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What is it like to live in Gloucester?

Location, Location, Location
Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester
Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester John Blanding/ globe staff

The late, towering Gloucester literary figure Charles Olson, in his epic “The Maximus Poems,’’ wrote of an ideal that valued community over commercialism. The city’s ongoing debate over the inroads made by national retailers has reaffirmed that its endearing idiosyncrasies did not die off with an earlier generation.

Part working-class fishing community and part artist colony, Gloucester also harbors some seriously exclusive, secluded oceanview properties. From the Gloucester Stage Company, cofounded by award-winning playwright Israel Horovitz, and the eccentric, living room-style Cape Ann Community Cinema to the Crow’s Nest, the bar still living off its “Perfect Storm’’ of Hollywood fame, the city has a personality all its own.

BY THE NUMBERS

1642

The year Gloucester was incorporated. It was first settled in 1623.

29,191

Estimated population in 2012. That’s down slightly from just over 30,000 in the 2000 Census.

$325,000

Median sale price of single-family property in 2013, according to The Warren Group, which tracks real estate trends. That figure was down about 7 percent from the year before.

23

The number of “Babson Boulders’’ in Dogtown. Roger W. Babson, the founder of what is now Babson College, commissioned unemployed Depression-era stonecutters to inscribe huge rocks in the city’s abandoned interior with inspirational phrases such as “Keep Out of Debt’’ and “Help Mother.’’

 

PROS & CONS

Pro

History and culture

Gloucester has a mix all its own, combining its maritime tradition with the creative economy that has revitalized the city’s old downtown. The local identity is captured in the “Man at the Wheel,’’ the landmark cenotaph by the harbor honoring fishermen lost at sea. Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and many other artists have been attracted to the city for its scenic majesty, and the book and film “The Perfect Storm’’ helped revive tourism in this once down-on-its-luck outpost.

Pro

The water

Gloucester is home to Good Harbor Beach and the spectacular dunes and tide pools of Wingaersheek. The city center is a stone’s throw from the gentle bustle of the harbor, and the picturesque Rocky Neck Art Colony features bars, restaurants, and galleries soundtracked by the rhythmic slap of waves on the sea walls.

Con

The isolation

Covering a hefty piece of Cape Ann out at the end of Route 128, Gloucester is effectively an island, its heart connected to the rest of the North Shore by three bridges over the Annisquam River and Blynman Canal. When the winter wind whips off the ocean, the city can feel pretty desolate. Yet many residents cherish the place in large part because of its hardy nature and wide independent streak.

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.