Monthly Archives: June 2014

Let freedom ring (or sparkle brightly)

The 4th of July is a very important holiday in the North of Boston region.  The history of the North Shore is deeply entwined with that of the United States – many of the first settlers made this area home (and left us with a wealth of “First Period” architecture), George Washington slept here, the US Coast Guard was formed in Newburyport, and the US Navy began in Beverly/Marblehead.  Even one of our most beloved patriotic songs, “America” (also known as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”), was written in Andover in 1831.  Thus, it’s only fitting that the North of Boston region goes all out when it  comes to July 4th celebrations.  If you live here or plan on visiting the region, you can’t miss…


Fireworks Over Gloucester Harbor
Experience Gloucester’s annual fireworks display from the terrace and lawn of Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann house and enjoy an abridged evening tour as the house transforms at night. Bring blankets, chairs, picnics, and mosquito spray.

Glover-Side-450x335Mahi Mahi Fireworks Cruises
July 5 & 6 (**NEW DATE**)
Party like it’s Independence Day aboard the Hannah Glover or Finback! You’ll get your oohs and ahhs as the annual 4th of July fireworks shoot across the sky above us. Enjoy unobstructed views out on the water as we cruise through Salem Sound. Great for all ages, this cruise is the perfect way to spend your holiday with family or friends. After celebrating a 4th of July with Mahi Cruises, we’re sure that you’ll be back next year!


8509243-sparkler-and-usa-flag-showing-4th-of-july4th of July Weekend at Salisbury Beach
July 3-5
This Independence Day weekend, join us at Salisbury Beach! On Thursday, July 3, enjoy Rhythm Coalition (9-piece band with horns) on the beachfront stage. RB Entertainment will provide music to celebrate the 4th in style! Spend the day on the beach. Our kid-friendly activities start at 5pm – Hula Hoops, Karaoke, Line Dancing and Sing-along with DJ Ralphie B, and so much more!

July 4_fireworks5_scottlanes_web

Salem Celebrates the 4th!
July 6 (**NEW DATE**)
Bring your beach blankets and folding chairs to enjoy the 42-piece Hillyer Festival Orchestra on Derby Wharf at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site for a grand celebration of our nation’s Independence Day. Featuring a Pops concert, a Kid Space play area, and fireworks launched over Salem Harbor, this is a quintessential celebration of the 4th of July. Fireworks begin at 9:15pm.

fireworks-stock857-largeAmesbury’s 4th of July Fireworks and Music
July 5 (**NEW DATE**)
The Annual Fourth of July Fireworks display at Woodsom Farm starts on Friday July 4th 2014 at sunset. Bring your friends and family and join us for music, fireworks and tons of fun!

dsc02649.jpg__840x460_q85_crop_upscale4th of July Fireworks Aboard the Sea Shuttle’s Endeavour 
July 4
Welcome aboard for an unforgettable tour with coastal fireworks galore.  We will see fireworks from Lynn to Gloucester. There will be snacks and thirst-quenching libations for purchase on board. The Endeavor will depart from the Salem Willows Park Pier at 7:45PM and will return at 10:30. 

CruiseShipDockEvening4th of July on the Beauport Princess
July 4
Cruise with us on the fourth of July! Great buffet, watch fireworks all around and enjoy some great music on Cruiseport Gloucester’s newest cruise line, the Beauport Princess! 



Photo by Jeff Folger

Marblehead Fireworks & Harbor Illumination
July 5 (**NEW DATE**)
The Marblehead Fireworks & Harbor Illumination happens every year on July Fourth in the Town of Marblehead, Massachusetts to celebrate Independence Day!  The Fireworks are scheduled for Thursday, July 4th, 2013 approximately 9:00 p.m. The Harbor Illumination will begin at 8:45 p.m. and immediately following we will light this fuse in this year’s fireworks! 

