Many people may recognize Manchester-by-the-Sea from the new movie, Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, and starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, and Lucas Hedges. After its release in December 2016, the film received critical acclaim and was nominated for six categories at the 89th Academy Awards, ultimately winning two: Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay. The movie was also nominated for four Golden Globe awards, winning for Best Actor (Casey Affleck). The movie was filmed locally starring several cities in the Cape Ann area, including Manchester-by-the-Sea and Gloucester.
Manchester-by-the-Sea is one of Cape Ann’s four coastal communities and is located just south of Gloucester. The town was originally just called Manchester at its incorporation in 1645, but the name was changed officially in the 1980s to limit confusion between Manchester, MA and Manchester, NH, which is only about 70 miles away. Like nearby Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea started as a fishing community. Gloucester boasted the much larger harbor, however, so large-scale commercial fishing gravitated there. By the mid 19th century, Manchester-by-the-Sea had become a popular summer destination for the well-to-do, sporting large seaside resort hotels as well as immense summer “cottages” owned by wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers. Atlantic Vacation Homes’ vacation rental property Booth Cottage was built by Junius Booth, the brother of notorious actor John Wilkes Booth (famous for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln). After a time, Booth Cottage (or Masconomo House, as it was called then) was incorporated into the grounds of a large luxury hotel, which operated into the early 20th century.
Manchester-by-the-Sea offers a lovely downtown area that invites leisurely strolls along past its many locally-owned shops and restaurants. We recommend that downtown visitors stop at the Trask House Museum, located on Union Street. While at the museum, visitors will have the opportunity to see locally made furniture from the mid-19th century as well as explore information about Manchester-by-the-Sea’s role in maritime history. Trask House was built in 1823 by Abigail Hooper, a local businesswoman, who later married Captain Richard Trask. A woman ahead of her time, Abigail ran a successful general store and millinery shop.
Nearby Masconomo Park is a wonderful destination for families, with its harbor views and playgrounds to keep children entertained. It’s also the home of a summer concert series, family movie nights, and the annual Festival by the Sea, held in August. Just beyond the park lies famous Singing Beach, which is named for the way the sand “sings” as you walk on it – an unusual natural phenomenon that only occurs in a few dozen beaches around the world.
Manchester-by-the-Sea is also easily accessible from Boston by commuter rail, making the town the perfect destination for day trips and weekends. If you can stay longer, however, Manchester is a superb home base for an extended Cape Ann vacation. Gloucester, Rockport and Essex are a short drive to the north while Beverly and Salem are just as close in the opposite direction.
Below: The official "Manchester by the Sea" movie trailer, copyright Amazon Studios.