The natural beauty of ’Sconset has long attracted visitors to the far eastern end of Nantucket. Beginning in the late 19th century, builders seeking to capitalize on the village’s charms built rental communities to house growing numbers of summer tourists. The block of houses on the south side of Magnolia Avenue is a well-preserved example of the rental cottage industry building boom.
The Sunset Heights development of the 1870s was first the group of purpose-built rental properties constructed in ’Sconset. In 1873, prolific builder Charles H. Robinson began construction of Sunset Heights on a large parcel of land south of Main Street. Together with his partner Dr. Franklin A. Ellis, Robinson laid out Ocean Avenue and a series of small lanes, most named after trees. The partners constructed a footbridge over the gully to connect their development with the rest of ’Sconset, and the first cottage was completed by the summer. The new neighborhood was anchored by the Ocean View House, a hotel offering both short- and long-term accommodations at affordable rates. Robinson’s idea proved very successful; he continued building cottages in ’Sconset throughout the 1870s and 1880s, and in 1883 added the Ocean View Annex across the street from the original Ocean View House.
Charles Robinson wasn’t the only builder who sought to reap the benefits of ’Sconset’s quaint appeal. In 1879, Edward F. Underhill purchased land to the south of Magnolia Avenue in Sunset Heights and laid out Pochick Avenue. Unlike the larger Victorian style cottages built by Robinson and Ellis, Underhill built cottages that mimicked the old fishing shacks turned residences in the center of ’Sconset. In 1882 he purchased additional land and laid out Lily and Evelyn Streets, along which he also built small, closely grouped cottages. The Underhill cottages along Pochick Avenue later became the center of the Nantucket Actor’s Colony.
Local landowner Isaac Hills also got in on the ’Sconset cottage craze. In 1885, the year after the Nantucket Railroad extended to ’Sconset, he purchased land on the south side of Magnolia Avenue from Robinson, abutting the land of Edward Underhill. The property already contained two houses; three years after purchasing the land Hills contracted with Robinson to build an additional two houses on the block. Hills advertised many rental properties for occupancy in the Inquirer and Mirror throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, and Magnolia Avenue became alternatively known as Hills Street. Hills grouped his rentals together the ’Sconset Cottage Club, with Rudder Grange, on the corner of Ocean Avenue, serving as its headquarters and dining hall.
However, by 1918 Hills had fallen on economic hardships and was cited for failure to pay property taxes. He also failed to pay in 1919, and in December of that year he sold off a parcel of land on Magnolia Avenue, with the cottage called Genesee Lodge, to Levi Starbuck Coffin. Levi Coffin was a well-known ‘Sconset citizen and owner of Bloomingdale Farm, but Coffin was also involved in the tourism industry centered on Sunset Heights, having served as the proprietor of the Ocean View House in the 1880s. Shortly after purchasing Genesee Lodge, Coffin turned a storehouse on the property into what the Inquirer and Mirror described as a “very comfy igloo.” This new cottage, at 6 Magnolia St, was then rented with along with the other Magnolia Avenue properties as “Tis a House.” Evidence shows that the structure was originally constructed by Hills at the rear of the lot, and moved forward and expanded. A small building appears on Sanborn fire insurance maps from 1904 and 1909, with the map of 1923 showing the expanded dwelling closer to Magnolia Avenue.
Much of the old Sunset Heights is now lost: Ocean View House has been demolished, as have many of Robinson’s original cottages. But the dwellings that composed Isaac Hills’ Cottage Club are still visible along the south side of Magnolia Avenue. Genesee Lodge is now called The Good Tern, Villa Marguerite is now called Tern Too, and Tis a House is now called Rosehip. These cottages, together with Rudder Grange, Casa Fortunata, and Thorny Croft, form a block of intact late-19th and early-20th century buildings that offer a glimpse into Sunset Heights’ development as a resort destination.
 “’Sconset Notes,” The Inquirer and Mirror, May 15, 1920, Historic Digital Newspapers Archive – Nantucket Atheneum.
At just about 6.5 miles long, Milestone Road connects Nantucket’s two historic cores: the bustling harbor front of downtown and the quiet village of ’Sconset. Yet Milestone Road is not simply a way from here to there, but an important historic corridor with unparalleled views of Nantucket’s rural landscape, critical to the island’s status as a National Historic Landmark.
The NHL entry illuminates further: “Land conservation efforts have preserved more than 40% of the island as open land, large portions of which are managed as cranberry bogs and open land subject to annual controlled burns; this conservation land preserves the windswept maritime setting that has characterized all periods of Nantucket’s historic past.”
By the late 1600s, Nantucketers started establishing cart paths to Siasconset. The paths were free flowing and often diverted obstacles such as ruts, but generally followed the now established road. Early 19th century deeds provide evidence that the road was well established just west of the village from Cain’s Hill (public golf course) east to Sconset.
In 1824, the milestone markers were placed to time horse races from and to ‘Sconset and town. On June 1, 1833 The Inquirer & Mirror reported that many hundreds of cart loads of clay have been intermixed with the sand and the “prospect is very favorable that an excellent road will be established from town out to the first milestone marker.”
In 1855, Nantucketers wanted a clearly designated road to the east end of the island. A road was surveyed and improved. In 1856, Mr. Joseph Vincent planted a row of pine seed on each side of the ’Sconset road, “from the corner just below the Asylum to Philip’s Run.”
By the 1880s, the road to ’Sconset was commonly referred to as the Milestone Road. Throughout the 1880s the road required repairs as the ruts became quite deep. Schemes for an electric railway along the Milestone Road were proposed in the late 1880s.
By 1893 the condition of the road was so poor that the town petitioned for Milestone Road to become a state road. The road was again surveyed. Over the course of several years in the late 1890s the Milestone Road was paved with crushed stones. The State Road to ’Sconset was completed in 1910.
