You would not believe the renovation on this 150-year-old home!

Cape Cod Home  /  Autumn 2019 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner

You would not believe the renovation on this 150-year-old home!

Cape Cod Home  /  Autumn 2019 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner

Handed Down Home

A 150-year-old historic home has become a place to create memories for generations to come

In 1873 Elias Burrows built a home in Cotuit for his new wife and their future family. It was a traditional Greek revival farmhouse with a welcoming portico entrance positioned asymmetrically on the right of the front façade that faced Cotuit’s Main Street. From the sparse collection of history available about Mr. Burrows, it appears he was a fairly ordinary citizen. Sadly, the family he prepared for never fulfilled the dreams he must have held for their future in his new home. A daughter named Sarah was born in 1873, but is recorded as deceased in 1875, and his wife Temple Phinney Harlow Burrows apparently died five years later at the age of 36. It is easy to imagine his whitewashed home standing proudly in a landscape of the Cape long ago—a time when the majority of trees had been sourced to build the structures of the New World—and a photo captured from that time would certainly have been black and white, devoid of the rich history that is the lifeblood of Cotuit today.

The Elias Burrows homestead, circa 1873, was built for a family in Cotuit. 150 years later it has had several owners who have created generations of memories. The current owners are adding their own creative and personal touches to make the home their own. A new barn in the back of the home welcomes friends and family most every weekend.

Today, the Burrows homestead still stands and has evolved since the historical days of the post Civil War era; it has accumulated 150 years of history as it has sheltered and protected the lives of its various inhabitants. The current owners, Jeff and Maria Dinardo are the most recent stewards of the property and one can’t help but think that everything has led to this moment.

Jeff loves to look at houses, he’s always spying Open House listings and trying to convince me to go. I told him we were on vacation, and I wanted to just enjoy the Cape and relax. I think I finally gave in by saying that we would go look at it

“We weren’t even in the market for a Cape house,” recalls Jeff, “but we were on vacation for a week in Cotuit and I saw this listing.” Maria concurs, but emphasizes how they really weren’t looking. “Jeff loves to look at houses, he’s always spying Open House listings and trying to convince me to go. I told him we were on vacation, and I wanted to just enjoy the Cape and relax. I think I finally gave in by saying that we would go look at it.” As it turns out, that was an assent that would change their lives going forward.

The house had undergone recent renovations performed by Cotuit-based Peter Pometti of Architectural Innovations that included a new kitchen, new bathrooms and an addition of a comfortable family room and a three-season, screened porch, (as well as air conditioning and an irrigation system—two non-negotiables for Maria) all while keeping much of the original charm and character of the home in tact. “It was move-in ready,” Jeff explains. “If it hadn’t been, I don’t think I could have convinced Maria.”

“Honestly,” Maria adds, “the kitchen is what sold me.” The Dinardo’s home in Wayland is a polar opposite of a “Cape house.” Their kitchen has rich dark cabinetry and years of memories. This seasonal home has a kitchen that is light, white and made for casual entertaining. A large center island which grounds the space and gives plenty of room for guests and diners to perch on stools, while the cook can easily turn out the goods. Modern sleek appliances encourage the creativity that is often inspired after a day of clamming or a trip to the local farmers market. A bar area on the opposite side of the kitchen allows guests and hosts to attend to any and all beverage needs without interrupting the multitude of cooks the space encourages.

And there are many cooks in this kitchen. Maria’s parents, Luigia and Remo joke that this is their house. In fact, Jeff confirms, “Maria’s parents are sometimes here more than we are. They come and go as they please and when they first saw the house we showed them their ground floor suite.” Sure enough, the retirees are as comfortable as Jeff and Maria, and their contribution to the never-ending bustling activity that fills the house is invaluable. Coincidentally, both parents emigrated from the same village in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Luigia is often found in the kitchen feeding the souls of Jeff, Maria, their children and their many visiting friends. Remo, a retired contractor from Newton, is Jeff’s consigliere as he works alongside Jeff on the endless list of creative projects that spring from Jeff’s artistic mind.

