Daffodil Festival weekend is here and soon everyone will be heading out to ’Sconset. At the Nantucket Preservation Trust, we love ’Sconset–so much so that we’ve written two books about it, and our August Fête will take place there later this summer!
The historic houses in ’Sconset are some of the most photographed spots on the island, so we thought we’d share the history of two iconic ’Sconset spots. Read on to learn more. You can purchase ’Sconset: House by House and Main Street ’Sconset at the links below or at Michell’s Book Corner on Nantucket Island.
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14 Broadway | The Maples
The construction date of The Maples is unknown, but Underhill wrote in the 1880s that it was held by Latham Gardner in 1814. It is 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 indicates the owner as having the initials “B.C.”, who may be Betsey Carey—owner of the adjoining property (Shanunga). By 1858, the cottage was held 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 nineteenth century, the cottage was known as the Eliza Mithcell (1808-96) house, for David’s fourth wife and widow. Today, the lane between Shanunga and The Maples still bears the Mitchell name. Eliza died in 1896 at the age of eighty-nine, and the property passed to Joseph W. Clapp, her son for her first marriage to Timothy Clapp (1800-42).
Joseph W. Clapp (1825-1909) began his maritime career as a whaler, but after his first whaling venture he decided he was not well suited for the industry. He became a merchant, transporting coffee and other commodities to America from around the world. In 1888, Clapp was appointed by President Cleveland as a collector of customs for the port of Nantucket, and serve until 1898. Clapp was known as Nantucket’s most eccentric citizen at the time of his death. His obituary noted, “He was an interesting conversationalist, endowed with unusual peculiarities and eccentric ideas, popular with the summer visitors.”
27 Main Street Siasconset | Atlantic House
This large house was one part of the Atlantic House, the earliest hotel on the island constructed for the summer trade. A partnership of twenty-seven people purchased the land in 1848 and construction began that year. Among the partners were several ’Sconset Main Street residents, including Frederick W. Mitchell, Matthew Crosby, Matthew Starbuck, and William Hadwen. The hotel officially operated under the management of Harry Crocker, one of the partners.At the end of the Civil War, the partners sold the property to Reuben Chadwick, whose wife Eliza operated the establishment until 1901, when she sold it to Imogene orr. Orr mortgaged the property to Eliza, but lost it to foreclosure eight years later; it was wthen sold to Louise Streeter Warren, who in the 1920s failed to pay taxes on the property and was forced to sell the hotel at public auction. Highest bidder David Gray, who owned the cottage at 22 Main Street, had the hotel reconfigured as a private home by architect Frederick P. Hill, who repositioned it on the lot and reduced it in size. Gray’s estate sold the property in 1929, and by 1935 it had been acquired by Margaret Larsen, who owned, at one time or another, the houses at 20, 22, and 29 Main Street.
In 1969, the Lourie family purchased the property and it remains in the family today. It is the sole Main Street house protected by a preservation easement held by the ’Sconset Trust.