA 01930 United States
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(978) 283-2080
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