Many of my Facebook friends know of the house and more know Cotuit. But here’s background for interested readers who are less familiar.
The house is smack in the middle of Cotuit, one for the seven villages of the Town of Barnstable. The winter population has grown to about 3000 (probably 3x what it was 50 years ago) and swells by an additional couple thousand in the summer. The hokiest parade you’ve ever seen goes by Laughing Gull Hill annually on the 4th of July and, astonishingly, draws an additional 10,000 heads to town.
The location is a big part of the appeal of the new place. In addition to being at the top of the hill just above the harbor, it’s a two or four-minute walk to Cotuit’s only retail businesses, a small grocery store, and a bustling restaurant/bar. And, the post office, church, library, town dock, and yacht club (not in that order) are all just as close.
It’s a charming little village, off the beaten track, with little to attract tourists. So, although it gets a bit stuffed up in July and August, Main Street is very unspoiled and its character has remained unchanged over the years. The very protected little harbor too gets a little busy in the summer, but is known to be one of the prettiest on the Cape. A wonderful and valued feature of the harbor is the fleet of vintage Cotuit Skiffs, a couple of dozen of which will be out racing on any given Summer Saturday or Sunday. Other great village fixtures are the Cotuit Oyster Company, the Cotuit Kettleers, perennial powerhouse of the famed Cape Cod league, the Cotuit Center for the Arts, and the Cahoon Museum of American Art.
Settled a couple decades after the Plymouth Colony, by the nineteenth century, Cotuit Port (as it was called until just after the Civil War) grew into a whaling center on par with Nantucket and New Bedford. The introduction to The Cut of Her Jib, a fictional work about the period, described it as a place where “whaling was big business… ‘Cap’n’ was a title far more common than ‘Mister’…and, by common talk, Cape Horn and Hong Kong were nearer than Boston or New York.” In those days, our new front yard was the site of a salt works run by one of those Cap’ns, and the landing at the bottom of the hill was busy with schooners that serviced New York and Nantucket.
With the advent of petroleum, the whaling industry fell off a cliff, and the many captains’ houses up and down Main Street began to free up. The vacuum was filled by hords of Harvard professors following avant-garde President A. Lawrence Lowell and their friends. With summers off, they would cart their families down from Cambridge for the duration. With lots of free time, soon after the turn of the century, kids founded the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, active to this day, and started racing Cotuit Skiffs. They were fashioned after oystering boats that were a big part of the village economy. During that period, our house was occupied by Captain Andrew Lovell, the post master and his daughter Lizzie who took over as postmistress.
My grandparents first brought my father to Cotuit in the early ’30s and took up permanent residence in the ’40s. He’s been an avid Cotuit Skiff sailor for almost 80 years and still lives here. Beth and I have had small cottage for twelve years, but rather than opting for a second floor we took the plunge on Laughing Gull Hill. That’s the story.