BEVERLY — Ferry Way Landing is a small public park on the city’s waterfront with a couple of important roles in the city’s history.
It was the spot where many of the area’s first settlers landed by boat, dating back nearly four centuries ago. It is also the spot, or at least near the spot, where the Hannah, the first ship in George Washington’s fledgling Navy, was outfitted in 1775.
A small plaque in the park commemorates the area as the “Birthplace of the Continental Navy.”
After all these years, the city now has another use in mind for the historic site — as an exit for patrons of a proposed restaurant.
On Monday night, the City Council authorized Mayor Bill Scanlon to reach a lease agreement with restaurant owner Joseph Leone to build a Black Cow restaurant on city-owned land next to the park. As part of the agreement, Leone would be required to seek permits to build a road through Ferry Way Landing park in order to provide a second exit for customers.
City Councilor Brett Schetzsle voted against the lease for several reasons. But the one that really pushed him over the edge was the idea of a building a road through the park, he said.
“We’re preparing to do something that is really kind of unthinkable,” Schetzsle said at the meeting.
“We’re going to place a paved road through an open space that has belonged to this city for 400 years. It’s central to the legend of the Hannah, around which we’ve built our brand as a city as Washington’s Naval Base. We’re going to try to destroy it.”
The park is bordered by a public walkway on the water side and a wall on the street side. A set of stairs leads from the street down to a walkway that winds through the park toward the water. There are a few trees, and the commemorative plaque is on a rock surrounded by bushes.