By 1896, a bike path had been constructed from town to ’Sconset and was repaired in 1900 after heavy use. It was paved in 1958.
According to Dr. Frances Karttunen, in “A History of Roads and Ways in Nantucket County,” around 1900, a handful of motor vehicles were brought to Nantucket by summer residents. Nantucket voters successfully requested a special act of the Massachusetts legislature to make it illegal to operate an automobile on the island. This ban passed in 1908 and was held until the spring of 1918. Within ten days of the repeal, there were 24 cars and a car dealership on island.
In 1977, Milestone Road was beautified by the planting of 21,000 daffodil bulbs alongside the road by the Nantucket Garden Club. More than forty years later, the daffodils still delight each spring.
Milestone Road has long captivated those journeying to ’Sconset, as this 1896 poem A Picture by Anna C. Starbuck printed in The Inquirer & Mirror details:
Originally the site of the Ocean View House Annex, One Ocean Ave stands out in the small village of ‘Sconset on the island’s eastern end.
Harry Lange Burrage (1872-1951) president of the Connecticut Cotton Company and banker, purchased the Ocean View House Annex property in ’Sconset in 1919, with plans to tear down the old four-story building and put up a house in its place.
1919 was a busy year for Harry. He married his second wife, the actress Mabel Davis (1886-1965) on October 14, 1919. Her stage name was Mabel Acker (her maiden name). It was Mabel’s second marriage as well, and both brought children from prior marriages to their new union.
One Ocean Ave was designed by the Boston architect William H. Cox (1879-1948). Cox designed the Chatham Bars Inn, the Cross Trees mansion in Chatham, and housing for workers at the Connecticut Mills Company, where Barrage was president.
The work of razing the old Ocean View Annex started in the fall of 1919. Elliot M. Brown and Horace C. Gibbs oversaw the demolition project. Plumbing work was finished in April of 1920. In May of 1920, the foundation for the garage was put in. The weather that year slowed many building projects, and the masons were held up due to their inability to secure lime. Work continued into the summer of 1920, and Harry and Mabel sailed from Boston on their yacht to check on construction. In June of 1920, there was “much to be done yet before it is ready for occupancy.” The Burrages planned to spend summer of 1920 in ’Sconset and rent elsewhere.
An Inquirer and Mirror article published August 13, 1921, writes of One Ocean Ave and Mabel Davis Burrage: “Although she has retired from the stage, she has from time to time many of her old friends with her as guest sat “The Moors,” Mr. Burrage’s $75,000 summer home overlooking the sea.”
By August of 1923, the Burrage estate was “a glorious mass of riotous rambler roses and makes a fitting setting for its handsome chatelaine,” but before the year was out, the Burrage family would sell the grand estate.
In November 1923, Regan Hughston (1875-1951) and Maribel Hartman Hughston (1875-1958) purchased the Burrage estate. At the time of her their marriage in 1918, Maribel was known as Ohio’s richest woman. Regan (also called Regan Hughston McLaughlin) was a vaudeville star, and the couple met in 1911 when Regan was directing a play in Columbus, OH. Regan appeared in three silent films in the 1910s, and he was a member of the George Fawcett stock company in Baltimore in the early 1900s.
Maribel had been married once before in 1895 to Frederick William Schumacher, with whom she had three children; they divorced. Schumacher worked for Maribel’s father, the wildly successful snake oil salesman Dr. Samuel B. Hartman. Hartman was the man behind the famous prohibition era “medicine” Peruna, which was about 18% alcohol. (The book Wicked Columbus, Ohio by David Myers and Elise Meyers Walker has a chapter on Peruna and the Hartmans.) Dr. Hartman was brought down by the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act but was far from broke. In 1911, Maribel urged him to construct The Hartman, a ten-story building (since demolished) in Columbus that housed a theatre.
The Hughstons were not alone at One Ocean Ave. They employed the Wilson family as domestic workers, though the Wilsons lived in Codfish Park. Clarence F. Wilson (1901-1993) was the Hughston’s private chef. Originally from Bermuda, Clarence came to the US in the early 1920s. He was married to Florence (Flossy) Adlina Deshields, also from Bermuda. They had three daughters, Lois Genevieve, Vivian Louise, and Joan Rita. The Wilson family arrived on Nantucket in May of 1938 where they spent 15 year employed by Regan and Maribel Hughston, both on Nantucket and in New York. Their 50th wedding anniversary was honored by all of ’Sconset in 1975, and when Clarence died the flags at the ’Sconset rotary flew at half-staff.
One Ocean Ave stayed in the Hughston family through Maribel’s daughter, Maribel Hartman (Schumacher) Finnell, and grandson, Michael Finnell. After 67 years of continuous ownership, the Hughston-Finnell family sold One Ocean Ave in 1990.
Each year, Nantucket Preservation Trust’s August Fête takes you inside some of the island’s most historic homes. This year’s Broadway Revival August Fête celebrate’s ‘Sconset’s history as an actor’s colony. With a reception at the ‘Sconset Casino and open houses in the village’s core, the August Fête is a fantastic night to learn more about the island we love and support Nantucket Preservation Trust. Tickets on sale now!
Here, take a peek at the houses that August Fête attendees will get a chance to tour:
Shanunga | 10 Broadway | c. 1680
Local lore has it that Shanunga was built in the 1680s and moved to its site on Broadway from nearby Sesachacha. The fish house’s name derived from the ship Shanunga of Philadelphia, which was lost in 1852 off the south coast of the island. The vessel’s quarterboard and figurehead graced the yard of the cottage for many years. The oldest section of Shanunga is the T-shaped south end. The north end’s tall section probably dates to the late 18th Century and the lean-to along the side lane was most likely added in the 19th Century.
