GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 7, 2012

Essex's path to history

Walking path seen as boosting visitors' interest in town

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — A historical walking path, set to pop up in Essex this spring, will commemorate 14 of the town’s special spots in an effort to encourage visitors to pause and enjoy the town.

The sites, which span from the Hearse House and Old Burying Ground to the Old Methodist Church, run coincidentally along the same path as the town’s new Essex River Cultural District along the Main Street Causeway.

Robert Coviello, who chairs the Essex Merchants Group, said the walking path might help the town hang on to its visitors.

“It may attract more people to Essex, but what it might do more importantly is keep people in Essex, give them something to do as they’re walking along,” Coviello said. “What we’re trying to correct is the misinterpretation of Essex as a drive-through town.”

Though the path will break ground just a year after Gloucester’s reveal of the city’s own HarborWalk walking tour, Coviello said Essex’s plans hatched long before those of Gloucester.

”This concept goes back 40 years,” Coviello said. “Apparently, being a small town, we are a lot slower than most.”

But Essex is off to a strong start now, with a $20,000 grant from town Community Preservation Act funds and several thousand dollars applied to the effort from local businesses and donors.

Coviello and those working to create the trail used the funds partially to buy antique granite markers to install this fall at various locations, including the Old South Essex Engine House, Town Hall, the clam flats and the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. And, plans for another marker to explain Essex’s slough of antique shops are tentative.

”The fact that there are 30 to 35 antique shops on one street is pretty extraordinary,” Coviello said. “People ask us about it all the time.”

Each of the plaques that top the granite platforms will feature a scannable code that, when captured by a smart phone, links the reader to a website with additional information about the particular site.

”You can only fit so much on a sign,” Coviello said. For those who prefer to tour without technology, some of the money raised will go toward purchasing brochures with additional information pertaining to each site.

And, those interested in the basics will get that and more just from the plaques.

A sample plaque for the Essex Shipbuilding Museum features vintage images of local shipbuilders working, information about the craft, a blurb about Arthur D. Story, and a section about the museum’s current role in the community.

The ocean inspired teal and blue color scheme, mimics that of the Essex Merchants Group, signifying a continuity between the group’s goals and the path. The new sidewalks along the Causeway may act as a final thread in developing the group’s hopes into a reality.

”Since we have the new sidewalks and roadway, people are walking here more than they ever have, and with more people walking, more people will be looking at the historic sites,” Coviello said. “Each sign will lead them to the next sign and each historical site will draw them on to the next historical site.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.