Fisherman at the Wheel (alt. titles: Fisherman’s Statue, Man at the Wheel) is a site-specific public memorial located on Stacey Boulevard (also called Western Avenue), overlooking Gloucester Harbor.
The heroic bronze sculpture (larger-than-life at 1-1/2 monumental scale) of a Gloucester fisherman clad in oilskins and standing at the wheel of a schooner is dedicated with Psalm 207 “They that go down the sea in ships.”
In 1923, all of Gloucester was abuzz gearing up for its historic 300th anniversary. Tribute plans included the grandeur and build out of Stacy Boulevard, schooner races so festive and popular they gave rise to Eastern Point Yacht club, and enduring businesses and organizations like the North Shore Arts Association (NSAA) yearning to open for the first time. Artistic commissions and competitions were held to commemorate this historic anniversary.
As early as the 1880s, the community discussed commissioning a fitting work of art that would memorialize the thousands of fishermen lost at sea in the first centuries of Gloucester’s history, as well as a public work of art in tribute to the wives and families. Although the latter commission would take many more decades until fabrication (see Morgan Faulds Pike sculpture Fishermen’s Wives), in 1923 the Gloucester Tercentenary Permanent Memorial Association sponsored the artistic competition for what would eventually be this world famous Fisherman at the Wheel. Many artists vied for this commission including Anna Hyatt Huntington.
The sculptor selected was Leonard Craske and the dedication was August 23, 1925. The bronze monument consists of a nearly square base of sea green granite, carried from the famous “Blood Ledge” in the Bay View section of Gloucester. The stone is cut with a rough finish to ‘typify the rugged character of the figure’. Often called “The Man at the Wheel,” the statue was made nationally famous in the MGM classic, “Captains Courageous.” The Wall of Remembrance wrap-around cenotaph was added in 2000. The original cenotaph was hand-painted in City Hall.