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Babson Boulders at Dogtown Common – the remains of an abandoned colonial settlement on Cape Ann, Massachusetts

David Goran

Once known as the Common Settlement and populated by respectable citizens. The area later known as Dogtown is divided between the city of Gloucester and the town of Rockport. Dogtown is known for its charming woods, giant boulders and rock formations left behind when the last glaciers melted. It was formerly called “The Commons,” but as legend has it, Dogtown earned its name from the dogs that women kept while their husbands were away fighting in the American Revolution. The peak of the population in 1750-1800, is estimated at around 100 families.

The entrance to Dogtown Common

The entrance to Dogtown Common. Source: Lori L. Stalteri/Flickr

After new coastal roads were opened and, especially after the conclusion of the War of 1812 and its attendant risk of coastal bombardment, most farmers moved away from Dogtown. For a few decades, their abandoned houses were occupied by itinerants and vagabonds, giving the area its bad reputation.

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Dogtown Rocks. source

Today Dogtown offers miles of crisscrossing trails and abandoned roads that traverse nearly 3,600 acres. Most of the land is held in trust by Gloucester and Rockport and is therefore protected in perpetuity. The current state of Dogtown affords rich recreation opportunities to hikers and bikers, dog-walkers, nature lovers, cross-country skiers, geologists, and historians.