A Gift to Main Street

A Gift to Main Street

Over the last few decades, many homes in Cotuit’s historic district have been renovated. Today, there are only a handful in real need. 1081 Main Street was a holdout. As of a year ago, it was looking very sad and abandoned. (The picture below belies how bad it was…lots of rot, holes in the roof, the whole bit.) It was great to notice the beginnings of a “full Monty” last April.

According to the sometimes suspect Barnstable records, the house was built in 1880. The date comports with the Greek revival architecture and history of the village expansion. For many years it was owned by the Wings family, presumably the namesake of Wings Lane. It went through couple other owners and in late 2017 was picked up by Andrew Prchlik, owner of Main Street Building, LLC in West Barnstable. The sale price was $300,000, almost $150,000 less than the assessed value of the land. Andy is a great guy who really appreciates Cotuit and brought a lot of heart (and investment) to the project.

By April, the place was gutted, and they did a beautiful job shoring up the foundation with the brick.

In June, the crew poured foundation to connect the house to a new garage in back and to extend the footprint north to accommodate a first floor master bedroom. In parallel, they reframed the inside.

Next, by early August, the old white-painted shakes were off, ultimately to be replaced by cedar shakes. (Pic from the Barnstable Property Maps site.) They also prepped the site for a new deck in front.

By September, they exterior had really taken shape. The pre-dipped shakes are very handsome and the trim work is superb.

Soon after, a beautiful retaining wall went in on the south side of what would be the driveway. Interior work continued and they finished the front deck and add some plants in early October.

Above on the right, you can see the beginnings of an 8 ft fence the frames really nice, private back yard and a lovely patio equipped, of course, with an outdoor shower.

Work inside continued apace through the fall. And, the mild weather allowed the front lawn to fill in beautifully. Here’s a view of this gift to the village from Main Street on an unusually pleasant January day. Thanks, Andy.


Mansard Lady Update

Happy New Year. After some more research, and walking, and talking to Jim Gould about his article on the subject, I substantially updated my post about the Mansard roofs of Cotuit. First, I found one more and reconciled my numbers; I’ve got them all. I tweaked some of the history and, in particular the dates of the houses, on which Jim seemed to have a much better handle than my original source. I also added information on four “ladies” that are no longer with us, as well as pictures of Mansard barns and a hand drawn map of all of the above.

Mansard Ladies

Mansard Ladies

According to a Cape Cod Times real estate article, there are 26 “mansard ladies” in Cotuit. I was going crazy trying to identify them all and finally went to the source, a 2002 Cotuit Historical Society Article by Jim Gould called Mansard Ladies of Cotuit. Between the article, talking to Jim, and my own hoofing around town, I determined that there are 25 left standing of 29 built in total.

Wikipedia tells that mansard roofs were popularized by a 17th century French architect called Mansart and became fashionable in the mid-1800s. I grew up thinking this was a Cape Cod style. In fact, residing during my off-season youth in one of many “Capes” in southern New Jersey, I thought of the mansard style as more Cape-y than a Cape.

The distinctive French look turns out to be not a Cape thing, but distinct feature of Cotuit (although you can find a sprinkling elsewhere on the Cape including in nearby Marstons Mills and Barnstable). The design of all the Cotuit “ladies” was inspired by a single structure that still stands above the Inner Harbor on Old Post Road. Sandanwood, as it was known, was one of the very first summer houses on the Cape, built for Boston Bramin, Augustus Thorndyke Perkins in 1863 by Charles Bearse who also built the Cotuit grocery store and a number of contemporary Cotuit homes. Evidently the design was quite popular with the locals.

Sandanwood Today

A spate of Mansard construction began soon after Sandanwood’s construction and extended into the early 1900s. Most of these houses are clustered within a half mile of the Cotuit Village center and most were occupied by various of Cotuit’s 19th century captains as evidenced by the small white signs the adorn so many of the village’s old homes. Jim’s fine article goes into more of the history.

Below is a catalog of the “ladies” going north to south on Main St with a few excursions along the way. I started with dates according to the Town of Barnstable Property Look-Up site. I’m told those dates were supplied by owners over the years, some predate Sandanwood, so are particularly suspect. So, instead I went with Jim’s dates which overall are much more plausible. At the bottom of this article is a wonderful map that Jim hand drew, locating all the houses. I name each of the houses as he did in the map.