Rockport in C major


Shalin Liu Performance Center (Photo by Robert Benson)

In 1981, the first Rockport Chamber Music Festival was held in the Rockport Art Association and Congregational Church.  The brainchild of composer David Alpher and friend/singer Lila Deis (who were inspired by the beauty and atmosphere of Rockport) and local businessman Paul Sylva, the Festival grew over the years to become a nationally-recognized gem in the crown of the North Shore’s cultural offerings.  Since 1995, the Festival has been under the leadership of renowned pianist David Deveau who has fostered and encouraged this exponential growth.  

In the 33 years since that first festival, a lot has changed.  In 2008, the Chamber Music Festival evolved into Rockport Music – a central organization whose offerings and influence expands beyond the annual Festival.  More excitement was to come in 2010 with the opening of the Shalin Liu Performance Center, a 330-seat concert hall with the most beautiful view in Rockport and the new home of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival.

This year’s Festival will continue through July 13th and features numerous concerts by world-class musicians as well as pre-concert lectures and free events for music lovers of all ages.  Be sure not to miss performances by 2013 MacArthur Award winning pianist Jeremy Denk, the Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble and the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, as well as amazing young superstars such as pianist Joyce Yang, pianist Charlie Albright, the Claremont Trio, and their new Rising Star Series with the Neave Trio, pianist Daria Rabotkina and the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet.


Shanghai String Quartet

Upcoming concerts include:

Shanghai String Quartet – Saturday, June 21
Claremont Trio – Thursday, June 26
Boston Symphony Chamber Players – Saturday, June 28
Calder Quarter – Saturday, July 12

For the full Festival schedule, please visit

Can’t make it to Rockport before July 13th? No problem! Rockport Music presents numerous fantastic concerts, lectures, festivals, and screenings throughout the year, including the upcoming 3rd Annual Rockport Jazz Festival August 13-17.

For more information on Rockport Music, be sure to check out their fantastic new website,, or call their box office at 978-546-7391.

Wind in the Willowdale

Nestled near Topsfield’s Bradley Palmer State Park along the Ipswich River is the Willowdale Estate, a stone mansion whose understated, unpretentious elegance is evident even as you proceed up the driveway.  This week, were very lucky to go on an incredible tour of Willowdale.  Despite the cloudy weather, the property still emanated its classic charm and grace.


Constructed in 1901, Willowdale was the summer home of Bradley Palmer.  Seeking to create a personal oasis, Palmer bought up as much land around Willowdale as possible (even walking up to random farmers and offering to buy their properties on the spot, as we learned on our tour of the estate.  We admire his gumption).  Today, Bradley Palmer State Park encompasses 720 acres.  Willowdale itself sits on 4 acres.  We assume there were many happy farmers in Topsfield at the turn of the century.

gardenUpon his death in 1944, Palmer left the house and land to the state so that they may be turned into a park.  The mansion, unfortunately, fell into disrepair over the years.  An eight-year renovation began in 1999 under the mansion’s new curator, Boston architect Gerald Fandetti and his wife Charlotte Forsythe who were awarded the lease from the Massachusetts Historic Curatorship Program to ensure that Willowdale’s historic charm be preserved and maintained. Their daughter Briar Forsythe opened Willowdale Estate for business in 2007 as a venue for weddings and events in all seasons.

………………………………detail………….. wd chandelier………….. glass

Today, Willowdale is a gem in the crown of the North of Boston.  It serves as a beautiful backdrop for weddings and other special occasions.  Inside, the mansion reflects the Arts and Crafts style with its odes to medieval and Gothic Revival and recalls the English countryside.  The house features stained glass and beautiful decorative tiles (not to mention, in our opinion, some of the prettiest bathrooms on the North Shore).  Outside is an ethereal wonderland with glorious butterfly-attracting gardens (maintained by the amazingly talented Kim, who we met on our tour) , a spacious tented patio, and the nearby Ipswich River (which serves as a beautiful backdrop for wedding photos).


