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A House with History

Storied Captain Elijah Cobb House begins a new chapter as the Brewster Historical Society’s home and museum

Captain Elijah Cobb House

Photograph by Dan Cutrona

Like novels, houses have chapters. The story of the Captain Elijah Cobb House begins on the cusp of the 19th century and takes place in Brewster. It includes narratives of love and family, of hardship and struggle, of adventures and homecomings. Like those long Victorian novels written during the first century of this home’s existence, this story is also serialized. With the home’s recent sale and restoration, its newest occupant, the Brewster Historical Society, has taken up residence, and so its newest chapter has begun.

The tale opens in 1799 when the globe-traveling sea captain Elijah Cobb returned home from one of his many voyages to find, he writes in his memoir, “that my pertner [sic] in lifes [sic] voyage had run me in debt for a Cape Cod farm.” The property his wife, Mary, had purchased from a widow named Thankful Freeman was, he wrote, “destitute of a suitable building for the accommodation of our little family.” He contacted architect Phillip Burrill, who designed for Cobb and his growing family a handsome Georgian colonial with twin massive chimneys flanking a rooftop widow’s walk.

Before he retired to his farm in 1820 (where he would live until his death in 1848), Cobb was away from home much of the time, sailing around the world transporting rice and flour, rum from the West Indies, and gold and ivory from Africa.

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