Uriah Swain (1774-1810), who held the property prior to 1800, was one of the island’s most successful whaling masters. Upon Swain’s death in 1810, the cottage came into possession of his daughter, Elizabeth Swain Carey (1778-1862). Elizabeth, known as Betsey, married James Carey, captain of one of the island’s most successful ships, the Rose. Tragically, James died on a voyage to China in 1812, leaving Betsey with two young children. She ran a store and boarding house on lower Main Street, and later operated Shanunga as a shop and public house. After her death, the cottage passed to her daughter, Betsey Carey Baxter (1806-183), whose husband, Captain William Baxter (b 1805) was ’Sconset’s unofficial postmaster. The cottage served as the local post office and remained in the family into the early 20th Century.
The Maples | 14 Broadway | c.1800s
The construction date of The Maples is unknown, but Edward Underhill wrote in the 1880s that it was held by Latham Gardner in 1814. It’s possible that the fish house was built by Gardner (1760-1830), a Nantucket selectman and town clerk who is said to have served with John Paul Jones as a petty officer on the USS Ranger before becoming a whaling master. Local lore suggest that the house was built during the War of 1812, when iron for hardware was rare, since the house is among the few that were originally constructed with wooden hinges and other wooden hardware in lieu of iron.
The 1835 map of the village indicated the owner had the initials “B.C.,” who may be Betsey Carey—owner of Shanunga, the house next door. By 1858, The Maples was owned by David Mitchell (1799-1875) a successful blacksmith with a shop in town along the wharves and extensive real estate on island. For much of the late 19th Century, the cottage was known as the Eliza Mitchell (1808-1896) house, for David’s forth wife and widow. Today, the lane between Shanunga and The Maples still bears the Mitchell name.
One Ocean | 1 Ocean Avenue | 1919
Harry Lange Burrage (1872-1951) president of the Connecticut Cotton Company and banker, purchased the Ocean View Annex property in ’Sconset in 1919, with plans to tear down the old four-story building and put up a house in its place. Burrage married his second wife, the actress Mabel Davis (1886-1965) on October 14, 1919.
One Ocean Avenue was designed by the Boston architect William H. Cox (1879-1948). Cox designed the Chatham Bars Inn, the Cross Trees mansion in Chatham, and housing for workers at the Connecticut Mills Company, where Barrage was president. The work of razing the old Ocean View Annex started in the fall of 1919. Work continued into the summer of 1920, and Harry and Mabel sailed from Boston on their yacht to check on construction.
In November 1923, the Burrage family sold the grand estate to Regan Hughston (1875-1951) and Maribel Hartman Hughston (1875-1958). At the time of her their marriage in 1918, Maribel was known as Ohio’s richest woman. Regan was a vaudeville star, and the couple met in 1911 when Regan was directing a play in Columbus, OH. Regan appeared in three silent films in the 1910s, and he was a member of the George Fawcett stock company in Baltimore in the early 1900s.
The Hughstons employed the Wilson family as domestic workers, though the Wilsons lived in Codfish Park. Clarence F. Wilson (1901-1993) was the Hughston’s private chef. Originally from Bermuda, Clarence came to the US in the early 1920s. He was married to Florence (Flossy) Adlina Deshields, also from Bermuda. They had three daughters, Lois Genevieve, Vivian Louise, and Joan Rita. The Wilson family arrived on Nantucket in May of 1938 where they spent 15 year employed by Regan and Maribel Hughston, both on Nantucket and in New York. Their 50th wedding anniversary was honored by all ’Sconset in 1975, and when Clarence died the flags at the ’Sconset rotary flew at half-staff.
Svargaloka | 5 Elbow Lane | c. 1860s, moved 1871
On August 5, 1871, The Inquirer & Mirror reported that “E.H. Alley has purchased a tract of land at Siasconset near the verge of the bank and has also purchased the house on the Charles C. Folger Farm, which he intends removing to ’Sconset, to make two cottage houses of it.” Svargaloka is the farmhouse that was found on Hawthorne Lane, just west of town, and moved to ’Sconset. Elijah H. Alley (1819-1888) was a clothing retailer from Lynn, Massachusetts, who married Mary Burdick (1820-1888) of Nantucket. They had no children, and in 1888 the property descended to Mary’s sister Susan. It would eventually pass to Susan’s daughter, Eva Channing (1854-1930), who with her mother appear to have been frequent visitors to the cottage during the time the Alley’s lived there. A student of Sanskrit, Eva is credited with naming the cottage Svargaloka, meaning “land of paradise.” Eva made improvements to the house, including the construction of a piazza that once graced the Elbow Lane elevation but was destroyed in a windstorm in 1914.
Siasconset Union Chapel | 18 New Street
In 1882, a group of men formed a corporation under the name of Siasconset Union Chapel and organized a board of trustees. Builder and owner of the Ocean View House, Charles W. Robinson, and Dr. Franklin A. Ellis, both developers of the Sunset Heights area near Pochick Street, offered a choice between two Sunset Heights parcels for the worship center; however, the board decided on a lot on New Street which was closer to the village center and given by trustee Horatio Brooks. The building plans were donated by a Mr. Varney, a Detroit architect, and Robinson was awarded the bid for construction at a cost of $1,680.
Before construction, the name for the Gothic Revival-style chapel was uncertain. For a time, there was talk of calling it “Baxter’s Saints’ Rest” after Captain William Baxter (of 10 Broadway) a pious mariner who adhered to Christian principles though surrounded by temptation and sin. The church was finally named Union Chapel and was completed in 1883.
