A House with History
During the purchasing process, though, Chapin died, and the house was in limbo long enough for the pipes to freeze. When the historical society took possession, having raised funds through Mass Cultural Council and Community Preservation Act grants as well as through more than 1,000 private and business donations, there was much work to be done. Though the value of the renovations is estimated to have exceeded a million dollars, the work was completed for less than $400,000. “We hired skilled craftsmen to do the work,” Gunning says, “but a lot of time was gifted by skilled people.”
Among those who donated their talent was Brewster native Paul Daley, one of the society’s directors and the head of the building committee. “The house was in tough shape when we bought it,” Daley recalls, but he was undaunted. “I have probably worked on every old house in town at one time or another.”
The society hired the architectural firm Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber to provide an existing building code review so the structure could be transitioned from residential to commercial use. The actual restoration work started outside. Clapboards, sills, and quoins were repaired or replaced; the old cedar roof was replaced; the two massive chimneys were repaired, with new cast stone installed; and the original widow’s walk was re-created exactly as it had been when Mary Cobb had stood up there, scanning the bay for her seafaring husband. In addition, trees were taken down, and the property was regraded, with walkways and a parking lot added.
“Accessibility improvements were done in order to minimize the impact on the site,” says Maria Raber, the architect on the project. “It was a pleasure working with the Brewster Historical Society. They understood what needed to be done to restore the house properly.”
Remnants of the past surfaced during the excavation in the form of a Spanish real coin, a thimble, and some keys, Daley says. A more relevant find was made in the back barn: all of the original exterior shutters, which were repaired and hung back on the house.
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