Historic Dogtown Commons – Gloucester, MA

Last Visited:  Saturday; November 3, 2012

Dogtown Commons is a park located near Downtown Gloucester that includes lots of great multi-use trails and some very interesting history as the first settlement site in Gloucester and now Colonial-era ghost town.  Dogtown Commons was the first settlement in Gloucester & Rockport but was abandoned as the town moved closed to the ocean which became the primary provider of a living for Gloucester and it’s residents.  At its peak of population in the mid-19th century it boasted a population of nearly 100 families.  It was located inland on poor farmland to provide protection against pirates and other threats however, after the conclusion of the War of 1812, the population moved to the coast both to be nearer to their livelihoods and also to be on the new main road through the area.  The houses in this area began to be inhabited by vagrants and fell into disrepair, eventually being abandoned and turning into the forest with the occasional cellar hole and stone walls that you see today.

Dogtown Common also has the ‘Babson Rocks,’ put there by Roger Babson during

Cellar Hole in Dogtown Common in Gloucester, Massachusetts

Cellar Hole in Dogtown Common in Gloucester, Massachusetts

the Great Depression and have all sorts of exhortations to help one live a better life.  They provide an interesting backdrop to this area as well as some interesting (and occasionally mis-spaced) advice.  None are spelled incorrectly but several have amusing mistakes from the stone-cutters not having a great control of the English language.

Available Activities:

  • Hiking & Historic Tours:  Hiking is probably the main activity that Dogtown Common is known for.  There are miles of trails criss-crossing the property and allow you to see most of the major historic sites and Babson’s boulders.
  • Biking:  I didn’t see any signs that biking was prohibited and many of the paths in this park were roads during colonial times.  It’s interesting to realize that the paths you’re walking and/or biking on were main roads back in the 17th and 18th centuries in colonial New England.
  • Dog Friendly:  This area is a great area for dogs as there are lots of trails through the woods and places to explore.
  • Historic Sites and Exploration:  There isn’t much left to see anymore however
    Babson's Rock at Dogtown Common

    Babson’s Rock at Dogtown Common

    there are some stone fences and cellar holes located throughout the property along with rocks with numbers the correspond to a guide explaining what each site is.

Facilities, Fees and other information:

Parking is use of the site is free though if you want to see any of the history you probably want to consider hiring a guide to take you on a tour.  Beyond the parking and trails, there aren’t any facilities here either except for some Gloucester town recycling center facilities.

Directions:

Dogtown Common is located off Route 127 in Gloucester and is convenient to Route 128 as well.  Coming from Route 128 keep driving until you reach your first rotary in Gloucester, take the exit for Route 127 towards Annisquam.  Once on that road you’ll pass a hospital on your left, after that hospital take a right on Reynard St.  At the end of Reynard St take a left onto Cherry St (it’s not marked but is the cross street at the end of Reynard St.), shortly after this you will see the sign marking the entrance to Dogtown Commons on your right.  If you’re using a GPS device the following address should get you to Dogtown Common:

10 Dogtown Road
Gloucester, MA 01930