Siasconset Casino | 10 New Street | 1899
In 1892, $800 was collected to erect a casino building, and Mrs. Emily E. Rice of Detroit agreed to donate a lot on New Street for a “Hall of Amusement” with dedicated indoor and outdoor community space for social, dramatic, and sporting events. The Siasconset Casino Association was formed in 1899. Architect John Collins drafted plans for “a building with an audience room with a floor to be laid with special reference to dancing, a stage, ante-room, dressing, reading, and smoking rooms.” In mid-July 1900, the Casino and two tennis courts opened. In 1915, the Board of Selectman issued a permit to the Casino to show silent movies. Talkies came to the Casino on June 17, 1931, providing islanders entertainment and escape during the Great Depression. The same year, a movie set was built on the grounds of the Casino and several ’Sconset residents were cast in the film The Sinners.
Each year the Nantucket Preservation Trust recognizes individuals and organizations that advance the cause of historic preservation on Nantucket. Awards are provided for preservation work on historic buildings and landscapes, and for the protection and stewardship of island resources.
NPT’s Preservation Awards program is designed to show that a building or landscape can be sensitively updated while maintaining and preserving its historic integrity. In general, the NPT Preservation Awards emphasize proper preservation, showcase the island’s craftspeople, and reveal the foresight of owners who care about our historic structures and landscape.
2019 Architectural Preservation Award
86 Main Street, Jeffrey Paduch and Caroline Hempstead
A finely detailed and early example of Greek Revival style architecture, the house at 86 Main Street commands attention. Proudly perched at the corner of Pine and Main Streets, the Allen-Crosby-Macy House was constructed in 1834 for Joseph Allen, a whaling captain who also speculated in real estate on Nantucket. Though updates to the house have been made over the years, the majority of the original finishings remained in position.
Unoccupied for more than a decade, 86 Main Street would have been an intimidating project for many homeowners. Jeffrey Paduch and Caroline Hempstead were well suited for the challenge and sought out project manager Brian Pfeiffer. Decision making at 86 Main Street became a collaborative process among the owners, craftsmen, project manager, project engineer, architect, and landscape architect, all of whom have contributed to the spectacular outcome.
Jeffrey and Caroline considered the history behind 86 Main Street to be an important part of their preservation planning. They understood immediately the importance of uncovering the home’s history before work began. The scope of work was immense and included: repair and re-installation of original window sashes and glass; reproduction of louvered shutters; reproduction of replacement window sashes; four original chimney stacks with ten original fireplaces repaired and relined, fireboxes and ovens repaired; reconstruction of cupola; excavation beneath foundation walls and installation of traditional underpinning of granite stones to create interior basement height to house modern mechanicals; structural repairs to timber-frame, west wall, southeast and southwest corners of the ell; repairs to interior woodwork and interior plaster; and reinstallation of interior shutters and doors.
A project this extensive is truly a team effort. Led by homeowners Jeffrey Paduch and Caroline Hempstead, the team also includes Brian Pfeiffer, Penelope Austin, Michael Gault, Jared Baker, Amy Boyle, Colin Evans, Michael Burrey, Nathaniel Allen, Aaron Beck, Adam Zanelli, Newton Millham, D. Randall Ouellette, Gary Naylor, Todd Strout, Betsy Tyler, Luke Thornewill, Janet Kane, and Martin McGowan.
2019 Historical Renovation Award
51 B Centre Street, Keith and Elizabeth Roe, owners; Michael Sweeney, builder
One of the largest differences between the way Nantucket’s historic downtown looks today and the way it looked two hundred years ago is the removal of outbuildings from the streetscape. The landscape would have been dotted with outbuildings—privies, stables, hen houses, to name a few. 51 B Centre Street is a 2-story wood-framed structure originally built as a stable for 51 Centre Street and today serves as a guest cottage. The construction of the early stable is the original, surviving post-and-beam wood frame. The original structure appears on the earliest Sanborn Map in 1887. Between 1898 and 1904, a separate structure at the west end was removed.
The cottage at 51 B Centre Street contributes to the island’s historic streetscape. It is rare to have survived in its original footprint and form from its beginnings as a utilitarian stable structure.
Michael Sweeney Construction oversaw the restoration and renovation of its existing form, footprint, and original post-and-beam structure. A one-story addition was designed and constructed to harmonize with the existing building. Sweeney also used salvaged materials from the structure to echo the look of exposed beams in the new addition.
2019 Historical Renovation Award
The Helm, 6 Evelyn Street, Sias., Alec and Brigid Lamon
According to Edward F. Underhill, developer of Underhill Cottages in ’Sconset in the 1880s, The Helm was “built following the traditions of the builders of a hundred years ago, who made their houses strong and compact for comfort and convenience and with no thought that the structures they reared would ever be in demand for the residences of families from distant parts during the warm season.” The cottages were modeled after the fish houses in the village core along Broadway, Center, and Shell streets—using the same architectural vocabulary, including warts, T-shaped plans, and half gable roofs.
Now an important part of the island’s architectural heritage, the Underhill Cottages (Pochick, Lily, and Evelyn Streets) are individually owned. Some of the original cottages have been heavily changed over the years, but The Helm retains much of its original architectural details and charm. The Helm has been in the Lamon family for decades, and owners Alec and Brigid Lamon recently underwent a careful historical renovation working with Angus MacLeod Designs.
The kitchen and bathrooms were updated, and windows and insulation were added in the second-floor loft. A ca. 1940s wing to The Helm housed an additional bedroom but did not harmonize with the original structure. MacLeod took advantage of the cottage’s evolution and designed a functional bedroom and bathroom, and installed windows and a door to the side yard that complemented the original structure yet worked to integrate the addition. An outdoor porch was enclosed to create a welcoming breakfast nook but retains its old exposed shingles. Overall, The Helm is characteristic of the quirky charm of Old ’Sconset that Underhill sought to emulate.
2019 Traditional Building Methods
Newton “Tony” Millham
Tony Millham began blacksmithing in Newport, Rhode Island in 1970, forging architectural hardware for the Newport Restoration Foundation, and in 1977 he moved his shop to Westport, Massachusetts. All of Tony’s work is hand forged and hand finished. Careful forging combined with filing, fitting, and finishing are necessary to reproduce the details, finish, and feel of early wrought hardware.
