Ocean Alliance New Headquarters

With a generous grant from the Annenberg Foundation, Ocean Alliance purchased the iconic Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester and has now begun the cleanup and remediation phase of this restoration project for its new headquarters!

Ocean Alliance, like the City of Gloucester, has its origins in the bounty and fauna of the sea. Its new headquarters in the historic Paint Factory will enable Ocean Alliance to reconnect with its history, leverage its legacy, and prove itself a long-term asset to the City of Gloucester, metropolitan Boston, and New England.

“I am delighted to help Ocean Alliance preserve this landmark for Gloucester and our nation. Its restoration is a clear example of how historic properties can be saved for community use. With a research institute in this space, the citizens of Gloucester and our country will benefit from expanded knowledge of our most important resource—water. It is a privilege to be a part of American history.”

– Wallis Annenberg, The Annenberg Foundation

The Paint Factory’s History

Founded in 1623, Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport and the birthplace of her first major industry. Though built on fishing, Gloucester has also attracted painters, sculptors, poets, adventurers and remarkable inventors. One of the greatest inventions to come out of Gloucester solved a problem that had plagued ships for centuries: barnacles, worms and weeds that grew on the hulls and slowed their progress. Tarr and Wonson experimented for years, painting chemical concoctions onto house shingles, then immersing them in Gloucester Harbor, until finally one of their concoctions showed antifouling properties. It was based on copper oxide in tarr with napthalm.

In 1863, Tarr and Wonson received a patent for their revolutionary bottom paint. By 1870 the first buildings of Tarr and Wonson’s paint manufactory appeared at the end of Rocky Neck. One cannot overestimate the effect of the new antifouling paint. It transformed not just the North Atlantic fishery but trade, commerce and even warfare. For many years, Tarr and Wonson made the only bottom paint in America, but it coated the hulls of ships that sailed the world, and is still made today.

When these two men built the paint manufactory at the end of Rocky Neck they did not know that both their paint and their buildings would become such an important part of New England’s history. Painters from around the world, such as Edward Hopper and John Sloane, came to capture these buildings on canvas, a trend that continues today, making the paint factory one of the most familiar images in New England art. It connects the thousands of fishermen who have sailed by on their way to the Banks, some never to return, with the men who continue to fish out of Gloucester today.

These buildings are a daily reminder of Gloucester’s heritage, a link to the past, a bridge to the future. Ocean Alliance has moved its headquarters to the Paint Factory buildings to help preserve and restore them, but also to use a piece of Gloucester’s past as a bridge to the future we must work toward: clean, diverse oceans.