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…
Weir fishing still endures as a sustainable practice, thanks to a few hardy Cape Cod fishermen.
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…
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…
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.
How to understand the changing shape of our fragile coastal landscape.
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…
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.
Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor
Tonkin of Nantucket brims with beautiful antique furniture, collectibles, and art, and most of the items have a story that is as captivating as the pieces themselves. Take the hefty marine paintings burnished with the deep patina of British history. Owner Robert Tonkin explains that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy had an artist on all its major ships. “The paintings were done on wood panels,” Tonkin says, “so if the ship sank hopefully the painting floated and they would know what happened.” Read more…
The historic quilt collection at the Atwood House Museum in Chatham holds a treasure-trove of stories in its folds. Study the quilts’ intricate patterns, deep colors, rich textures—and sometimes even handwritten messages—and a swirl of history passes by.
Consider Marjory Smith, who bought the material for her gorgeous red and green quilt in Boston, when she traveled there to shop for bridal clothes for her 1833 wedding to John Atwood. Or Mehitable Atwood, whose friends and relatives pieced a multicolored “friendship” quilt in honor of her 1848 marriage to Benjamin Boylston and wrote bits of wisdom on its back (“Remember me when night closes in on thee” and “True friendship is everlasting” are just two of many).
With their captivating visuals and messages that were sometimes inked or stitched onto the back, the quilts give a glimpse of Chatham life in the 1800s and early 1900s—life that is as profound as any history book.
“There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Those words ring especially true for Denise Barker of East Sandwich. Her charming Cape is a constantly evolving expression of her love for Cape Cod, photography, nature, and her family, especially during the holiday season, with two crackling fireplaces spreading warmth and freshly baked Christmas treats piled high on pretty pedestal plates displayed on the kitchen counter. Denise makes the holiday season special with all her festive, uniquely creative touches.
In 2002 when Denise and her husband, Scott, were house-hunting they had a punch list of wants and needs for their family of five. The couple loved the historic character of East Sandwich, and coming upon an unfinished Cape with a yard full of pear and apple trees they knew they had found the right place.