ripple restaurant and bar stands where Essex shipbuilding thrived. It is located on what is perhaps the most historically significant area of Essex, Massachusetts, a community famous for wooden shipbuilding for nearly 300 years, and one which has produced close to 4,000 wooden vessels from as many as 16 different shipyards. The land immediately adjacent to the restaurant is public land set aside by the town in 1668 "for a yard to build vessels and to employ workmen for that end."
A Tidal-Powered Saw Mill
The site of ripple restaurant & bar was once occupied by a tidal-powered saw mill, and across Main Street was a grist mill. At that time the bridge was a wooden drawbridge, and next to it was a dam and lock, which powered the two mills. When the tide came in, the water would be impounded by the dam. After the tide receded the impounded water would be allowed to rush back into the river, providing power for the mills.
Construction of the dragger Columbia built by Lyman James and launched August 29, 1942. This historically significant shipbuilding area of Essex, Massachusetts is where ripple restaurant and bar is now located.
Fishing Schooners, Cargo Ships, Passenger Steamers & More Were Built in Essex, Massachusetts
Beyond this land lies what was the Story shipyard, established in 1813 and from which came hundreds of the Gloucester fishing schooners as well as the great racing schooners Henry Ford, Columbia and Gertrude L. Thebaud (pictured below).
Gertrude L. Thebaud raced in the International Fishermen's Cup in 1930.
Here also at various times, were the yards of Captain Parker Burnham, Luke Burnham, David Burnham and Oliver Burnham. Across the street were the yards of Adam Boyd, Samuel Burnham and Moses Adams, as well as the spar yard of mastmaker Timothy Andrews. Just over the bridge at the current site of Perkins Marine was the great James Shipyard, established in 1838 by John James, followed by John Frank James, Everett James and Lyman James. Here in 1881, Vidette, the biggest ship ever built in Essex was launched, totaling 810 gross tons and 191 feet of length. Also built in this yard was the Mattie W. Atwood, the largest sailing ship built in Essex. Hundreds of Gloucester schooners were also built in this yard as well as the previously mentioned Story yard.
Although the great majority of vessels built in Essex shipyards were fishing schooners, the Essex yards also produced many cargo ships, passenger steamers, tugs, work boats of many kinds and quite a number of beautiful yachts as well.
Essex Shipbuilding Museum
Much of Essex history is involved with shipbuilding, and this heritage is available for you to see and enjoy at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. The museum is open April through October, and hosts special presentations and events throughout the year. It is a fascinating exhibit, worth more than the small admission price for a guided or self-guided tour.
"Frame Up" of Famiglia II, an 80' Eastern-rig Dragger built in 1946 at the Dana A. Story yard. At the cry, "frame up!" all those nearby came to assist the framing gang in lifting the frame into place.
A Taste of Essex History
So you see that this place where you now dine is indeed rich in the history of our Town of Essex. We hope it may help to enhance the enjoyment of your meal, and of your time in this beautiful, historic town.
ripple is indebted to the late Dana Story for providing this historic summary, and to the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum for providing the photographs. During his life, Dana Story was a local historian and author, and was regarded as the leading authority of Essex shipbuilding history. Dana was a shipbuilder himself, and the Story Boat Yard described in the first paragraph above, established in 1813, was run by Dana's father, Arthur D. Story and then by Dana for many years. Historic boat building continues today at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and by Harold A. Burnham, located across the creek from the museum.