Cape Ann, a bit northeast of Boston at the end of Route 128, is an area long favored by artists and its focal point is Rockport, where we headed recently for a quiet weekend by the sea. We chose to stay in an historic hotel named for a famous former guest and notable for its fine dining, cool sea breezes and ocean views.
What began as a popular tavern in Pigeon Cove came to a sudden ending when, in 1856, local Temperance leader Hannah Jumper and a couple hundred of her followers smashed the bottles and closed it, and at the same time all of the other of the town’s drinking places. Rather than take the chance of having to face Hannah again, the owner turned the Pigeon Cove Tavern into Pigeon Cove House, a lodging house for elite travelers. Then, as now, Rockport was a popular vacation spot for people in search of the sea. Ralph Waldo Emerson vacationed here with his family as did his friend Henry David Thoreau.
In 1912, new owners chose a new site for the inn, overlooking the sea, and the historic inn was moved. Business was good and almost immediately a new section was built adding more guest room and large public spaces. Purchased by Migis Resorts in 2014, Emerson Inn has since been updated to provide those conveniences that modern travelers look for, while being respectful of its history. The inn’s bright new look recalls the simpler lifestyle of its nineteenth century beginnings, without ever slipping into the “ye-olde-seaside-inn” look.
Guest rooms are thoughtfully equipped — two luggage racks, robes, irons, high-count linens,soft comforters for cool nights, reading lights over the bed and easily adjusted heat/air-conditioning. Oversized bathtubs feature air massage.
Large double-glazed windows admit fresh air and sweeping views of the sea just across the front lawn. These ocean-front rooms give guests stunning sunrise views and in the evening they are perfect for watching local lobstermen and fishermen headed back to their wharfs in town.
The dining room, which retains the name of Pigeon Cove Tavern, is excellent and has a good following among locals. The space is inviting, with well-spaced tables and attentive service. Just outside the dining room windows, a wide columned porch provides more dining space in good weather. These tables overlooking the sea are a perfect place to begin the day over breakfast or to end the day lingering over dinner in the evening watching the lights of fishing boats just offshore.
The menu features local seafood and ingredients come from nearby farms. Dinner was so good that we dined there both evenings. One night we began with large succulent mussels steamed in chili-spiked wine, and another evening shared the cheese board, a selection of artisanal cheeses with house-made preserves, spiced honey and crostini. Cajun-spiced shrimp, and a Caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes were other choices.
The entrees were just as interesting: Pan-seared scallops in citrus-thyme butter, a cassoulet of swordfish and white beans, or salmon served with tomato conserve, arugula and mixed mushrooms. Several dishes were accompanied by quinoa or a blend of ancient grains.
For more information on Rockport see my report on the town in ELF, pages 10 and 27.