Site History

For nearly 100 years, from 1854 to 1952, the former Gloucester Gas Light Company (GGLC) operated a Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) along the waterfront in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The former GGLC land holdings extended along portions of what is now Harbor Loop and Rogers Street along the Inner Harbor.

The MGP used industrial processes to produce manufactured gas from coal and oil. Customers used the gas primarily for the same purposes we use natural gas today (e.g., lighting, cooking and heating). MGPs, which were common before the development of the region’s natural gas pipelines, often yielded by-products of the gas production process such as tars, sludges, and oils. For more information on MGPs, see the About MGPs page.

Gen. view of gas plant from rear looking westerly 2-9-31-14177

18 Water St with boiler house & #1 holder house in rear 2-9-31-14178

During its years of operation, the MGP produced first coal gas and then carburetted water gas. Most of the MGP building components were located on the commercial parcel currently owned by National Grid and the adjacent Solomon Jacobs Park parcels, with additional gas holders located on properties to the north, near the intersection of Harbor Loop and Rogers Street.

During the former MGP’s period of operation, Parkhurst Marine Railways occupied the current United States Coast Guard (USCG) property, and small manufacturing operations and the Burnham Brothers Marine Railways occupied the current Maritime Gloucester property at Harbor Loop. The surrounding properties were used for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The principal industries included seafood storage and processing; paint, sail, and other marine-shipping-related manufacturers; boatyards and rail yards; and bulk storage.

GGLC ceased operating the MGP in the early 1950s and sold the associated land holdings. The former MGP components were reportedly dismantled sometime between 1952 and the late 1960s. During urban renewal activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Solomon Jacobs Park and an adjacent commercial property were constructed over most of the former Gloucester MGP. In the early 1970s, the federal government acquired the property adjacent to the park to construct the USCG base.

Today, National Grid owns the commercial property next to the park and leases it to the Gloucester Harbormaster and other tenants.

MGPs like the one in Gloucester operated under less stringent regulations than those in place today. As a result, certain by-products from the former MGP operations were left in the environment, much like other facilities of its type after they closed down.

National Grid has inherited the responsibility for the study and cleanup of these MGP by-products in Gloucester. As required by state environmental regulations, National Grid has developed a plan to remediate (clean up) the MGP-related compounds at the Site.