Before Skip and Joanna Gaines There Was Henry Davis Sleeper - Welcome to Beauport

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


If you're one of the millions of folks out there who drool over HGTV and feel as if Skip and Joanna Gaines are your best friends, you might get an idea of what visitors to Beauport might have felt like back in the day.  Henry Davis Sleeper is considered one of America's first professional designers.
Henry Davis Sleeper was born in 1878 in Boston, MA, the youngest child of Civil War veteran Major Jacob Henry and Maria Westcott Sleeper.  Due to ill health as a child, Sleeper's education was by private tutor.  Henry Davis Sleeper never married or had children.   In 1908, he began building his 'summer cottage' overlooking Gloucester Harbor.  Over 27 years, Sleeper continued to enlarge and modify his cottage until eventually it boasted a whopping 40 rooms.  Sleeper’s original Little Beauport, named after Le Beau Port, French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s description of Gloucester Harbor, was a relatively small cottage situated on a modest lot.  In 1921, Henry opened his interior design office, making him an official interior designer.

The Golden Step Room - The middle window is designed to drop down into the foundation so that guests would feel they were eating outdoors.
Each of the forty rooms at Beauport is distinguished by a historical or literary figure, a theme, color, shape, or object. No two rooms are the same.  The interior and exterior of the house contain Sleeper’s lifetime collection of curiosities, colored glass, folk art, china, and silhouettes in every nook and alcove.  The house is framed by newly restored Arts and Crafts-style terraces that include intimate garden rooms with dramatic views of the harbor.  Just for fun, here are some interesting facts and figures about Beauport:

  • Of the 40 rooms, a tour generally only includes about 26 rooms.
  • The 'cottage' is 14,200 sq. feet (fourteen thousand two hundred)
  • There are 12 bedrooms
  • 8 bathrooms
  • 12 fireplaces - although not all are functional, some are for show

This is not the first time I've blogged about Beauport, although my original post went pretty much undetected two years ago.  I urge you to check it out (Anything but a Sleeper - The Beauport Estate). 
After Sleeper’s death in 1934, Beauport was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McCann, who left most of Sleeper’s arrangements and collections mostly intact.  Their heirs later donated the property to Historic New England as a permanent memorial to Helena Woolworth McCann.  It has been open to the public ever since.
Beauport, Gloucester MA
The Octagon Room
Want to see more?   I thought so...........

Sleeper McCann House (Beauport)
Amber Glass Collection
Sleeper McCann House, Gloucester

Beauport Mansion
Linebrook Parish Room

Sleeper McCann House

Bellfry Chamber

Beauport, Gloucester
Beauport Mansion
Golden Step Dining Room

Sleeper McCann House

Sleeper McCann House, Gloucester MA

Beauport (Sleeper McCann House)
China Trade Room - Note the Hand-painted Wallpaper
Beauport Mansion
Sleeper McCann House

Beauport, Gloucester MA

Sleeper McCann House
Sun Porch
Beauport, Gloucester MA

Sleeper McCann House

Gloucester MA

Sleeper McCann House
Book Tower
Sleeper McCann House, Gloucester MA
Desk in Book Tower - Note curtains made of wood

And for some exterior shots.....

Sleeper McCann  House

Sleeper McCann House in Gloucester MA

Sleeper McCann House in Gloucester MA

Sleeper McCann House Overlooking Gloucester Harbor
Was able to catch this view from our cruise on the Thomas E. Lannon Schooner
Sailing the Seas on the Thomas E. Lannon

Wonder how all these rooms translate in a floor plan?  Here's  how..... and remember, this estate grew to 40 rooms over a 27 year period, so access from one room to another might be a tad unconventional.

Beauport MA

Beauport Mansion

Sleeper McCann House

Sleeper's style and taste may be just a tad different from that of Joanna Gaines, but back in the day, he had plenty of fans who lusted over his sense of style and ability to bring his visions together with such flare.  
What's nice about Beauport is not only it's beauty on the inside, but the grounds surrounding it and the fact that Beauport is still one of the few places where you can get a live tour, not the kind where you sport headphones and tour at your own pace.  A live narration really brings Henry Davis Sleeper's spirit alive as you tour the estate.  Beauport, The Sleeper McCann Estate, is open to the public from May 28-October 15th, Tues-Sat.  If you find yourself in Gloucester or Rockport, I strongly urge you to take an hour to tour this very unique and beautiful estate.  For more information, please use the links below:
To see more photos, check out my earlier blog post:
To check out Beauport's website for information, directions and admission information:
To watch a great video tour of Beauport: 

Thanks for reading!  Come back soon for more adventures in Life As I See It.  I have one more installment to my Gloucester/Rockport series.  Don't miss it!

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4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Before Skip and Joanna Gaines There Was Henry Davis Sleeper - Welcome to Beauport”

  1. Your photographs of Beauport are superb--the best I have ever seen, and I have seen many over the years! I grew up in East Gloucester and my grandfather's and father's house was just down the road from Beauport so of course I had many occasions to view the outside and several times the inside of this breathtakingly beautifully situated, designed, and decorated home. Your photos demonstrate all three better than any I have seen. Thanks so much for sharing on GMG and now I have discovered your fabulous blog!

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    1. Wow Lora.....that's a pretty steep compliment and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it and how much it made my day! I'm not a pro, just a hobbyist but I love what I do. And I love the Gloucester area! Lucky you to have such easy access to places like Beauport. If you check out my Directory, you'll find more posts on that area under Destination-Massachusetts. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment!

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  2. I live in Gloucester and just saw these photos of Beauport, love them, very nice work. I see you listed Hammond, did you have photos of that destination that I can see, or maybe that can be another destination soon for you.

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    1. You can read my blog post about Hammond by using this link: http://www.lifeasiseeitphotography.net/2014/05/a-little-castle-by-sea.html
      Also, if you look at the directory in my blog http://www.lifeasiseeitphotography.net/p/directory.html you will see other Massachusetts destinations. Thanks for reading Life As I See It.

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