Tony’s careful work can be found in many island homes and buildings, including the Old Gaol, Higginbotham House, 100 Main Street, 86 Main Street, and in ’Sconset. In addition to designs in his own catalog, Tony reproduces hardware by working from client’s original examples; photographs; sketches; architectural drawings; or references to images in books.
Not only a splendid craftsman, homeowners and project managers agree that Tony is an accessible resource. He is always happy to answer a question, aid in installation, or teach a homeowner the skills required to install and care for his pieces.
2019 New Construction Award
39 Main Street, Sias., Nell and George Wilson, owners
Perhaps the best indicator of an award-worthy New Construction project is that the only thing that sets it apart from other nearby buildings are the new cedar shake shingles. Once weathered to a soft grey, the house at 39 Main Street in ’Sconset will look as though it has always been there. Working with the Wilson family, designer Milton Rowland created a stately Main Street home that echoes the details of other houses that line the street and welcome you to the village. Set back from the road, the new house still retains a large yard. Many of the homes on Main Street were added to over the years, creating a visual reminder of the passage of time and tastes. The design of 39 Main Street mimics these older structures, creating a feeling of a large family home that has been expanded over the decades. The builder for the house was Rhett Dupont of Cross Rip Builders.
2019 Stewardship Award
Shanunga, 10 Broadway, Sias., Kristen Williams Haseotes, owner
One of the most architecturally significant buildings in ’Sconset, Shanunga needed a savior. A host of issues dissuaded many potential buyers, but Kristen Williams Haseotes was ready to take on the project. The best preservation practices guided her work, and she worked with fine craftsmen including Patrick McCarty of Nantucket Carpentry, and window restorationist, Brian FitzGibbon. The exterior of the house has been carefully restored and old timbers were retained and repaired rather than replaced. Today the old fish house has been refreshed with new shingles and restored windows—and the notable addition of a carved wooden figurehead once again graces the front yard. Previously hidden behind high hedges, the house now sits proudly as an important part of the streetscape with sensitive landscaping. The interior remains relatively untouched. Haseotes updated the kitchen and the bathroom, both in a careful manner in keeping with the rustic style of the house. The footprint of the structure also remains the same, and through her efforts, new life has been breathed into one of ’Sconset’s most adored buildings.
2019 Landscape Award
Florence Merriam Hill, posthumously
Perhaps no one person has had as much of an impact on the garden landscape of Nantucket—especially Siasconset—than Florence Hill. Hill, a Starbuck descendant, grew up on Upper Main Street in the stately Middle Brick mansion. But it was ’Sconset where Florence Hill’s influence is still felt today. Florence and Frederick Hill owned Starbuck Cottage in the easternmost village. A landscape architect, Hill was single-handedly responsible for the proliferation of American Pillar roses on Nantucket. In 1909, she bought 1,500 roses for 22 cents each and sold them to her neighbors in ’Sconset at cost. Over the next few years she repeated this feat. The iconic rose-covered cottages exist today because of Florence Hill.
“You’ve got to practically row to my front door as it is.” That’s what one resident on Brant Point said in 1996. This week, we continue our two-part series on historic flooding on Nantucket.
What do these flooding events mean for our historic structures? What can we do today, and how can we plan for the future?
This June 26-28, we hope you’ll join the University of Florida: Preservation Institute Nantucket, Nantucket Preservation Trust, and Town of Nantucket for a two-day symposium entitled Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket, in collaboration with the Newport Restoration Foundation and ReMain Nantucket.
February: “The most spectacular happening occurred when the high waves smashed the piles at Straight Wharf which supported Yerxa’s boat shop. The mishap took place Thursday morning, after the wharf had been battered all night. The beating waves did considerable damage to the south wall of the wharf and the bulkheads, and the gale blew in part of a wood shed. William Thomson, manager of Killen Bros., Inc., estimated the damage in excess of $1,000.
The steamer made her trip from the island Wednesday morning, but the down trip could not be made neither could airplane service—so the island was completely isolated. There was no boat service on Thursday, but Dave Raub made a trip over in his Nobadeer plane, bringing back Wednesday’s papers. Thursday morning the town truly presented an Arctic appearance.”
March: “An extreme high tide which occurred Wednesday night added to the discomfort of many residents living near the harbor. Easton Street and serval other roads on Brant Point were badly flooded, the water reaching a height of 20 inches or more in the cellars of some homes in the Point area.”
March: “The severe flooding of the Brant Point and Washington Street areas last weekend has been the main topic of discussion in Town this week, and, unfortunately, a great deal of criticism of both the local Police Department and the Coast Guard has been heard.
This criticism has stemmed mainly from the fact that many people believe, and rightly, that advance notice should have been given of the rising waters so that families could have evacuated before the storm reached its peak. Actually, advance warning was almost impossible, due to the rapidity with which the water rose.
However, there are several things which must be considered. How many times have the reports have advancing hurricanes been cried down here on Nantucket because “they never hit here?” Perhaps more important, how many times have request by the Town Departments for emergency equipment been turned down by the Town meetings for the same reason or for economy’s sake?”
April: “…There are many storms, remarked Secretary Glidden, in which the tide is exceptionally high but there is no danger to the people in the low areas. Hefelt many people would not leave their homes unless they believed there was a good chance there would be water in their living rooms.”
April 3rd: “Another Sewer Break! A major break in the low level sewer main on Union Street, at Consue, occurred Tuesday afternoon and that section has been closed to all traffic for the balance of the week while the Sewer Department workers were making repairs. The men worked under difficulties having to cope with water continually flooding the trench as a result of recent heavy rains.
