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"The most painted building in America" can be found in this Massachusetts town

Taking a look inside the famous "picturesque" fish shack found in Massachusetts
Taking a look inside the famous "picturesque" fish shack found in Massachusetts 02:47

ROCKPORT -- Rockport is a jewel on the Massachusetts coastline, which is a small enclave on Cape Ann that's picturesque yet approachable. Every summer, tourists flock to it for the scenic views, quaint storefronts and bounty of restaurants.

The centerpiece of the harbor is a small fishing shack that's been dubbed "the most painted building in America." It's easy to see why: the bright red paint on the building boldly contrasts the blue sky and water. The iconic lobster buoys adorn the harbor-side wall as a nod to the local industry.

The building is famously named "Motif No. 1."

Motif No.1 fish shack resides in Rockport, Massachusetts.  CBS Boston

Rockport's history

The commercial heartbeat of the town is Bearskin Neck, a peninsula that frames Rockport Harbor. It got its name from, according to local legend, Ebenezer Babson, who fought off an attacking bear with a knife and hung its hide on the rocks for all to see.

Although people are familiar with the exterior of Motif No. 1, WBZ got a look inside -- courtesy of the building's caretaker, Bill Lee. 

"The town owns the building and maintains it," Lee said. "I'm the leaseholder, and the longest leaseholder, plus I'm the oldest turkey around here." 

The fishing shack was originally built in 1884, but was destroyed in the Massachusetts blizzard of 1978. It was rebuilt by the town that same year and leased out -- Bill's been in it ever since.

Inside Motif No. 1

Bill unchains the door to the first floor, but there's no lock on the end of it. The room is broken into several stalls, which are rented and used as storage space by local fishermen.

The room is overflowing with stuff, from old fishing rods to a saxophone.

"Bobby Hebb. You know who Bobby Hebb is? He sang 'Sonny' back in the 60's and wrote it," Lee said. "Bobby Hebb played that sax right there," he said, pointing to the alto sax suspended near the ceiling.  

"These guys have come up with stuff that a lot of times, it's stuff their wives won't let them hang up in their office or cellar," Lee said.

Bill says he'll eventually start splitting the lease with a younger lobsterman in town, and at age 76, will step back from The Motif -- with some conditions.

"He's going to take over and he promised me to leave stuff the way it is," Lee said. "And I said, 'just put your stuff on top of my stuff.'"

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