Rockport Harbor is located at the tip of Massachusetts' Cape Ann peninsula about 36 nautical miles (49 kilometers or 30 miles by air) northeast of Boston. It is also about 15 nautical miles (25 kilometers or 16 miles by air) southeast of Massachusetts' Newburyport Harbor. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost seven thousand people in Rockport Harbor. Rockport Harbor is surrounded on three sides by the sea.
Before explorers and colonists from England came to the future Rockport Harbor, Cape Ann was inhabited by members of the indigenous Agawam Tribe. Before Europeans arrived, the Agawam population of thousands stretched from the Danvers River to the northwest to the Merrimack River to the south. In the early 17th Century, a hepatitis epidemic decimated the people so that there were only about 50 Agawam left when the English came to Rockport Harbor.
For over a century, Rockport Harbor was an uninhabited section of Gloucester that was used for timber harvesting, particularly for pine used in building ships. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean was also a bountiful source of fish. A dock was built at Rockport Harbor in 1743 to transport lumber and fish across the East Coast.
For many years while Gloucester thrived, Rockport Harbor was the location for summer homes, large estates, and a tiny fishing village. In 1840, Rockport Harbor became a separate town.
Rockport Harbor was a source of high-quality granite. During the Industrial Revolution, Rockport Harbor's quarries provided a lot of granite for building in New England. A new type of sloop was created to move the granite to far-away destinations. These sloops continued to move granite until the early 20th Century.
As the use of concrete increased during the Great Depression of the 1930s, demand for granite decreased. However, Rockport Harbor continued to prosper due to its artists' colony. The inspiration of Rockport Harbor beaches, quaint fishing shacks, small fishing boats, and Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous attracted painters and photographers from around the world.
In 1856, Hannah Jumper and a group of 200 women started "Rockport's revolt against rum" by destroying everything that contained alcohol. Except for the Prohibition Era, Rockport Harbor continued to be one of only 15 dry towns in Massachusetts. Until recently, Rockport Harbor continued to be a dry town.
Still a popular place with artists and lobster fishermen, Rockport Harbor is really more of a residential and tourism town. Fourteen weekday commuter trains move residents to/from Boston, as Rockport Harbor is one terminus of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) Newburyport/Rockport Line.