…Because of the recent heavy rains that have flooded the Brant Point area it was decided to open the sewer line to help carry the flood waters water. The main was opened at about 1:20 PM and at 3 PM the sewer broke at Consue.”
April 10th: “Former Selectman Robert B. Blair told of the flooding of Brant Point by recent rains and said he understood it was caused by sending sewage through the Brant Point main which prohibited surface drains from operating. He expressed concern the sewer situation might become a health problem…”
October:“Mr. Charles Flanagan, Disaster Committee, reported that in January there was an evacuation of families from the Brant Point section due to flooding conditions.”
March: “The raising of the height of the bulkheads along the waterfront on Easton Street from Brant Point Coast Guard Station to the White Elephant Hotel and the installation of bulkheads at the end of several town-owned rights of way along the channel side of Hulbert Avenue would assist in preventing flooding of the Brant Point area during severe easterly storms such as the island experienced Tuesday and Wednesday, in the opinion of Selectman John F. Meilbye.”
December: “Before the October noreaster, the shoreline along Hulbert Avenue was lined with bulkheads that were built by homeowners to prevent erosion. Gale force winds and raging tides ravaged the bolted wooden structures, leaving them in splintered disarray.
… When a bulkhead breaks, as the Hulbert Avenue structures did during the storm, it sends chunks of wood into the water that act as battering rams and can add to damage of other structures.”
December: “Wiring work permits related to the October 30 storm are being issued at five times the rate of nonstorm permits, and Wiring Inspector Tom Cassano says this is only the beginning.
… Since the storm flooded Brant Point and much of the downtown area, 403 wiring permits have been issued — 340 of them for storm-related work. Of the 129 building permits issued since the storm, 21 have been to repair damage.”
December: “The nor’easter that washed six ‘Sconset houses into the sea, flooded Brant Point and sections of downtown last weekend left in its wake almost $9 million in damage to Nantucket. Damage from the storm totaled about $7 million dollars to private residences, $2.5 million to island business and approximately $400,000 to town and public property, according to Selectmen’s Executive Secretary Suzanne Kennedy.
…Downtown, flood waters breached the seawall and covered Easy Street. The sea flooded and crept all the way down to the Peter Foulger Museum on Broad Street. Almost two feet of water filled the A & P parking lot, and several buildings on North Wharf were flooded. On Straight Wharf, buildings suffered wind and . water damage, and bricks covering the wharf were washed away. The Coast Guard Station at Brant Point was evacuated Friday as flood waters began to rise, with Coast Guard personel moving their command station to the Angler’s Club on Swain’s Wharf ; The pier at the Marine Lab suffered about $60,000 of damage. Up to four feet of Water covered the area to the Folger Hotel on Chester Street and to the corner of South Beach and Broad streets at high tide Saturday. Almost all of the houses on Hulbert Avenue were damaged when flood waters surged over the road. As much as five feet of water covered Winthrop’s White Elephant property, according to some reports.”
November: “Carol and Hugo Pagliccia live on a sponge. Their house sits on what used to be a cranberry bog just off North Beach Street. With the prodigious amount of rainfall this year, that bog has begun to recharge itself. The crawl space beneath their house has been filled with water for months: For a few weeks, they needed waders to get. to their front door. The Pagliccias say they have been pumping water and digging trenches to no avail.
“The water has nowhere to go around here,” Carol Pagliccia said. “It just sits there and it smells. We have never dried up since the spring.” The worry of the Pagliccias, and their neighbors behind the Stone Barn Inn, is that the Jetties/Brant Point area cannot tolerate any more building. “You hear about, all these buildings going up on lots that are already covered with water,” said Sonya Murphy, who lives three doors down from the Pagliccias. Tm just worried about the combination of all these things. Where is the water going to go?” North Beach Street is one answer.
…”Brant Point never dried out after the No Name Storm,” said ConCom member Diane McColl, referring to the storm of 1991. “We’ve had flooding problems, storm drain runoffs problems and we’re filling up the places for the water to go.” Yet Perry and ConCom members say they are largely powerless to stop further building.
…”It’s like walking through an algae pit,” Carol Pagliccia said. “I came here (three years ago) because I thought this was one place that would be protected. I thought Nantucket wouldn’t allow something like this to happen. What am I going to do if they put more buildings up around me? You’ve got to practically row to my front door as it is.”
October: “Many homes in the flood plain are on the move and on the rise. The action is a result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s updated flood maps published last July 2014. The unpredictable floodplains are impacting insurance costs, forcing some residents to raise their homes and others to get creative.
“People are starting to build moats around their electrical equipment or hanging their hot water heater from the ceiling of the basement,” Nantucket Insurance president Charlie Kilvert said.”
December: “The blizzard called Juno by the Weather Channel lashed the island with an icy vengeance Jan. 26 and 27, raging for more than 16 hours, flooding much of the downtown waterfront and significantly damaging the town pier.
…Newly-elected Gov. Charlie Baker arrived by helicopter and toured the island when the blizzard finally subsided, meeting with emergency-management officials at the Fairgrounds Road public-safety building and visiting the damaged town pier, which officials estimated would cost nearly $1 million to fix.
He also took an aerial tour of a flooded Brant Point and the Sheep Pond area, and later issued a disaster declaration that helped the town secure federal aid to make repairs.”
January: “The winter storm that brought a good chunk of the Northeast to a standstill today due to near blizzard-like conditions pummeled Nantucket with just rain and wind, and there was plenty of both, along with significant downtown flooding.”
Winter on Nantucket means punishing winds, high tides, and storm surges. Many of the low-lying areas of Nantucket town experience flooding during storm events. What do these flooding events mean for our historic structures? What can we do today, and how can we plan for the future?
In the months leading up to the symposium, we’ll feature different topics related to sea level rise and historic preservation. Since we’re in the middle of winter and severe weather concerns are on the mind, we thought we’d kick off this series by looking at flooding on Nantucket throughout history.
