Monday, July 11, 2011

Cape Ann Tool Co., Rockport, MA - 9th July

The Cape Ann Tool Co. was established and built in the 1880s in the Pigeon Cove area of Rockport, Gloucester, MA. During its lifetime it made tools and mechanical parts for everything from cars to aeroplanes to spacecrafts. It was closed in 1987 and has lain abandoned ever since. Development plans have been consistently blocked by local residents who resorted to litigation to prevent the current owner from developing the site into residential apartments. Despite winning the legal battle the site has been placed on the market for sale rendering its future as uncertain as it has been for the last 24 years.

The bare iron-framed depot shed

The Cape Ann Tool Co. is typical of much of Gloucester's economic problems. Old industry sites, punished by competing foreign markets (generally Asian), lie abandoned in prime realty locations.The problem becomes what to do with the sites in such a way as to boost the local economy whilst also keeping the locals happy.

Sky of shadows: inside the loading depot with Pigeon Cove peeking through a side-entrance on the left

Factory side-entrance

A great deal of original features remained inside the factory on the ground floor. Generators, turning lathes, and other pieces of equipment remained firmly attached to the factory floor displaying a permanence challenging the building's decaying structure.

Cape Ann Tool Co. - Interior

Interior - Furnaces on the left, generator in shadows on right

Venturing up the stairs was a precarious affair. The roof over the factory was stripped and little remained of the first floor (or second floor, here).

Stairs to first floor

Electrical boxes adorned the walls.

 230 Volts

The Cape Ann Tool Co. story resonates with the problems facing much of rural USA. Heavily dependent on the manufacturing industry, once that disappeared all that was left in Gloucester was the fishing industry. The challenge facing Gloucester is how to diversify and boost its economy in a sustainable way by means that are acceptable to the local population - the glorious ruin of the Cape Ann Tool Co. site serves as a constant reminder of the decline of the rural economy and the challenges that lie ahead.  

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