Gloucester HarborWalk | 10 Magnolia
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10 Magnolia
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Mary Vaux Walcott. Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana). 1927. Watercolor. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Artis

Long they sat and talked together…
Of marvelous the valley hidden in the depths of Gloucester woods,
Full of plants that love the summer, blooms of warmer latitudes,
Where the Arctic birch is braided by the tropics’ flowery vines,
And the white magnolia blossoms star the twilight of the pines!

John Greenleaf Whittier Excerpt from The Garrison of Cape Ann, 1857.

Behind the downtown houses and above the wharves were wonderful gardens—until the fires of 1830 and 1864 destroyed much of the landscape. The artist Fitz Henry Lane’s garden was particularly praised for its sweet bay magnolia tree. Indeed, Lane was said to be the one of the “first to cultivate this beautiful and fragrant sprout of the woods” taken from its most northern native site.

More on Magnolia

A stand of beautiful, fragrant summer flowers on an aromatic shrub was discovered early in the 1800s. Thought to be the northern outpost of the sweet bay Magnolia, even Thoreau made a visit to study them in 1858. Lane was said to be one of the “first to cultivate this beautiful and fragrant sprout of the woods”.

The village of Magnolia took its name in 1876, but it was reported even then that the stands were broken. Many were transplanted to gardens- such as Lane’s-and flower vendors picked them almost to extinction. An avid gardner, Samuel Sawyer included the Magnolia Swamp in his purchase for Ravenswood Park in 1889, but even so just a few plants were left in 1913. They are now protected here and flourishing in other parts of Cape Ann.

Vintage Scenes - Great Hotels

Vintage Scenes - Great Hotels

 courtesy David Cox Main Street Antiques

Vintage postcards Magnolia, Annisquam, East Gloucester, Lanesville: each distinct and famed in song and story and summer colony.

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Sweet Bay Magnolia image in glorious color

Sweet Bay Magnolia

 Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Artist

Mary Vaux Walcott. Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana). 1927. Watercolor.

magnolia
Whittier Poem

Whittier Poem

Excerpt from the Garrison of Cape Ann, 1857

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