Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Winslow Crocker House

Yarmouth Port, MA

You know you're not in just any house museum when there's a large basket of blue booties awaiting you at the front door. It's a sign that more than usual care is being taken to protect the floors and rugs that you're about to trample on.

This 2 story Georgian style house was built in 1780 by Winslow Crocker,a wealthy trader, land speculator and rumored rum runner. As you can see from the photo this is a handsome and sizable building with large rooms. Compare it to other homes of the era and it becomes even more impressive.

Go back to the June 22, 2011 At Home posting for the early 1800's Caleb Nickerson House in Chatham. That comparison helps identify the Crocker house as a true McMansion of it's time.

Crocker died in 1821 and left the house to his two sons. The sons managed to live totally separate lives while sharing the same house. The solution - divide the home vertically by building a wall that split rooms and fireplaces in two.

The Crocker family continued to own the home until the 1930's when it was purchased by Mary Thatcher, the descendant of another original Yarmouth settler. Ms Thatcher, a philanthropist with a passion for collecting antiques, moved the house 6 miles from its original site in West Barnstable to the property next door to her family's original homestead.

Once reassembled beam by beam in its new location she began a restoration not based on historical relevance but on her desire to use the home as a showcase for her antique collection. She stripped the paint from the wood paneled walls, replaced the nineteenth century 6-over-6 style window panes with the colonial style 12-over-12, installed a colonial type fireplace with beehive oven, and added electricity, central heat, a kitchen and bathrooms. The renovation resulted in a colonial Cape Cod house with a twentieth century flavor.

Miss Thatcher always intended the house to be used as a museum and bequeathed the Crocker House and the one next door to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England. It has been a house museum since the late 1950's.

Because my visit fell on the afternoon of the All Around the Common event the second floor was not open for visitors but... Just as I was about to leave a guide from the Captain Bangs Hallet House lamented how she had never seen the entire house. With the tour closing down in five minutes and on a whim, Bill the veteran tour guide, welcomed her to the second floor and with a wave of his hand invited me to come along.

Interesting Question: Were Crocker and Thatcher related? According to the folks at Historic New England "they are thought to be related, at least by marriage, and possibly several times over."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All Around the Common

Spent another lovely few days on the Cape (Cape Cod, MA). And since we weren't biking we had plenty of time for house museums.

As we approached the Captain Bangs Hallet House in Yarmouth Port traffic slowed to a crawl. A long line of cars cruised around the green searching for a parking space. Without realizing it we had wondered into the annual "All Around the Common" event that's held one Sunday each autumn. The two house museums, church, and artist's home which surround the common are all open to the public and free of charge for the afternoon.

Once parked my husband immediately spotted the straw hatted man casting antique fly rods on the green and went to inquire and try his hand at flicking his wrist.

The Captain Bangs Hallet house had a cookie and cider table set up on the front porch and a steady line of visitors. The usual tour had been dispensed with for the day. There was no second floor showing but each room on the first had a well informed period costumed guide. The house is "the only fully furnished Sea Captain's home open to the public on Cape Cod". And the earlier period kitchen in the basement of the home has a collection of early household gadgets.

Does the name Edward Gorey ring a bell to you? Didn't to me either but you might recognize his pen and ink drawings that still frame the introduction and credits on PBS Mystery! Gorey was an American author,artist,playwright and set designer who lived in one of the oldest homes on the common. It's now a museum dedicated to his life's work.

The art sale was held in the New Church. The church was built in 1870 by a group of Yarmouth residents who were followers of the 18th century theologian Emanuel Swedenbborg. Today it's owned and managed by a non-religious organization and is used as a community site.

I'll soon post another entry on one more house museum on the common, the Winslow Crocker House.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Martha and Me

Martha and I both have an interest in house museums and historically important homes. We've both recently commented on house museums in California and suggested a short list of homes to visit or view.

But here's the difference. Martha gets to take pictures of the interior while I'm prohibited! (There's lots of other differences but who's counting?)

Who's Martha and why is she entitled to this unusual access?

Martha is the media mogul Martha Stewart. Ah, now it becomes clear.

The September 2011 edition of Martha Stewart Living has a nice little piece on the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Hollyhock House in Los Angles. There are two exterior shots but most of the wonderful photos are of the interior highlighting the rich wood accents.

I followed the article's "more on-line logo" and found that Stewart's website has a tab devoted to house museums, American Treasures. While not extensive there are 5 homes listed, two of which I've seen and 3 others I'd like to. In fact for lots of great interior shots of my recent post, the Gropius House, see Martha's website.(www.marthastewart.com/american-treasures)

Does the website update this section with additional homes? I don't know the answer to that but I'll be checking it out from time to time and looking for those interior shots that I'll never get.

Here's a shot of an interior I can take photos of 24/7.

my kitchen