555 Main Street, Hoxie, 1877
Just north of the back drive into the school, this home has been occupied for many decades by the Ahern family.
15 Putnum Ave, Luther Baker, 1885
This old gal was in terrible shape–walking by, I was often tempted to scale the porch and pull weeds from the gutters–but was beautifully renovated in 2008 by Theresa Egan who, herself, lives in one of the ladies further down Main Street.
439 Old Post, Hobson, 1879
You’ll find this one, showing its age a bit, on the right, just before crossing Little River as you head away from Putnum.

804 Main Street, Clark, 1968
Just north of Old Shore, this is the French-ist looking one of the houses with its high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. Built on the site of the Cape’s first resort, Santuit House.
884 Main Street, “The Place” Lowell, 1865
The saddest of the bunch. Located on almost three acres, down a private drive from the center of town, with a stunning panoramic view of the harbor, this was once the home of A. Lawrence Lowell, President of Harvard at the turn of the century. It has been abandoned for years and one wonders how long it will last. 
886 Main Street, Phinney, 1867
At the top of the hill above the Town Dock, this stunner was the third of the ladies and was recently gutted and redone. It’s the home featured in the Cape Cod Times article.
33 School Street, Fuller, 1886
A loan residence in the midst of the library, church and the Kettle Ho.
66 School Street, B. Coleman, 1899
On the right just past High Street as you head out of the village, a house this colorful is unusual for Cotuit which tends very much to the white/gray palette.
94 School Street, Sturges, 1893
A couple doors past 66, on the north side between High and Highland.
38 High Street, Ezra Gifford, 1885
Clearly a work in process, expectations are high for this one, three doors north of the Federated Church. Here’s the before and what it looked like when it was the home of Harry and Claire Crocker. For many decades, Harry and his father Milton ran the Cotuit Grocery. I wonder what ever happened to the enormous anchor that once adorned the yard.
41 High Street, Crosby, 1882
Across the street from the Crockers, she was renovated in 2004.
55 High Street, Childs, 1883
Next door to 41 High. Home of Tom Hadley of Cotuit Launch fame.
71 High Street, G. Coleman, 1888
The northwest of three in a row, this one escaped me until I happened to meet the owner coming out of the water at Loop the day after Christmas. I’ve walked by the renovated front a million times without noticing that it makes the original Mansard roof in the back.
1055 Main Street, Gilbert Nickerson, 1888
Just across from the salt marsh and where Ocean View Avenue splits off. Because the sidewalk was being obstructed, the town removed the thick hedge this summer. So, it is now much easier to see this atractive old home.
30 Ocean View Avenue, Scudder, 1890
On the right, just after the split from Main Street, this house was renovated about 20 years ago, but still has a brand new look.
142 Ocean View Avenue, Isaac Phinney, 1894
On the northwest corner of Cross Street. Bill and Dede Burgess modernized this one in the early 1990s, and it’s again been redone since.
1109 Main Street, Dottridge, 1889
In 2014, siblings George and Holly Lloyd (of the Vineyard Road Lloyds) completely renovated this one that sits two houses north of Shell Lane.
1119 Main Street, Wendell Nickerson, 1879
Once occupied by Foster Nickerson, a disabled guy who rode around in a motorized chair (built by Cushman, I believe) it as later home to my Uncle Gates and family. (The chair remained in the shed.) It had been pretty small with just two bedrooms upstairs, but was recently renovated and substantially added on to in the back. They must have had a skilled contractor to maintain the Mansard rooflines.
1199 Main Street, Hull, 1877
On the corner of Hull Lane, this was the fourth of the ladies and one-time home of Captain Ulysses Hull.
20 Hull Lane, Hull, 1877
Just behind and to the side of 1199 Main. According to Jim Gould it was originally the carriage house of the Hull property and moved by Victor Boden in 1946. As such, Jim didn’t count it or indicate it on the map. I vaguely recall the Bodens (who brought my mother’s family to Cotuit, thus were indirectly responsible for me) moving back from the front house, probably in the 60s.
1207 Main Street, Andrew Nickerson, 1888
At the west end of Cross Street and north of Keela Road, this one was nicely restored by the Edmunds family in the late 90s.
1220 Main Street, Edson Nickerson, 1879
Once owned by Mars and Louise Boden, this one is now occupied by Theresa Egan who has redone several houses in the village.
1286 Main Street, Roland Nickerson, 1886
On the East side of Main, just past Sea Street, this house was connected (to the left beyond the picture) to what was once a maids’ quarters and laundry. The folks who occupy must be big Mansard fans as they moved here from 15 Putnum Avenue.
1331 Main Street, Harrie Gifford, 1886
This was known as “The Ship” when home to the Mattison family, early members of the CMYC who spawned generations of sailors. It was later occupied by daughter Anna Mattison Murray, a great sailor and local historian until her death.
621 Old Post Road, 1863
Finally, back where it all started at Sandanwood, the house that inspired all the others. It’s just across from Eaglestone Way and sits between Old Post and the Inner Harbor.