We combed through the archives of the Inquirer and Mirror to see how flooding has affected Nantucket since the 1890s. Read on to learn more…
February: “On the petition of the Nantucket Railroad for leave to move its track back 1,000 feet from the beach, to better protect it from damage by ocean storms, the committee on railroads were addressed by SK Hamilton, Esq. for the Railroad Co. There was no objection to the prayers of the petitioners, and a bill will be reported.”
October: “The harbor was lashed into seething foam, and at flood tide in the afternoon the waves were breaking savagely across the wharves. Small boats in the docks and vessels moored at the piers tugged and strained at heir fastenings, and in one or two instances prompt work was necessary to save some of the small craft from damage. Many ladies braved the blast to view the wild turmoil of the waters. Brant Point was flooded, and was passable to pedestrians only as far down as the corner of Easton and Beach streets, the street below being completely submerged…”
December: “The partiallycomplete bulkhead, belonging to Captain John Killen, connecting the Straight Wharf with Old North Wharf, was torn up and drive in alongside the wharf.”
December: “To particularize in detail the damage wrought by the storm would be impossible…”
“Therailroad bed across the Steamboat dock and on the marsh, likewise the car house on South Beach, are damaged by the waves.”
“All along the southern and eastern seaboard a tremendous surf rolled in, one of the highest ever known. It broke into all the ponds along the shore and swept across the beach at Wauwinet and into the inner harbor, surrounding at times and threatening to engulf the chapel and several summer cottages.”
January: “…it experienced a phenomenal high tide, which submerged the wharves, flooded the streets and property near the water front, and made things somewhat lively for a while.”
“The tide rose to a height not known for many years, and shortly before noon on Sunday the sight witnessed along the water front called many of our citizens from their homes to view the unusual conditions.”
“Brant Point was completely submerged.”
“The view of the point, covered with water all the way from the cliff beach bath-houses to the inner shore of the harbor, was a sight that has not been witnessed before for many years.”
February: “A large crowd of skaters were in evidence Sunday afternoon, on the meadows atBrant Point, which had been flooded with water since the high tide of the 13th [of January] and were frozen over by the cold snap of Friday and Saturday.”
September: “The Brant Point meadows were flooded; the bathing beach road was transformed into a river; residents had to wade in order to reach their cottage; all of the low sections were under water.”
“But the memory of man is fickle, for it happened that August in the year 1889 knocked this year’s record all to smithereens, for that month showed a total of 11.05 inches, 5.00 inches of which fell in twenty-four hours. If you keep a diary, just look back to August 1889, and you will see that August in that summer was far ahead of this one in rainfall.”
August: “A number of cars were stalled in the water which flooded Brant Point Road in places; and all over town car owners were having trouble in getting their machines to percolate properly, as the water found its way under the hoods and caused trouble regardless of the make.”
Next week, we’ll look at 1930 to the present. Do you have memories of flooding on Brant Point or other areas of town? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if we can use your recollections for our blog and archives.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…
The official start of winter is still a week away, but it’s cold here on Nantucket. There’s nothing that transports you back in time more than walking along our historic streets and seeing smoke curling out of chimneys, the smell of woodsmoke filling the crisp air.
In a place where the sun sets at 4:15 in the afternoon, winter means long, cold nights perfect for crackling fires. Today, most of our homes are heated by electricity or gas, and while a roaring fire brings a certain glow to winter nights, we are no longer reliant on fireplaces for heat.
Fireplace chimneys are also central to one of America’s most iconic winter tales: Saint Nicholas (Santa, St. Nick, Father Christmas…) slipping down the chimney to deliver toys to children on Christmas Eve.
We wanted to look a little more into the history of fireplaces and find out just when Santa started shimmying down them.
Colonial fireplaces were quite wide and deep to allow for multiple cooking pots and multiple fires for cooking and baking. These large fireplaces lost a lot of heat, but their huge central chimney masses of stone or brick helped to keep houses warmer overall.
Up until about 1800, homes were primary heated by wood burning fireplaces. In the mid 1700s, Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin Stove, a metal insert for fireplaces. Through a series of baffles, Franklin’s stove intended to direct the flow of air and help retain heat longer.
In 1795, Benjamin Thompson, also called Count Rumford, invented the Rumford fireplace design. Rumford tested firebox designs until he found one that worked best. The Rumford fireplace is shallow, taller than it is wide, with sharply angled walls on either side to reflect heat.
A Rumford fireplace draws air into the fireplace more efficiently, which allows the flame to burn strongly and clearly. Thomas Jefferson was a fan of the ingenious design, and when he remodeled Monticello in the 1790s, Jefferson had eight Rumford fireplaces installed.
When coal, steam, and gas became the preferred methods of home heating, efficient fireplaces were no longer needed. More modern fireplaces have a larger firebox so that a crackling fire is set further away from people.
Homes heated by wood needed large chimneys to support multiple fireplaces, but houses built in the later part of the 19th century needed only enough space for a stove pipe, which means smaller chimneys.
So how does Santa Claus fit into all this?
In Washington Irving’s 1809 story Knickerbocker’s History of New York, there is a reference to Saint Nicholas flying over the rooftops of houses, pausing to drop “magnificent presents” down the chimneys of his favorite boys and girls.
Another New York writer, Clement C. Moore, helped cement the popular image of Santa clambering down chimneys with gifts in an 1822 poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
If the story of Santa coming down the chimney didn’t enter into our popular imagination until the 1820s, what happened if you didn’t live in a house with a massive chimney? As coal stoves grew in popularity, Santa, legend has it, was also known to shimmy down a stove pipe.
