Gloucester prides itself on being the oldest fishing port in the country. Established as a small settlement in 1606 by Samuel de Champlain, the city remains a center for quality New England seafood. Its natural beauty has also drawn visitors since the beginning of European presence on the continent; in fact, the settlement was originally named Le Beau Port. The area was later designated Cape Ann by the English Prince Charles, who named it after his mother, Anne of Denmark.

In 1623, English fishermen set up a fishing post here. In the decades that followed, people from all areas of the Americas and Europe, including Ireland, Portugal, Newfoundland and other British colonies in America, came to Gloucester to earn a living. Though maritime activities were the primary source of income for the small village, small-scale farming and lumbering were also significant industries. The town was formally incorporated in 1642 and named for another Gloucester in southwestern England, and was reincorporated as a city in 1872.

A Town Green about two miles from the harbor was established, and it was here that many of Gloucester’s early buildings were erected. This was the site of the town’s meeting house. A public schoolhouse was also built here in 1698 to comply with Massachusetts Bay Colony education requirements. Today, the Town Green has disappeared under Grant Circle, a traffic rotary that links Route 128 to inner-city Washington Street.