Those are the ones that are standing. In addition, were four Mansard structures that are no longer with us. They were all commercial establishments, two on Main Street and two on Ocean View. A shoe store was built in 1887 on the southwest corner of Sea and Ocean View and was torn down in 1906. At about 91 Ocean View was the Pine Tree Tea Room of the Pines Hotel, which was later modified to have a Mansard roof; it was torn down in 1959. I’ve found pictures of the Main Street structures in the wonderful Cotuit and Santuit by James Warren Gould, Jessica Rapp Grassetti.

820 Main Street, Hillside Annex, 1894
On the northeast corner of Old Shore Road and Main, this was part of the Santuit House resort complex that overlooked the beach from Hoopers Landing to Ropes. Torn down in 1939.
889 Main Street, Sears Store, 1892
On the northwest corner of School and Main, the store was later expanded substantially to the north, maintaining the roof style. You can see a great picture and read more about the stores in the center of the village at the Cotuit Fire District site.

As mentioned, Jim’s article talked about the Mansard roof garage built at 94 School. Several of the other homes are accompanied by similar barn or garage structures, mostly built after the 2002 article.

Finally, Mansard Ladies of Cotuit includes a map of all these places, current and historical, that Jim hand drew and give me permission to share.

A Little Going at LGH, and Big Red Comes on Strong

A Little Going at LGH, and Big Red Comes on Strong

Sorry, fans, if you feel neglected. Laughing Gull Hill has been pretty stable. Here’s a gloomy, rainy day update. The only LGH report is a new fence. I took down the buoy collection a few weeks ago and reinstalled last week.

Work on Big Red restarted this fall. To review the bidding, Carol and Adam bought and have been updating (to say the least) the family home. During the off season last year, they completely redid the first floor. Tag: Big Red will take you to several blogs. So, now attention has turned to the second floor. 

They are going through room by room, starting with the guest room (once the maids’ quarters) in the rear of the house. The plan for each room is to gut and insulate the walls, install new windows, add new layer of wallboard to clean up the ceiling (cutting in vents for the HVAC in the attic), and restore the old floors. Can’t wait to see the rag tag old floors refinished. The guest suite is part way though the process.

While the first floor is essentially done, they have just added a gas fireplace insert. Very high BTUs, remote control, duel-mode, fans and lights. Pretty darn convenient!

And, they are gradually restoring the torn up areas around the outside. The last I saw the shower, it was just plumbing and hung sheets, and you had to walk the plank to get there. The shower (and sailboard storage) structure is now in place along with a stone patio in and out. And, all is accompanied by a very reasonable offer. 

The shingling continues on the second floor as the windows go in. All looking great, as is the stone walk to the new farmer’s porch. 

I’ve not been as intimately involved, but have been sneaking and logging pics of a couple more local restoration projects. Stay tuned.

Happy Ending…just the beginning!

Happy Ending…just the beginning!

Happy Summer, All. Life’s been slow at LGH, but we’ve been remiss in not updating you on the project down the street at Carol and Adam’s Red House. Thankfully, they provided the perfect impetus last night with a cocktail party to show off the wonderful transformation.

Who couldn’t feel welcome at “Big Red?” Evidently they may still be working on the landscaping around the new entry, although the plywood has a nice feel.

Sneaking through the house for peek on the way to the back for cocktails…first stop is the mudroom wherein the closet in  hides a convenient laundry. (Rumor is there could, one day, be a chute from upstairs.) Around the corner is a powder room with mirror and sink to die for. Hipper, they could not be.

