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A monument to romance

Crosby Mansion Brewster

Photo courtesy of Friends of Crosby Mansion

The Crosby Mansion’s past and present are rooted in love

Once the grandest home in Brewster, the historic Crosby Mansion survived stints as a restaurant and inn, a music school and a camp before falling victim to disrepair and neglect, but the landmark has been saved by a group of local residents determined to restore it to its former glory. The successful, grassroots restoration has been a labor of love, a fitting tribute to a home inspired by love.

The mansion was built in 1888 by Cape Cod native Albert Crosby upon his return from Chicago, where he had made his fortune and then lost more than any other individual in the 1871 Chicago fire. He brought with him his second wife, Matilda, who had been a burlesque performer, was 23 years younger, and had by all accounts stolen his heart. It was for Matilda that Albert built the mansion, incorporating an art gallery to house his collection and a ballroom suitable for the lavish entertaining she loved.

“He was madly in love with her,” says Brian Locke, president and founder of the Friends of Crosby Mansion, the all-volunteer group that restored the mansion and supports its ongoing work by hosting weddings and events there, in addition to offering regular open houses.

The smitten Albert was fond of giving his younger bride gifts, Locke says, citing one charming example: “She was always late, so he gave her a ‘Hurry Up’ pin with diamonds and rubies.”

His devotion was no doubt salve to Matilda, who had been married before but discovered after the fact that her husband was already married. “She was devastated,” Locke says.

The couple took a year to honeymoon on a grand tour of Europe, and incorporated their experiences into designing the 35-room mansion overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Built by John Hinckley and Sons, the mansion has 13 fireplaces, many of them done with imported English tile, each in a different color. The fireplace in the parlor is topped with intricate woodwork and a beveled mirror tinted green to match a fireplace Matilda saw at Versailles and fancied. Likewise, she had the main foyer modeled after one at Buckingham Palace. Off the foyer is an elegant library that the Crosbys had paneled in carved mahogany. The upper portions of the walls were done in Japanese leather paper imported from Japan and washed in gold leaf.

The second floor master bedroom enjoys a view of Cape Cod Bay that must have been spectacular in the late 1880s, when there were few trees to block it (at that point, most of the trees had been cut for building and fuel). Off the bedroom is a dressing room featuring his-and-her walk-in closets with built-in dressers, and a marble bathroom that had running water and a flush toilet—a rarity in those days.

Down the hall is a large guest room, also with a bay view, closets and a bathroom, that was reserved for important guests, including Mark Twain and Prince Albert.

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