“Nuts & Bolts”

Nuts & Bolts: Bake Ovens

“Bake Ovens”
October 27 and October 31 Segment

bake oven 2Historically bake ovens were found in many island houses. Bake ovens were built into the fireplace structure in the main portion of the house, in rear kitchen ells or in basement summer kitchens. The earliest ovens were placed on the rear wall of the fireplace while later ones were found to the side for easy access and safety. This location change helped reduce accidents when leaning across an open fire. Death by fire associated with cooking remained the second leading cause of death for women throughout the 18th century.

Nuts and Bolts: Sconset Fish Shanties

“Sconset Fish Shanties”
October 20 and October 24 Segmentbroadway

Did you know…that the old fishing cottages at Sconset, along Broadway, Center and Shell streets, were built in the late 17th and early 18th century? These simple rectangular structures huddled together along the bluff originally contained a central room with chimney, and two small sleeping chambers. Over the years the chambers were extended with warts—or shed roof additions that formed a T-shape floor plan. This form became the norm for over 30 cottages that over the years have sprouted not only warts, but wings and in some cases second

Nuts and Bolts: Brick Houses

“Brick Houses”
October 13 and October 17 SegmentNewYork-Nan0611094-1

Only a handful of early dwellings on island were constructed of brick. The costs associated with transporting brick made it a material for only the wealthiest on Nantucket. Prior to 1829 brick was used for constructing chimneys and foundations. That year Jared Coffin began construction of his house on Pleasant Street entirely of brick. During the 1830s other wealthy oil merchants followed suit. The most notable examples are Main Street’s Three Bricks as well as Jared Coffin’s second brick house on Broad Street built in 1845.

Nuts and Bolts: Modern Architecture

“Modern Architecture”
October 6 and October 10 Segment

mainHouse on the way to Smith’s Point, circa 1950

Did you know that all of Nantucket is a National Historic Landmark? This federal designation honors the island’s early architecture from our whaling days as well as resources that date to late 19th and even the mid 20th century. Although not as prevalent on island, modern landmarks including several houses scattered along the east and west ends of the island are valuable resources that tell a story and should be protected as important symbols and achievements of our recent past.

Nuts & Bolts: Victorian-Style House

“Victorian-Style House”
September 29 and October 3 Segment

73 Main Street Victorian-Style Nantucket House
73 Main Street Victorian-Style Nantucket House


Victorian architecture was popular throughout the country after the Civil War and gained favor on Nantucket with the rise of the tourist industry in the 1880s. This style embraced ornate decoration, multi paint colors as well as irregular floor plans. Common features included bay windows, cornices supported by sawn brackets, porches with turned posts, and steep gable or mansard roofs with dormers. By the 1920s Victorian architecture was out of fashion and many buildings were stripped of their decorative elements often called gingerbread.

Nuts & Bolts: Fish Lots

“‘Fish Lots”
September 22 and September 26 Segment

Did you know that the Fish Lots, an area above the harbor where fisherman dried codfish on wooden racks, was laid out in 1717 as an early subdivision in town? The lots comprised 27 sections—one share for each of the 20 original landholders and one half share for each of the 14 tradesmen’s families. Today this area, which runs generally from Orange to Pine and Main to Silver Streets, is distinguished by narrow lanes lined with closely built houses built for largely for mariners, craftsmen and tradesmen.

Nuts & Bolts: Federal-Style House

“‘Federal-Style House”
September 15 and September 19 Segment

99 main99 Main Street Federal-Style House

After the American Revolution, new architectural styles emerged including what is known as Federal architecture. This style has symmetrically placed windows and sometimes elegant classical features such as fanlights above the front doors and columned porticos. In later Federal homes, the central chimney gave way to dual chimneys along the roof ridge that eventually were built at opposite ends of the house. Clapboards also came into favor as the material of choice for house fronts. Excellent examples are found today along Main and Orange Streets.

Nuts & Bolts: Quarterboards

September 8 and September 12 Segment

c77573d2af924921a196a1908cb7a517Nantucket Carving and Folk Art
(Nantucket business which makes hand carved quarterboards)

Did you know that in the early 1800s maritime law required that each ship be identified with boards bearing their name?  These signs were placed on the ship’s stern and along the quarter panel of the bow– hence the name quarterboards.  In later years, with the decline of whaling many of the ship quarterboards were removed and were displayed on island houses, thus beginning the tradition of naming Nantucket homes. Today no Nantucket home is complete without a clever name proudly displayed on a quarterboard out front!

Nuts & Bolts: Lean-to House

“‘Lean-to House”
September 1 and September 5 Segment

Lean-to HouseThe earliest Nantucket dwellings evolved from the lean-to house also known as the “saltbox”. This form has a 2 story front wall and 1 story rear wall with a long sloping roof called a cat slide.  The lean to house was usually situated with its front facing south to allow the sun to heat the large wall and its windows while allowing north winds to blow over the rear slope of the roof. Over the years most Nantucket lean-tos have evolved into full 2 story houses, but a handful still retain evidence of their cat slide roofs.

Nuts & Bolts: Building Materials

“‘Building Materials”
August 25 and August 29 Segment

Photo of men sitting on building materials, 1893 Memorial Day
Photo of men sitting on building materials, 1893 Memorial Day (Photo courtesy of Nantucket Historical Association)


Did you know that all the building materials used to construct the early buildings on island came from the mainland? Like today, brick, stone shingles, and timbers needed to be transported by boat and unloaded at the harbor. Building materials were valued so reusing them became the norm. Sections of old houses from the original Sherburne settlement were moved to town and repurposed, and salvaged items that washed ashore often from nearby shipwrecks were gathered and used in many ‘Sconset and island homes. Even today some houses retain a patchwork of wooden elements behind their walls—often a surprise to the contractor and homeowner.