Wellspring House Opens Groundbreaking Exhibition, History Lives Here


The two-day event next week honors the Freemans, a prominent Black American family that first owned the Gloucester Wellspring property for 103 years

For 42 years, Wellspring has supported thousands of individuals and families from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life to achieve employment and financial security through stable housing, education, job training, and career readiness.  The organization has operated from Wellspring House, the historic home at 302 Essex Ave., Gloucester.  

Next weekend, starting Friday, June 9, it will launch “History Lives Here,” an exhibit about the Freemans, three generations of a prominent Black American family that lived in Gloucester since the 1770s.  In 1826, the Freeman Family bought the property where Wellspring is headquartered now. Wellspring staff members and researchers have unearthed the family’s enduring achievements over a century, a story that ties directly to Wellspring’s present-day social justice mission. 

As part of the celebration, visitors will be able to share their stories using photography from the Essential PhotoVoices program, and those photos will be shared on-site over the weekend to complement the Freeman exhibit.  In addition, LuminArtz and Wellspring are collaborating on a unique building projection component to the exhibition with words and photos on the exterior of Wellspring’s main building on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The “History Lives Here” opening event & celebration will be Friday, June 9, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Blackburn Stompers, an early jazz-era group with members from the Cape Ann Big Band, will perform music from the Freemans’ era, the 1890s to the 1930s, with light fare served. On Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a free festival and public art project will be led by artists Claudia Parachiv and Azia Carle.  The interactive, collaborative art-making workshop will focus on “Freeman Family Layers of Love,” a project welcoming the public to construct a model of the Freeman homestead and illustrate a two-page comic book based on the “History Lives Here” exhibit.

Born in 1731, Robin Freeman was enslaved to Capt. Charles Byles, a mariner whose property was located in Gloucester, Mass., across from the current Wellspring House.  By 1769, Robin Freeman paid Byles to free himself from slavery. Robin’s son, Robert, followed in his father’s footsteps, successfully farming and becoming the largest landowner in Kettle Cove, Magnolia, a section of Gloucester, when he purchased 100 acres of land in 1803 to create Robbin’s Farm.  By 1826, Robert was able to purchase the land where Wellspring’s headquarters stands today. He and his wife, Rhoda, raised four children in the house, which remained in the family for three generations. It's a remarkable story of Black American accomplishment on Cape Ann, which will also be celebrated as part of the upcoming Gloucester 400+ anniversary celebration.

Reserve tickets for Friday and Saturday by going to the Wellspring website (wellspringhouse.org)  

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