Across the way, the outdoor shower can’t go without mention. How creatively they eschewed a standard wooden enclosure. OK, work in progress, maybe. The stone slabs are amazing and will be great for keeping post-shower feet clean.


And then, the kitchen. As with many such projects, this was the biggest change. The old one looked a little dated even when it was installed in 1974. The new is fab. Compact, but accommodating of spectators and splendidly laid out. And how great that Carol as able to preserve the family’s favorite china cabinet, with monstrous enough space to allow for lean cabinetry through the rest of the space.

The changes to the modern living room were more subtle but marked. For years, this was the dining room, a big one required for the big, extended family. But when Beth staged the place for sale, which ultimately convinced Carol to buy from herself, she switched it up. And the new scheme works perfectly for the fam, giving them a huge living space with beautiful south and west facing windows that bring the outside in.


Reluctantly, Carol gave up on saving the old flooring in the living room when structural considerations required its removal. A nice side effect was being able to resolve the quirky combination of floor heights, odd-looking and a lawsuit waiting to happen. The resultant pristine new floor perfectly compliments the modern look.

But, in the front hall and dining room, removing the traditional Cape Cod floor paint revealed fantastic, rustic original wood. In the front hall, the boards had, at one point, be stained alternately red and green. Carol and I argued the merits of keeping the tinting–I having no vote. But the wisdom of her decision to go au natural speaks for itself. As does the coolness of a live edge dining table to

Finally (whew) a perfect night for cocktails. Under the incredible ancient trumpet vines that add such character to the beautiful outdoor setting.

Stay tuned come Autumn when phase 2 kicks in.

Global Entry

Global Entry

Yay! Beth, Design No. Five and Laughing Gull Hill are the stars of a feature story in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. We are all super proud to see her get the well-deserved recognition. Beth generously shared the limelight with many of her key partners and suppliers on the project, also mentioned in the article, which which does a delightful job telling the story of the house.Untitled.jpeg

As described in Shot to Pieces a few months ago, Beth invited in noted “interior and lifestyle photographer” Joyelle West to do her thing at LGH. She spent a full day here setting up intricate shots to capture the look, and more importantly the feel, of every room…even the bathrooms!


Coincidentally, Joyelle is the Boston Globe’s go to interiors photographer, so after the paper picked up the story, they sent their ace back down to capture a series “lifestyle” pics to round out the story. Again, it was amazing to see how much time and care the team put into styling and staging each shot, 30 minutes at least, before she would snap away.


The Globe reporter had really grooved on the indoor/outdoor nature of the Cocktail Room and Patio combination, so Joyelle was under orders to get at least one shot to captured. Critical to the shot was getting the sail-like tension cover installed in order to  provide just the right lighting on the patio.

Somewhat ironically, only a sliver of the “sail” shows up in the final piece. Still, we thought it appropriate to celebrate the article last night at Crisp Flatbread Company who’s own sails, also from Sperry Sails, inspired this wonderful addition to the patio.


Shady, Under Cover Operation

Shady, Under Cover Operation

The patio was our first addition to the house. It functioned as our living room while the rest of the joint was under construction. It works beautifully for hanging out and entertaining, but has always been a little hot at midday in the height of the summer. So, we added some shade.


Beth’s inspiration came from similar “tensioned covers” she spotted at Crisp Flatbread Company, one of our favorite restaurants on the Cape. A few questions and a little research lead her to Sperry Fabric Architecture. The company is a spinoff off of Sperry Sails, a forty year old sail loft in Marion. A couple months ago, she rang them up and arranged a consult with Seth, their field guy. He spent an hour or so with us and more or less conceived of the design on the spot. A week later he provided us a detailed design (from their CAD system) and a proposal.

We were out of town when they installed last week, so don’t have a sense for how long it took. We’d been pretty sure we wanted to do it when Seth visited, so discussed maintenance with him. It should be straightforward for me to take down in the fall (or for hurricanes) and to reinstall in the spring. It’s pretty much just lines and knots. I’ll probably take down the guyed mast and store inside as well.

It rained last night and things stayed fairly dry under the cover although that was not the main purpose. And, the light fabric lets plenty of light through, so the cocktail room stays brighten, even on a cloudy Memorial Day.