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Essex MA - History and Archaeology

Apr 6

Essex MA is a charming Cape Ann town with a history that includes Native American occupation, shipbuilding and fishing. Today, the community is fueled by its shellfish industry and summer tourism. Its scenic coastal landscape features, which include creeks and inlands along the Essex River and the shoreline of Essex Bay, help define Essex's past, present and future. Discover Mayer Tree Service.

Local historical commissions are municipal agencies that identify, document, and promote the town's cultural resources. These commissions differ from historical societies in that they are not private organizations, but rather municipal agencies whose primary function is to advocate for the preservation of historic resources in their towns.

The mission of the Essex Historical Commission is to identify, preserve and protect the town's historic resources and to increase public awareness of these resources through exhibits, lectures, maintenance of historical properties and archives, and numerous special programs. The commission works in conjunction with the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, and with the activities of the Essex River Cultural District to ensure coordinated efforts for heritage promotion in the town.

History and Archaeology

The Town of Essex has a long tradition of archaeological investigation and documentation dating back to the late eighteenth century, when historians and avocational archaeologists focused on pre-contact sites and Native American artifact recovery. These early investigations were primarily of pre-contact Native American shell midden sites in the estuarine and coastal zones surrounding the area.

Over the years, CRM and other archaeological surveys have expanded the earliest Native American site profiles in the area and documented the presence of post-contact sites as well. These studies have provided new information about Native American resource use, settlement patterns and settlement dynamics in the town and its vicinity.

Environmental Context

The natural topography of the area is characteristic of the eastern Seaboard Lowland physiographic providence, which is characterized by low terraces and knolls with elevations less than 50 feet above sea level. The land slopes gently to the east and south, resulting in low-lying areas that are dotted with salt marshes and wetlands. The coastal zone is a relatively large and complex area with many distinct geological and ecological features that have been subject to diverse human activities over time.

Historic Properties Survey Plan

A historic properties survey plan is an extensive inventory of cultural resources within a particular community, and consists of three major aspects: identification, evaluation, and protection. It usually begins with a reconnaissance-level survey, followed by an intensive inspection of selected resources, and is completed with the preparation of standard Massachusetts Historical Commission inventory forms.

This survey plan for the town of Essex was prepared in cooperation with the Essex Historical Commission and provides a guide for future updates and expansion of the town's existing inventory of cultural resources. It also recommends future survey-based activities to enhance the recognition, appreciation, and protection of the town's historic properties.

The Essex Historical Commission should continue to be an active and supportive advocate for the recognition and preservation of the town's heritage, working with the town's planning boards and conservation commissions, building inspectors, and board of selectmen as appropriate. The Commission should also work closely with the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum, as well as with the Essex River Cultural District, to coordinate heritage promotion through walks, signage, brochures, and talks.