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Two days in Dennis—a Cape Cod photo essay

Two days in Dennis, June 2017 Cape Cod LIFE |

A serene scene at West Dennis Beach. Photo by Charles Sternaimolo

John Anderson, owner of The Village Peddlar at 800 Main Street, has been fixing clocks on Cape Cod since 1979. “Dennis is a close-knit community,” Anderson says. Case in point: To complete repair work on certain timepieces his customers bring in, Anderson often calls on different merchants in the area—a local cabinet maker, perhaps, or the owner of a frame shop—to see if they have a certain part. “There’s always somebody around to go to,” he says. A resident of Brewster, Anderson says he’s busy ‘round the clock—he had 40 jobs waiting for him when we visited—but when he does have time he enjoys savoring a meal at Scargo Café.

The Cape Cod Museum of Art is just around the corner, and in 2016 the museum celebrated its 35th anniversary with a special exhibit and the release of a new book, Art from Cape Cod. Founded in 1981 by Harry Holl (of Scargo Pottery) and Roy Freed with the goal of preserving and displaying artwork created by the Cape’s artists, the museum has more than 2,000 pieces in its collection today, including works by luminaries such as Henry Hensche, Charles Hawthorne and Arnold Geissbuhler. Located at 60 Hope Lane, on the same cultural campus as Cape Cinema and The Cape Playhouse, the uniquely designed museum is a work of art itself. The main gallery is housed in a massive Tudor-style building that was donated to the museum by the Davenport-West family of Harwich. The roof’s construction resembles that of a boat’s hull, and beneath it visitors casually browse local artists’ creations, many inspired by the sea.

“I think Dennis is really a diverse town,” says Benton Jones, the art museum’s education and outreach coordinator. “I especially love the natural resources.” A professional sculptor, Jones enjoys visiting Crowes Pasture Conservation Area and nearby Quivett Creek and Sesuit Creek. The latter location is where, in the mid-19th century, Asa Shiverick and his brothers built eight majestic Clipper ships—the only Cape Cod builders ever to do so.

Tobey Farm on Route 6A has a connection to Dennis’ shipbuilding era; the barn on the property was once part of the Shiverick shipbuilding factory on the banks of Sesuit Creek. Today, the farm sells annuals and perennials, jams and jellies, and “hardy mums.” One can also attend art classes at the farm, and in the fall it’s a good spot to pick out a pumpkin or enjoy the scenery on a hayride.

Traveling through the South Dennis Historic District, we met Joe and Maureen O’Clair, whose home on Highbank Road has a unique historical significance. The home is the last on the Dennis side of the Bass River, and from 1833 to 1869 it was utilized as a tollhouse, regulating the crossing of a wooden bridge that spanned the river. Bridge-crossing fees were 2 cents for individuals, 6 cents for a rider and car, 8 cents for a sleigh or sled, and 3 cents for a wheelbarrow. The O’Clairs do not collect any tolls today, but they appreciate the area all the same. “I love Dennis,” says Maureen, a retired schoolteacher. “I think it’s the best town on the Cape, I really do.”

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