As the years progressed, there were even some traditionalists who worried that modern inventions like steam radiators would put an end to the Santa story. Yet in 2018, more than 200 years after Irving’s story first appeared, when most homes are heated by electric or gas heat with no fireplace to be seen, children still hang their stockings and wait.
Whatever you celebrate, and however you heat your house, we hope you stay warm this winter!
Thanksgiving is all about coming home and spending time with your family and friends, and there’s no better place to come home to than Nantucket. The Nantucket Preservation Trust works to preserve that sense of place you feel as soon as you arrive on the island—that you have come home to a very special place.
This week, we’re digging into our records and serving up a heaping helping of history about two Nantucket farms. After all, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest.
Hinckley Lane Farm
The farm at “Watercomet,” containing more than 26 acres, was purchased by Captain Ebenezer (Eben) M. Hinckley in 1844. The house was in existence when he bought the property from Henry Coffin. Henry and his brother Charles G. Coffin were wealthy whale oil merchants, sons of Zenas Coffin, and both of them had homes in town on Main Street. The occupant of the house at the farm prior to 1844 is unknown.
Eben Hinckley (1805-1885) and Nancy Chase Hinckley (1810-1892) lived at Hinckley Farm. They had one child, Caroline S. Hinckley [Cook] (1830-1865).
Reading through the archives of The Inquirer & Mirror, one thing is clear about Hinckley Farm—Captain Hinckley was well known for his berries:
Our kind friend, Captain Eben Hinckley, sent as a bouncing dish of Blackberries, round and plump, not a bruised or scraggy one in the lot… Capt. H. raised a fine lot of them on his farm, which a friend assures us is well worthy of a visit to see. August 12, 1857
In addition to berries, Captain Hinckley grew pumpkins, sweet corn, field corn, turnip beets, squashes, mottled cranberry beans, and potatoes on his farm. Everything you need for a Thanksgiving feast—except the turkey!
To find turkeys on Nantucket, you’d have to go to the other end of the island at Quaise, where Walter H. Burgess (1856-1934) raised turkeys from the 1890s to the 1910s.
The Inquirer and Mirror visited Burgess in December of 1898:
We visited Burgess’ Poultry Farm at Quaise a few days since, and were impressed with the sight of the twenty-four houses sheltering as fine flocks of barred Plymouth Rock fowl as one could wish to see. They have 500 pullets, many of them now laying, and 100 fowl saved from last year’s stock. Their big brooding house is ready for the next season’s hatchings, and everything about the place indicated successful poultry culture. As we have before remarked, Nantucket offers the field for poultry raising on a large scale. The Messrs. Burgess have gradually increased this branch of their business, until they have become known to the outside poultry and egg markets, and are having frequent applications from commission house for handling their trade. They have been exporting eggs for several months at very remunerative figures.
In 1915, Burgess’ was even filling orders for turkeys from the mainland, and the flock of turkeys on the Burgess farm were said to be the second largest in the state.
Wherever you are enjoying your Thanksgiving this year, we hope it’s a happy one!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Nantucket Preservation Trust.
Walk a little ways up past the Pacific National Bank on Main Street, and you’ll find some of the island’s grandest homes.
86 Main Street, which recently underwent a careful restoration, is one Main Street’s most unique designs–in that it doesn’t adhere to one particular architectural style.
Built in 1834, 86 Main Street has been described as “Revival-Eclectic” by architectural historian Clay Lancaster. With elements of Federal (as seen in the end chimneys), Greek Revival (cupola, pilasters, and doorway), and Gothic Revival (lancet window in pediment) styles of architecture, 86 Main Street is indeed an eclectic house. So were the people who lived there.
Here’s the story of the first two families who lived in 86 Main.
In May of 1833, Captain Joseph Allen (1773-1856) purchased “a certain lot of land in said Nantucket with the building thereon standing…” from Edward Hussey (1794-1878), whose in-laws, Peregrine Folger (1754-1831) and Rachel Hussey (1760-1829), purchased a portion of the house from Peregrine’s father, Jonathan (1727-1812), in 1797.
But the house that Captain Allen purchased in May of 1833 was not the same house that stands at the 86 Main Street today. By October 9, 1833, Captain Allen had placed an advertisement in the Inquirer for an “Old House for Sale”:
“To be sold at public auction on the premises, at 2 o’clock P.M. on the 17th of the present month, if not previously disposed of, the house, late the property of Jonathan and Peregrine Folger, deceased; with all the Bricks and Stones thereto belonging, exclusive of the stones in the cellar. Also, a woodhouse belonging to the same. Both to be removed from the land by the 25th…”
Somehow or another, the house originally on the property was removed, and Captain Allen built the present structure, a large house that the Allen family occupied by late 1834 or early 1835.
Captain Allen was one of Nantucket’s most prominent mariners. In 1798, he was master of the ship Leo at only twenty-five years old. Between 1798 and 1830, Allen captained seven ships on thirteen whaling voyages. Allen was married to Abigail Coffin (1775-1862) and had six children. Now retired, Captain Allen built a grand home near homes of ship owners and whale oil merchants.
Captain Allen’s fortunes would soon change. In June of 1835, he mortgaged the property to the Nantucket Institution for Savings for$3,500. Shortly after the panic of 1837, Allen was forced to give up his rights to the house.
In December of 1838, Ann Crosby (1818-1904), a single woman, purchased the property from the bank for four thousand eight hundred $4,874. Ann’s mother, Lydia Coffin (193-1823), died when Ann was just five years old, and was the daughter of Zenas Coffin, one of the wealthiest whale oil merchants in the state. Zenas appears to have left Ann a sizable inheritance, which was likely used to purchased the grand captain’s mansion. Ann’s father, Matthew Crosby (1791-1878) was also a wealthy island merchant and owned much of the land between Pine Street and Traders lane. Two months after she purchased the property, Ann and George C. Macy (1814-1895) announced their marriage intentions.