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The Foundation of Three Centuries

To experience the 300 years that transformed Chatham from farming village to vacation destination, just explore its historic buildings.

Chatham Bars Inn

The town of Chatham has seen many transitions over the last three centuries. What was once a farming community on the elbow of Cape Cod has become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations on the East Coast where visitors can still walk into buildings throughout town and be transported back in time. “There’s a real preservation-minded community here,” says Mary Ann Gray, archivist at the Chatham Historical Society. In honor of the 300th anniversary of Chatham, which takes place throughout the year. Cape Cod Life combed through documents from the Chatham Historical Society for a deeper look at four buildings that recall the town’s earliest days—and make for a great day of sightseeing in 2012 and beyond. Read more…

Three Vignettes

Cape Cod is rarely invoked in the same breath as Antietam, Shiloh, or Gettysburg when the subject turns to the American Civil War. Yet the region quietly did its part when it came to quelling “the Rebellion”, as locals termed it. According to Civil War historian Stauffer Miller, roughly 1,000 Cape men enlisted in the army; several hundred more served in an extended, quasi-Navy to replace those who had suceded; and 205 Cape Codders died during the conflict. Congress–– recognizing that Cape Cod sea captiains and merchant mariners provided ready-made talent from decades of seafaring dominance––chartered their steamships for the war effort and appointed Cape Codders as acting naval officers.

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A Fine Wine & Dine on Nantucket

World class wines from France. Fresh oysters from Duxbury. Black bass caught off the coast of Nantucket. Superb salmon flown straight from Scotland. Fine cuts of lamb from Colorado. Black truffles ordered from Paris. All prepared and served by highly regarded chefs and sommeliers in an elegant Nantucket home on a lovely summer evening.

Terry Pommett

These were just some of the attractions for a “Great Wines in A Grand House” dinner held last summer as a premiere 2011 Nantucket Wine Festival event. The evening was a star-studded extravaganza created by well-known chef, Robert Sisca of Boston’s award-winning Bistro du Midi, several French winemakers, and a Nantucket couple who shared their historic home with 18 lucky guests. Read more…

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On Cape Cod mornings in weather fair or foul, you might see 79-year-old Stan Snow rowing his boat on Orleans’ Town Cove. Just like his great grandfather, Aaron Snow, who often sailed up and down the East Coast in search of the best products for the family’s famous store, Stan knows the importance of sticking to things.  Read more…

We’re Fishing

Weir fishing still endures as a sustainable practice, thanks to a few hardy Cape Cod fishermen.

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The period from 1870 to 1930 was the heyday of weir fishing on Cape Cod, when weir-caught fish accounted for around a quarter of all New England seafood that went to market. In those days, earthen colored nets hanging from hickory poles poked from the surface of the water all over Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay. The catch was split up into baitfish for the big schooners that plied the Grand Banks, fishing for cod and halibut, and the rest was put on railway cars and shipped to consumer markets in Boston and New York City. To store the quantities being shipped, freezer houses sprung up from Truro to the Cape Cod Canal.  Read more…

Chip Bishop

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Scan the footnotes of Theodore Roosevelt’s life story and you’ll find the name Joseph Bucklin Bishop more than once. Bishop was a Roosevelt booster in the editorial pages of New York newspapers, a controversial appointee during the construction of the Panama Canal, the first of many biographers of the 26th president, and editor of the 1920 best-seller Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. Read more…

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In all seasons, a garden is one of the most life-affirming places on earth—so of course you want to get married there! Some choose a home landscape for their wedding site for this reason alone—others because it’s more personal or sentimental. Other brides decide on a garden wedding because of financial considerations. Those on Cape Cod often select a garden ceremony or rehearsal dinner because the outdoors are special here. Getting married where you can feel the sea breezes just seems appropriate for a Cape event. Read more…

Native trees like pitch pine and scrub oak are well recognized on Cape Cod and the Islands as hallmarks of our coastal landscape, providing a line of defense against the punishing winds and insatiable tides that try ceaselessly to claim our seaside world.

But in this coastal region known more for its beaches than its trees, there are also some exotic specimens steeped in history that link the present and the past through tales of sea captains, adventurers, philanthropists, and merchants.

Anthony DiSpezio

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The Seven Year Switch

How to understand the changing shape of our fragile coastal landscape.

Terry Pommett

Erosion has been unkind to Cape Cod and the Islands. Over the last seven years, we have witnessed houses swept off beaches or left teetering on the edge of cliffs. On Nantucket, Sankaty Head Lighthouse and the old ‘Sconset summer homes had to be moved back from the edge of eroding hundred-foot bluffs. By 2008, Chatham was losing 10 feet off the end of North Beach every day when the inlet migrated north. North Beach Island eroded at the rate of 80 feet a year, threatening a dozen camps owned by private homeowners and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The east side of Martha’s Vineyard lost about a foot of beach every day and a troublesome new break opened into Katama Bay, disrupting the Chappaquiddick ferry on the Vineyard. Read more…

Where Shells Bloom Where Shells Bloom

The spring season has a subtle presence on Cape Cod. Surrounded by cool waters, the land warms up at a glacial pace. While inland friends begin to talk about picnics, baseball games, and sunbathing, we are still bundled up in fleece, trudging along our beaches with wind-burned faces. Still, there are days in March and April when the sun feels so warm that you can lay down on the sand and almost believe you are sunbathing . . . so long as you keep your parka on.

There is an austere beauty to the beaches and the marshlands at this time of year. The first week of March as my husband and I walked along Centerville’s Long Beach, the light on the ocean was so bright, we had to put on sunglasses. The marshes glowed gold and it was warm enough that our 15-year-old Lab dove into the ocean after a flock of Mallards.

We said to each other that we are lucky to live here, natural riches all around us. Sometimes when I look at the Cape landscape in the winter or early spring—the spiky marsh grasses, stunted oaks, twisted pines, scrubby cranberry bushes and prickly cedars, I think of what Mayflower pilgrim William Bradford wrote about his first sight of the Cape on a December day in 1620.

Bradford described the Cape as “a hideous dessert (sic) wilderness  . . . of a wild and savage hue.” I think that description is still apt, even though we try to tame this unruly place with our manicured lawns and perfect gardens. Still, we all know that nature can blow away all our orderly impulses in a heartbeat. After every winter storm our beaches and marshes are altered, sometimes dramatically. That is what happened this winter to the shell tree on Long Beach.

For years we have admired the shell tree, a scraggly, long gone cedar festooned with shells by walkers. The first time I saw it, I thought something magical had happened on that cool April day and that the tree in the distance bloomed with some kind of rare flower. The tree was a white cloud in the distance, limbs heavy with shells.

There have been some bad storms this winter and when we saw the shell tree on our recent walk, several limbs were gone. The shell tree is a sad sight now. But we discovered that something wonderful has happened. All along Long Beach’s trails, shrubs and trees are covered with more shell flowers.

Our daffodils may be late and our lawns slow to green, but on Long Beach there are flowers blooming year-round on this, our splendid wild desert.

Happy Spring,

Susan Dewey

Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor
sdewey@capecodlife.com

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