Monday, September 21, 2009

Essex County Chronicles: Tiny Cape Ann village became a big draw for artists

The Salem News

Essex County Chronicles
Jim McAllister

September 21, 2009 12:03 am

In the basement of the Cape Ann Historical Museum in downtown Gloucester is a room dedicated to the works of the many sculptors, painters and textile artists who practiced their craft, summers or year-round, in that far-flung corner of the city known as Folly Cove.

Folly Cove is actually part of Lanesville, which was originally settled in the early 1700s by John Lane and which for many years was a predominately Finnish community. The Folly Cove name is attributed to a master mariner named Gallop who somehow managed to crash his vessel on the rocky cove in 1635. For many years after the incident, the neighborhood was called Gallop's Folly, but, mercifully for the reputation of Capt. Gallop, the name somewhere along the way was changed to its present version.

Because of its isolated location near the tip of the peninsula bounded on one end by Rockport and the other by Annisquam, its breathtaking view of Ipswich Bay, regular trolley service, and later — when the Cape Ann granite industry fell apart — the availability of affordable property, Folly Cove became a popular destination for artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many built or bought second homes in the area and returned year after year.

Some of these artists came from Boston, including Ellen Day Hale and her sister-in-law, Lillian Prescott Hale; while others, like Gabrielle de Veux Clements and Charles Grafly, hailed from Philadelphia. New York's contributions included the painter-muralist Leon Kroll, who spent nearly 60 summers on Cape Ann, and Paul Manship.

Kroll bought a home in the Folly Cove neighborhood during World War II, and during his time on Cape Ann produced many stunning views of local quarries, farms and beaches, often enhanced by the figures for which he was so well-known.

The already famous sculptor Manship also purchased 14 acres of land in Lanesville in 1943. He moved to the site, an abandoned quarry, a house and a barn, the latter to serve as his studio. But Manship, who is best known for his massive statue of Prometheus in New York City's Rockefeller Center and his lively monumental work at the Bronx Zoo, used the studio infrequently because asthma limited the amount of time he could spend on Cape Ann.

Manship's son, John, and his sculptor wife, Margaret (Cassidy), took over the property after Paul's death. Both were to have magnificent careers in their own right — John primarily as a painter and Margaret as a sculptress. Robert Frost sat for both and Margaret produced bronze busts of two popes, John Paul II and Pius XII, and American presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

One of Paul Manship's teachers, Charles Grafly, who headed the sculpture department at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, had been the first of many sculptors who summered or lived in the Lanesville area. After his tragic death — the result of being run over by a car — Grafly's position at the academy was taken by an up-and-coming sculptor named Walker Hancock. The St. Louis native would follow his mentor's lead in choosing a summer sanctuary.

Hancock acquired an abandoned quarry in Lanesville and married a member of one the area's preeminent Finnish families. During his long and impressive career, Hancock's output included the Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial in Philadelphia, the Soldiers' Memorial in St. Louis, and busts of Russell Crouse and family friend George Bush.

Another sculptor who chose to settle in Folly Cove was a Greek immigrant and great teacher of drawing and sculpture named George Demetrios. His wife, Virginia, became famous for the children's books, including "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel," which she wrote under the name Virginia Lee Burton. She also started the group known as the Folly Cove Designers who became known across the country for their artistically designed fabrics. Samples of those fabrics are on display in the Cape Ann Museum.

The art critic and biographer James Mellow also owned a summer home for many years in Folly Cove just north of Folly Point. A Gloucester native who relocated to Clinton, Conn., Mellow penned biographies of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which won for him the National Book Award, Gertrude Stein and her circle, Ernest Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds, Scott and Zelda. Much of his writing was done in a small studio overlooking Ipswich Bay.


Jim McAllister of Salem writes a weekly column on the region's history. Contact him at

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  • Interesting, but what's going on now at Lane's Cove?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 PM  

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