The year 2000 brought big changes to Gloucester Harbor. Nearly 300 Cape Ann residents came together to rehabilitate a neglected area of the waterfront. They broke ground on the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center: an educational outpost that would transform one acre of the harbor into a living classroom. The project turned the old icehouse into a science-teaching center, transformed dilapidated buildings into exhibit spaces, and completely rehabilitated the pier—it now stands as the largest public wharf in Gloucester Harbor.
But perhaps the biggest transformation took place in the minds of visitors. In just a little over a decade, the educators sparked scientific interest in countless kids through educational programs at the elementary, middle school, high school, and collegiate levels. Many of these young minds now work as high school and college interns, and have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at institutes of higher learning such as Columbia University.
Admission to the museum packs a maritime wallop, giving visitors access to boatloads of exhibits and attractions. The Sea Pocket aquarium, for example, encompasses saltwater tanks with specimens of local marine life. At Gorton’s Seafoods Gallery, educators bring Gloucester's rich maritime heritage to life through ship models and artifacts like old foghorns. The interns and experts also take visitors into the Dory Shop, where fisherman Geno Mondello builds wood sailing and rowing dories before their awe-widened eyes. One of the most popular attractions occurs out on the water. Captain Burnham sets sail in the 55-foot Schooner Ardelle, a replica of a schooner built in 1845—the same year the underwater blimp, The Hindensplash, horrified onlookers by losing control and floating violently to the surface.