We weren’t kidding about the bathrooms…

Planning your event at Willowdale could not be easier.  Their warm and helpful staff will assist you in planning your event or celebration, ensuring that everything runs smoothly.  They hold themselves to the highest standard of hospitality and will help to make your dream event into reality   Willowdale also offers on-site catering – their expert Executive Chef and catering team, dedicated to creating the best meals, will create a delicious spread to perfectly complement your special event.

The team at Willowdale manages the estate under three core principles: dedication, passion, and spirit.  These principles are evident as you wander through the house, enjoying the unspoiled beauty and details of your surroundings and meeting the friendly and helpful staff.

flowersLooking to visit Willowdale?  Check out one of their fantastic upcoming events:

June 17 – 6-7pm – Historic House Tour
Enjoy a free tour of Willowdale, including notes on architecture, history, and use of the estate in the past and today

July 8 – 7-9m – Entertaining 101: Becoming the Perfect Host
Try new cocktails, get tips on decorating, and start to think about what your guests need to have a good time at your party.  Free event.

August 12 – 6-8pm – Wedding Open House
The perfect event for recently-engaged couples!  RSVP and receive a gift bag to help you get started with your planning.  Free event

September 18 – 7:30-10pm – Tuscany Under the Stars (Italian Farm to Table Dinner)
Have an unforgettable 3-course dinner in the Garden Courtyard at Willowdale Estate. Sixty-Five Dollars – Tickets Required.

For more information on Willowdale, please visit


George Washington slept here… No, really, he did.

Wandering though Massachusetts, there are probably more claims that “George Washington slept here” than there are dropped r’s and Red Sox hats combined.  And while a good number of these claims are accurate and truthful, many of them turn out to be wishful thinking (or deceptively honest: there had to have been more than one “George Washington” traveling about in the 18th century).  Nevertheless, George Washington really did sleep here.  And by “here,” we mean in the North of Boston region.


John Cabot’s house. (Photo: Beverly Historical Society)

In 1789, the newly-elected President seems to have been on a good will tour of New England. October found him in Lynn and Salem where he was guided by Andover native, Captain Peter Osgood.  From Salem, Washington crossed the bridge into Beverly where he was the guest of George Cabot.  Unfortunately, Cabot’s house no longer stands – however, his brother John’s house, located diagonally across the street, is still there and currently houses the Beverly Historical Society (it’s a beautiful house and warrants a tour!).  There is still, though, a stone marker in Beverly commemorating Washington’s visit to Cabot’s cotton mill (which, like his house, is no longer there.  We’re guessing Cabot wasn’t a lucky man…).

After Beverly came Ipswich where Washington purchased some lace for his wife.  The lace was used to decorate a cape of Martha’s (the cape is currently kept at Mount Vernon but is too frail for display.  Had it been owned by George Cabot, it would have fallen apart).  George Washington continued northward on his tour after Ipswich.  On the final leg of his North Shore tour, Mr. Washington went to Newburyport.


Washington statue. Photo:

After much pomp and circumstance, Washington spent the night at the State Street home of the Tracy family.  The spacious house was built in 1771 and currently houses the Newburyport Public Library.  “Say what?” you must be thinking. The library has gone through a few additions in the past few centuries but the older, main part of the library was, in fact, the Tracy House.  And thankfully, wasn’t owned by George Cabot.  So, to make a long story short, George Washington slept in the Newburyport Library.  Today, there’s even a statue of Washington close to the Bartlett Mall (on the corner of High Street and Pond Street) to commemorate this historic visit.

In visiting the Town of Newburyport,” Washington wrote. “I have obeyed a favorite inclination, and I am much gratified by the indulgence. In expressing a sincere wish for its prosperity, and the happiness of its inhabitants, I do justice to my own sentiments, and their merit.”


There is no record to verify that the purple trees were there when Washington was… (Photo:

Additional factoid – Washington wasn’t the only President to visit the Tracy House: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were also guests of the Tracy family. (