What is it really like to live in Manchester-by-the-Sea?

Location, Location, Location Luxury
Dogs and their owners enjoy a mild winter Sunday at Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Dogs and their owners enjoy a mild winter Sunday at Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. John Blanding/Globe Staff

The quaint, quiet coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea is a well-kept secret no more, thanks to the recent Hollywood film that takes its name from the place. With a population just over 5,000, this comfortable, close-knit community on Cape Ann has so many classic New England elements — the old homes and summer getaways, the fishing tradition, the accents — that the mere mention of the town’s unusual name has become a kind of cinematic shorthand.

Casey Affleck in a scene from “Manchester By The Sea.” —Claire Folger/Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios via AP

In fact, the name has included the “by-the-Sea’’ part only since 1989, when a lifelong resident and longtime selectman, Edward F. Corley, successfully sponsored the addition to distinguish the town from the city of Manchester, N.H.

Susan Harsch, who owns Grove Boutique and Cafe in the picturesque downtown, said she was attracted to the cozy sense of community when she first moved to town, in 2003. “I love that you can walk from one end of town to the other.’’

A native New Yorker who lived in the Back Bay for a decade, she fell for the North Shore after taking a teaching job in Beverly. She changed careers in 2012, and now splits her time between a second cafe at MarketStreet Lynnfield and her downtown spot.

“Everyone who walks through the door, I know them, I know their kids, I know their dogs,’’ she said. “I get to serve coffee and chat with amazing people all day long. How great is that?’’

Susan Harsch of Manchester-by-the-Sea —Handout



The total worldwide gross as of Feb. 23 for “Manchester by the Sea,’’ the Oscar-nominated film named for the town and starring Casey Affleck


The number of votes by which the community’s name change passed at Town Meeting in 1989. The Legislature then ordered that it be placed on the town election ballot. It passed again, but barely, 51 percent to 49 percent.


Where John Updike’s name appears on a plaque in the memorial garden behind Emmanuel Church. Some of the late novelist’s ashes were scattered there. A longtime resident of Beverly Farms in the city of Beverly, Updike died in 2009.


Number of acres at Agassiz Rock, a Trustees of Reservations park named for two huge boulders that demonstrate Louis Agassiz’s theory of glacial deposits. Prior to the Harvard professor’s hypothesis, many New Englanders believed that the region’s rocky coastline was created in the great flood described in the Book of Genesis.



Dog friendly

Manchester is especially canine-hospitable, said Harsch, who welcomes pet owners and their furry friends at her cafe. (She has two rescue dogs of her own.) Also, dogs who respond to voice commands are allowed off-leash at Singing Beach from Oct. 15 to April 14.



Like many small coastal towns, Manchester-by-the-Sea has a shortage of parking space for visitors. For years, beachgoers in the know have traveled to town on the commuter rail: Singing Beach, so named for the sound of footsteps in the sand, is a headache-free half-mile walk from the train station.

Sign on Rt. 127 in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Boats are covered in shrink-wrap for the winter at Crocker’s Boat Yard in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Vintage baby carriage on display outside shop in downtown Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Seagull at Masconomo Park and the steeple of the First Parish Church both overlook a harbor in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
View from the rotunda at Tuck’s Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Manchester Essex Middle High School in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Life jacket loaner station on Tuck’s Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Antony Ohman wraps items for shipping at Manchester by the Book, a bookstore on Union Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Lone diner has a late breakfast at Superfine on Union Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
The Manchester Historical Museum’s Trask House in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Passengers get off MBTA commuter train from Boston in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Jody Collins and Mark Volpe carry a chaise across Beach Street to a consignment shop (The Stock Exchange) in Manchester-by-the-Sea. —John Blanding/Globe Staff

James Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.