The Port of Beverly lies on the shores of Beverly Harbor about 2.2 nautical miles (1.9 kilometers or 1.2 miles by air) north of Salem, Massachusetts, in Essex County. It is about 20 nautical miles (24.3 kilometers or 15 miles by air) northeast of Boston. The United States' first ship, the schooner Hannah, was commissioned by George Washington at Glover's Wharf in the Port of Beverly in 1775.
From its beginnings, the Port of Beverly was a shipping center. As early as 1789, the Port of Beverly was home to one of the first cotton-weaving mills in New England. One of the country's biggest shoe machinery factories operated in the Port of Beverly from 1903 until the beginning of the 1970s. Today, the Port of Beverly's economy is mixed, with electronics and tourism being important sectors. In 2010, over 39.5 thousand people called the Port of Beverly home.
Before Europeans arrived in the area that would become the Port of Beverly, the indigenous Naumkeag people lived there. Although it was part of the Massachusett Confederacy of Tribes, the Naumkeag Nation remained independent. Essex County was their primary territory, and their biggest village was near the future Salem.
By the time Europeans arrived in New England in the early 1600s, the Naumkeag had already experienced large population losses as a result of a war with the Tarrantine people. A 1617 plague also caused significant loss of Naumkeag lives and created an opportunity for the Tarrantine. A later epidemic in 1633 nearly caused the tribe to disappear completely.
The Port of Beverly was at first a part of Salem. Roger Conant was the first settler, arriving in the Port of Beverly in 1626. Based on differences with Governor John Endicott over religious matters, the Port of Beverly was separated from Salem and incorporated in 1668.
The first settlers at the Port of Beverly felt compelled to protect themselves from the Naumkeag people, building garrisons and posting sentries. However, there is scant evidence that the Naumkeag were engaged in any violence against the Puritans.
The first ship commissioned for the United States Army (the Navy didn't exist yet) was the armed schooner Hannah. It sailed from the Port of Beverly in 1775. Today, it is located on local police department property. This event leads the residents of the Port of Beverly to call it the "Birthplace of America's Navy," although nearby towns dispute that claim.
The Port of Beverly may more rightfully claim to be the "Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. In 1787, the United States' first and largest cotton mill was opened in the Port of Beverly. One of the first Sunday schools was built in the Port of Beverly in 1810. In 1894, the Port of Beverly was incorporated as a city.
The United Shoe Machinery Corporation constructed a row of factory buildings that were 1320 feet long in the Port of Beverly. The buildings represent an early example of reinforced concrete construction. Beginning operations in 1906, United Shoe Machinery operated until 1987 when it was converted to complex containing high-tech companies and medical offices.
From 1909 until 1912, President William Howard Taft rented homes in the Port of Beverly to use as the summer White House. Because the President vacationed there, the new community of Beverly Hills in California was named after the Port of Beverly.
From early 1957 to mid-1959, a Nike missile site was located in the Port of Beverly east of today's Beverly Municipal Airport. In 1959, the National Guard took over the facility. Today, it is a storage site for the city; however, because the missile site (combined with local industries) has polluted the Port of Beverly's ground water, it is an important local issue.