Jeff, who majored in art at Skidmore College, and now designs childrens’ textbooks, has one of those curious and energetic personalities that insatiably seeks out new creative projects—most often recently of a woodworking nature. Once you understand that about him, it is easy to understand why he loves to explore real estate listings. Throughout the home, Jeff’s curated artwork—ranging from oil and watercolor paintings by local Cape artists, to whimsical folk art to the ordinary that has been transformed into the extraordinary—is evident at every turn.

“I love to go to artisan fairs and flea markets, and any place where there is creativity and my mind is allowed to run free,” Jeff explains. Along the way and through the years, Maria has evolved from a willing participant to a fully engaged partner in the hunt. “I enjoyed it enough at first, but now I’ve learned to see what he sees and I’ve learned to trust enough, and he’s been successful enough, that I am fully on board with some really adventurous ideas.”

It was that sense of adventure, wrapped in up in some vision, that led to one of the projects the Dinardos were able to add to the old Burrows homestead. An old barn behind the house beckoned to Jeff who set-up a woodworking workshop in the basement. But the barn wasn’t suitable for much else. Pometti who had successfully accomplished the renovations on the house for previous owners was enlisted to salvage whatever they could from the barn and erect a new one; but could he make it feel old? 

The result is a guest quarters that has a luxurious bathroom, comfortable living room and a secluded bedroom. Using reclaimed materials to achieve much of the character of the space, Pometti crafted a space that everyone in the Dinardo family, and a long list of friends, wants to book for their Cotuit get-away. Jeff and Maria with their diligent hunting and sourcing, have outfitted “The Roost” with an array of whimsical, practical and unusual, art and accessories. 

The barn settles into the back corner of the tidy, but lush lot that is in close enough proximity to hear the Cotuit Kettleer games throughout the warm summer nights. It provides the seclusion the Dinardos want for their guests, but is also easily accessible, as it is mere feet from the screened porch where everyone seems to gather.

But, as any creative person understands, the project list is rarely complete. One day as Jeff was tidying another corner of the lot Maria noticed that he was thinking something through. “She asked me what I was doing,” Jeff explains. “I told her I was thinking it would be a good place for a fire pit. She said, “No, I want a fireplace.’ A fireplace? I had never thought of that, I couldn’t even imagine it. But she explained her vision and it sounded like an awesome idea. So we contacted a mason to give us a quote. Well, it was so expensive, we almost gave up on the idea, but I decided to go to the stone yard to see what I might be able to figure out on my own.

“A young man there noticed I was trying to figure something out so he asked me what I was doing. I explained it to him and he got so excited he asked if he could come by and see the space. He thought it could work within our budget and he was right. We just love it.”

And that’s how a new relationship with Brian Boley of M.B. Masonry in Sandwich was born. Boley got to work creating the reality of the vision that Maria initially explained to Jeff. “He was a true artisan,” says Maria. “It was like he was working on a jigsaw puzzle. And then at the end he thought he was finished, but I told him it didn’t have the cap I wanted. He got so excited and said ‘Oh my gosh, that is going to be so hard, but I’m going to do it!’ He came back with a small crane and carefully, I mean carefully placed the final slab across the top.” 

The result is a majestic outdoor fieldstone fireplace with a raised hearth and two knee walls that spool off of each side to make a half circle that embraces a seating area for six to twelve people comfortably. Of course, Jeff sourced the crowning detail—a dark steel medallion depicting sea life that was created by a Haitian artist who cut it from the top of an oil drum.

The creativity, the ingenuity and the overall energy that envelops this home are truly inspirational. As with many people who have a Cape house, the Dinardos have lots of friends and family who love to come and visit, but what makes their situation seem unique is that Jeff and Maria (and her parents) all seem to be as excited to spend their time in Cotuit as their guests.

“How could you not love Cotuit?” Maria says. “It is unlike anywhere.”

Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.