Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Caleb Nickerson House


Twenty minutes into our hour long trip we turned around and headed in the opposite direction. The busy summer season on the Cape hasn't quite started but the long trek up the Cape to Falmouth on Rt 28 for the second day in a row was more than I could tolerate. And while the destination home has an interesting history it isn't truly a house museum. It's more a mansion for hire, perhaps the perfect spot for a summer wedding. But we're not in the market for that.

We made a u turn, passed our little rental cottage in Harwich and drove on to Chatham, the next town down the Cape. ( For a Jersey girl like me who spent every summer on Long Beach Island, this up Cape - down Cape stuff is counter intuitive.)

The Caleb Nickerson House is on a much quieter section of Rt. 28. Vacationers may be whizzing by on their way somewhere but the usual tourist stops of ice cream, beach umbrellas, salt water taffy and restaurants aren't on this stretch of road.

The house is a full Cape - style early 1800's house with a kitchen ell. In 2002 when the valuable land under it was sold for development the eight room house was bought by the Nickerson Family Association and moved by truck and barge to its current site. Over the years the home had undergone remarkably little renovation. Probably because it was being used by another newer larger home on the same property as sleeping quarters for grandchildren on overflow summer nights.

Care was taken to move the house as is because dismantling it would then require reconstruction with today's building codes. Certainly in over 200 years there's been more than a few changes.

The crushed sea shell walk to the back door is lined with an herb garden. Many of the herbs selected and planted in a 1800's kitchen garden were based on their medicinal purposes.

The handsome Egyptian Walking Onion plant, a Canadian transplant, caught my eye. It became popular in kitchen gardens in the 1790's. You'll find the tasty bulb at the tips of the stems rather than deep in the earth. Its name is derived from its self propagation technique of dropping bulbs into the soil that begin to root and form a new plant.

Our well informed guide pointed out many features of an early 19th century home unfamiliar to us.

* Two early convection type ovens were used at the fireplace hearth. The heat from the fireplace slowly cooked the contents. The first one, a simple box, was used for cookies and the second with multiple spiky hooks for quail or other small birds.

* At the base of the front door there is a weather sill. While constructed with the same wooden floor boards it is raised slightly from the regular flooring and forms an arc. It's purpose is to collect the melting sleet and snow from the visitor's soles. The resulting water then drains through small holes to the sand below the house.

*The youngest volunteer guide is watering the garden with an authentic pottery watering can from the era.

We were warmly encouraged to return in January when the yearly beehive oven bake off is held. Sounds yummy but we plan to return to the Cape in early fall when the weather's still glorious and the crowds have gone home. I'm writing a note to myself now to stop first up the Cape in Falmouth. (Doesn't sound right does it? Maybe its down the Cape?)