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This Old House: Fisherman Brown's Cottage

Susan Pollack: "When you buy a house, do you inherit a responsibility to its history, as well?" Pictured: The author's home in Gloucester, Mass. (E. Schoonover/Courtesy)MoreCloseclosemore
Susan Pollack: "When you buy a house, do you inherit a responsibility to its history, as well?" Pictured: The author's home in Gloucester, Mass. (E. Schoonover/Courtesy)

The day my husband and I bought our house, the real estate agent gave us a loose-leaf binder with copies of maps and deeds dating back to 1735, when a fisherman named Joseph Brown built the Cape Ann Cottage.

For years we had looked at houses. We’d hoped to find a roomy, if neglected, Victorian that, with our efforts, might one day resemble one of the Gloucester houses celebrated by Edward Hopper. But “an antique?” That’s how our agent described the tiny gambrel-roofed cottage. Seeing its exposed adze-hewn beams, wide pine floorboards and fireplace, we said yes immediately.

I had lived in other people’s homes all of my adult life. Suddenly, I was not only a homeowner, but a steward of a piece of Cape Ann history. What does it mean to acquire a building with an historic marker posted on its clapboards?

We share our house with the presences of, among other owners, [John S.] Rogers, [Joseph] Brown, and Zachariah Dalton, 'a free black man and native of Gloucester,' and his son, Thomas. Also Israel Trask, a butcher...


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Susan Pollack Cognoscenti contributor
Susan Pollack is an award-winning journalist and author of the "Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Cookbook: Stories and Recipes."

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