For more than 50 years, the Annisquam Cotton Mill dominated downtown Rockport, filling the area along Broadway between School Street and Main Street. In operation since 1847, the mill was destroyed by fire in 1882. Even though the mill never reopened, its ruins remained standing for another 22 years, until they were finally removed in 1904. As I’ve previously noted, the fire spared one building, the machine shop, built in 1864. That building eventually became a school and is still in use today as the Rockport Public Library.
The top image, an old stereoscope from E.G. Rollins of Gloucester, shows the mill as it looked before the fire (along with a curious dog). The perspective appears to be from on Broadway. The bottom image shows the ruins. Note the mill houses along Broadway, which remain there today. The elevated perspective suggests the picture may have been taken from the steeple of the Congregational Church.
The fire had another impact that would change the course of Cape Ann commerce. As I’ve explained before, the fire left the mill’s superintendent, Slade Gorton, out of work. In search of a new occupation, he started packing and selling salt codfish and mackerel. By 1899, he had patented the Original Gorton Fish Cake, and the rest of the story need hardly be told. Today, Gorton’s of Gloucester is a brand recognized worldwide. I just found another account of Gorton’s story that says that he originally ran his fish business out of Rockport’s famous Motif No. 1.