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."

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