A Timeless Retreat

Architect Bruce Miller restores an authentic Cape cabin in the woods of Wellfleet.

It’s not every day you come across a property that evokes a sense of charm and nostalgia for old Cape Cod. Read more…

Preserving the Cape Cod Character

Gazing across the Fort Hill overlook in Eastham, the magnificence of Cape Cod’s natural beauty and rich cultural history comes into full view. The Nauset salt marsh and ocean that sustained native peoples and early European settlers spreads out below. Heathland and fields, still populated by migratory birds, butterflies, and rabbits, reflect the agricultural past of the site, the former Knowles farm. The 19th-century home of Captain Edward Penniman, framed in view by a whale’s jawbone for a garden gate, recalls the region’s maritime heritage. It is a scene of fleeting serenity that has been eons in the making. Read more…

Sole Food

Stacey Hedman
My initial reaction upon being offered the assignment of writing a story on Cape Cod winter walks was a mortified and stupefied, “Me?”

I’ve never been much of a walker, unless the journey included 18 holes featuring fairways, bunkers, and greens. When I did walk, I just about ran, as though the undertaking were something to endure-—think root canal surgery-—rather than to savor like a vintage wine. But exploring wonderful Cape Cod winter walks seemed like a fine idea, combining exercise, fresh air, and an opportunity for reflective isolation that is usually unavailable in these parts during peak summer season. Read more…

For the Creatures of the Earth

Bourne Historical Society

“Let us first, last, and all the time keep in mind that the Baxendale Memorial Foundation is a sacred trust. The island is the resting place of the Baxendales and failure to live up to the desires of the Baxendales, to divert it to cross purposes, would be desecration of a tomb.” Animal Rescue League of Boston publication ~1944

When Thomas A. Baxendale and his wife purchased Amrita Island in the late 1890s, they must have envisioned erecting their own little principality. Crossing the stone-pillared bridge to the island, one half expects to find a medieval fortress on the other side. The ivy-covered towers more closely resemble the entrance to an English castle than the gateway to an island on Buzzards Bay in Cataumet. The ivy hides inscriptions that allude to the island’s history. At the first pillar on the left of the bridge, a panel reads “Amrita Island, 1893” and the name “Baxendale,” while the right-side pillar bears a carving of a great blue heron and the declaration, “Safe from Snares.” The Baxendales created their own version of a kingdom at the turn of the century, but their shared love for wildlife meant that the island was, and hopefully always will be, a safe domain for the area’s birds and animals. Read more…

Big Air Time

Teton Gravity Research Steve and Todd Jones fondly remember growing up in Centerville. But more than Four Seas Ice Cream, they fondly remember the adventure—loading up their Boston Whaler and tearing out for the Vineyard. “We’d stop halfway, take a swim,” Todd says. “You know, load up the cooler, grab your friends, follow the compass heading on 240’. Even today, when I visit, I don’t take [Route] 28. I go on back roads so I can drive by Craigville Beach. That’s where it really started for us. That spirit of exploration.” Read more…

A Haven in East Harwich

Stacey Hedman

Three Cavalier King Charles spaniels burst through the screen door of Pleasant Bay Animal Hospital in East Harwich, straining at leashes gripped by slightly out-of-breath owners. Hannah and Lily, the two larger dogs, are in for their annual physicals and shots; Brigitte, the puppy, has come along for a grooming. Hannah is first up on the shiny steel examination table. Her tail is between her legs, and the loving strokes from her owner do little to ease her anxiety. Read more…

The Coordinates of Bygone Days

W.B. Nickerson Cape Cod History Archives & Cape Cod Community College

“Maps are artifacts of their time, and, as such, they are windows, not only on the world of the past that they represent, but on the worldview or the mind of the time that produced them.”—Robert Finch, The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket

Robert Finch’s commentary, “Two Windows,” which appears in The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket, tells us about the two views the map presents. One is “a wide-angle or macroview of its time,” he writes, while the other is a closer look at the people who lived then, including their individual stories. The broader view gives us town borders and bodies of water, village centers and back roads. The deeper, more penetrating look reveals, for example, that many of the listed heads of household in Truro Village—no fewer than 17—begin with “Mrs.”, which denotes a widow. “The explanation lies in the tragic gale of October 3, 1841,” Finch writes in his commentary, “in which the lives of fifty-seven Truro men were lost at sea.” Read more…

Among the Dunes

Luke Simpson

The invitation was unexpected and intriguing: Did I want to spend the night in a dune shack just yards away from the Atlantic in Provincetown?

