Northshore Magazine

May / June 2015

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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Page 206 of 244

204 every seat at the well-worn bar at Halibut Point Res- taurant & Pub is filled. A muted TV shows golf, but the regulars pay no mind, nursing their drinks and good- naturedly joking around. It might seem like an odd place to bring my kids, five and seven years old, for lunch, but we all felt per- fectly at home. The girls rummaged through a toy box in the corner, guided by our friendly waitress, while my husband and I enjoyed a plate of oysters and a cold Fisherman's Ale from nearby Cape Ann Brewery. Dennis Flavin, holding court at the end of the bar, tells me this convivial atmosphere is exactly what he was aiming for when he opened Halibut Point in 1982. "I made sure I built the place for little kids, old people, and single women," Flavin says—and he means that literally. He and some friends constructed an addition on the back of the building, handcrafted the wood bar, and filled the space with historic memora- bilia—much of which is related to Howard Blackburn, a fisherman-turned-entrepreneur who built the brick building in 1900 and whose name is carved into its façade. Blackburn is likely Gloucester's most famous citizen, and Flavin bears something of a likeness to the legendary figure. A portrait at the end of the narrow space bears witness to this, while also telling the tale of Blackburn's most harrowing adventure. In the portrait, his one visible hand is bandaged—Blackburn lost all his fingers and thumbs to frostbite when his fisher- man's gloves went overboard in a dory during a sud- den winter storm. Knowing his hands would freeze, he held them in a curved position so they would still slip over the oars of the small boat. He was rescued five days later, after rowing himself to shore with frostbit- ten fingers. Unable to return to work as a fisherman, Blackburn opened a tav- ern in 1886, ultimately establishing the brick building that now houses the Halibut Point pub. Through the years, the building has accommodat- ed everything from a Laundromat to a travel agency, though much of the original décor was removed. Flavin has spent decades reassembling it— Blackburn's old cash register holds a place of honor behind the bar, though it's no longer used. The staff uses a touchscreen to tally orders now—a tool that almost cost Flavin his longtime staffers. "You should have seen all us old guys trying to figure it out," says Flavin, who doesn't even have a cell phone. For a certain type of North Shore haunt, change comes slowly—or not at all. Regulars are resistant to new décor or menu items, and maintain- ing that balance can spell decades of success or speedy failure. Halibut By noontime on a chilly Saturday afternoon in Gloucester,

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