For those unversed in Cape Cod lore, the dune shacks are the bare-bones dwellings that run along a two-mile stretch of dune ridges and valleys between Race Point in Provincetown and High Head in North Truro. The earliest shacks housed sailors who shipwrecked during the 19th century on the treacherous Peaked Hill Bars just off the beach. Others were constructed to provide a getaway from nearby bustling Provincetown center. Today, 19 rough-hewn shacks remain, and like the rest of the Provincetown community, they are steeped in history, culture, stories, and legend. Read more…

Waking Up On An Island

I am always awake early and I love the quiet from around five to six in the morning. Early one day this summer, on the island of Cuttyhunk, I jotted down a few notes.

Looking east up the Elizabeth Island chain, the sunrise over Nashawena was a reddish and pink line extending sideways in both directions peeking out below a fairly solid cloud cover. In the distance the silhouette of Nashawena’s high hillside shore was awash in the sun’s reflection on rolling and breaking waves, mist and haze. The clouds above the line of dawn light graduated from pink to white, then grey and mackerel with a few holes showing blue sky overhead.

Vineyard Sound was very calm for Vineyard Sound, Cuttyhunk Harbor was perfectly still, and Buzzards Bay was very flat also. The only boat moving was the dark outline of a fishing boat making its way up Vineyard Sound a few miles off shore.
The only constant sound was that of small waves surfing over rocks and up the shore and then washing and tumbling small stones over each other and back down the beach. Then, in the distance a tall-masted sail boat exited the harbor with ghostly quiet progress, passing close by the red bell buoy marking the channel. The boat’s wake rocked the bell buoy and the resounding clang echoed over all the surrounding still waters.

Looking southeast in the early morning light I could still see the Gay Head Lighthouse flashing on Martha’s Vineyard, about seven or eight miles away. High on the cliffs the light alternates red and white, red and white. To the left, the coastline of the Vineyard drops down to meet the sea at the entrance to Menemsha Harbor and fishing village, with its seemingly endless tidal coves, ponds, and creeks. Looking to the right of Martha’s Vineyard, just south of the Gay Head Lighthouse, the island of No Man’s Land is visible on the horizon. This tiny island has its own fascinating history of fishermen, explorers, and pirates.

Meanwhile, back here on Cuttyhunk, folks are beginning to stir. Comprising a Rockwellean sort of village image, the mostly modest, mostly summer, homes all with decks and porches are sprinkled from the shore up the hill, all facing the water. On the road along the shore an early dog walker startles and scares away a deer. A few minutes later a couple out for a walk linger by the wild blackberry bushes; they chat and help themselves to a snack. The houses all seem quiet, very few people up and about. In almost perfect unison, all the sailboats in the harbor gently turn on their moorings and point into a slight, but developing southwesternly breeze.

Soon my wife Judy will be awake and we will walk up to the Cuttyhunk Bass Fishing Club Bed and Breakfast. Just a few minutes away, this charmingly historic (late 1800’s) establishment serves delicious breakfasts on its open air porch, perched high on a bluff overlooking Vineyard Sound. The surf is constantly rushing and rumbling on the rocks along the shore below the bluff. Lawn chars invite guests to savor the scene. A little later, we will walk the shore out to the Canapitsit Channel, collecting beach glass with Judy’s best friend, Sam, our black Labrador.

I know that today, Max, our thirteen-year-old is taking the boat and a few friends over to Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. We do need to be careful to keep an eye on the weather, but Max is a very competent skipper. Joshua, our sixteen-year-old, is working for the MV Cuttyhunk, the ferry back and forth to the island from New Bedford. Being a Saturday, there are two runs, making for a long day in the summer sun. When not working, Josh will take the boat the length of Buzzards Bay and pick up one or more fiends in Marion. Josh also is a very competent skipper.

Never a dull moment on Cuttyhunk. But my favorite time of day will always be dawn. A friend once suggested to me that “the ability to sleep late is a sign of a clean conscience.”

My best,
Brian Shortsleeve, President & Publisher

Traces of Time

Nickerson Archives at Cape Cod Community College There is no sign of life beyond a lone lighthouse on the barren, moon-like expanse of Monomoy Island in 2010. All you can see are dunes, ponds, waves, and marshland. Monomoy is officially considered wilderness by the United States Government, yet rare evidence of Cape Cod’s past remains. It is hard to imagine that over a century ago, the fishermen’s village of Whitewash on Powder Hole Harbor graced these shores. Once known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Monomoy is rich with stories of shipwrecks, U.S. Military exercises, and even wild and wooly mooncusser legends.

Read more…

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