Mural by Jackie Reeves and Mary-Ann Agresti
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Preserved! The Second Oldest House in Hyannis
Thanks to Mark Snider & Tom Carey!
New Wine in an Old Bottle
The Hyannis Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the village’s story as told in its tales, artifacts, and buildings. Preservation is not a static concept; it can include the creative reuse of structures when their history is respected.
Last year, the Society learned that a Cape-style house at 27 Pleasant St., circa 1770, was up for sale. The building is believed to be the second oldest existing house in Hyannis and the oldest on its original foundation. Members hoped that its fate would not follow that of other sea captains’ homes on Pleasant Street and be demolished for new construction.
Instead, the site was purchased earlier this year by a corporation associated with Mark Snider, who owns the Nantucket Hotel and Resort, with plans to use the property’s 25 parking spaces as a private lot for hotel guests traveling by ferry from Hyannis.
In its presentation this April to the Hyannis Main Street Waterfront Historic District Commission, the new owners detailed plans to restore the single-family home, “maintaining the exterior appearance as closely as possible with the existing historic facade” and renovating the interior layout. The photo below shows how well they’ve succeeded.
The Society hopes that other thoughtful developers will consider pouring new wine into some of the village’s striking historical properties such as the rare red brick railroad roundhouse adjacent to the transportation center. Some years ago, the organization played a role in stopping the demolition of that building to create a parking lot.
More About 27 Pleasant Street
The Captain Allen Hallet House (documented with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, MACRIS inventory #BRN.530) was owned by the Hallett family until 1878. Captain Allen Hallett was a deep-water captain, sailing mostly between New York, Boston, and the West Indies. He is described in the book, Sea Captains of Hyannis (1939), by Dr. C.E. Harris, as “a short, thick-set built man, very gruff and stern of manner, and an ardent enemy of rum."
According to the MACRIS listing,
“Hallett was a member of a group of residents who would gather at Oliver Hoxie’s Blacksmith Shop (west of the Colonial Candle Co.) and discuss politics, local and national, of the time. By all reports, Captain Hallett was always a major force in these conversations.”
In 1878 Hallett sold the house to Captain Charles W. Crocker, a steamship and schooner captain. “During the Spanish-American War,” Dr. Harris wrote, “Captain Crocker was executive officer on the hospital ship Relief which carried hospital supplies to Cuba and brought back sick and wounded.”
The Crocker family held the house until 1912, when it was sold to Forrest Starr.
ANNUAL MEETING MAY 2023
Based in the historic Hinckley wing of the library, the Hyannis Historical Society held its annual meeting May 20 at the nearby JFK Hyannis Museum. Cape journalist John Basile anchored a lively back-and-forth based on his book, “Cape Cod Jazz: From Colombo to The Columns.” The late great trumpet player Lou Colombo’s daughter Lori Colombo, herself a musician, was in the audience and added fascinating details about her dad and the Hyannis jazz scene.
Underscoring its strong connection to the Hyannis Public Library, the Society elected two new members to the board of directors: HPLDirector Antonia Stephens and retired WOCN broadcaster Dave Read. Both have made and continue to make contributions to the rebirth of the Society.
Beginning October 3, the Society’s work space in the Hinckley wing’s Doane Room will host monthly first Tuesday open houses starting at 1 p.m. Everyone’s invited to see items in our collections, talk about village history, and share ideas about future Society events.
An ongoing benefit of membership in the Society is the opportunity to review interesting donated materials. The most recent relate to Margaret Cruickshank (nee Boston), the daughter of state Department of Agriculture official L. B. Boston. Margaret is mentioned in the library’s 1928 annual report: “During the summer six young women [including Margaret Boston] gave their services one morning each week as volunteer librarians, thus continuing the plan inaugurated during the summer of 1927 and making it possible to have the library open each week-day during July and August.”
The donated materials include a scrapbook of newspaper work by Mr. Boston under the heading “L. B. Boston’s Column,” which was written for The Register. In one entry, the Hyannis resident extols his neighborhood of Glenmere, “one of the most charming and delightful spots on Cape Cod.” The website livingplaces.com/MA/Barnstable_County_Neighborhoods.html lists Glenmere and a number of other places in town whose names have fallen out of use.
It’s tracking down leads like this, and sharing findings with fellow history buffs, that make membership in the Hyannis Historical Society a pleasure. To join us, please go to hyanishistoricalsociety.org
The room at the Hyannis Library was filled to hear historian Nancy Shoemaker, March 28. She presented dozens of historic photos of Hyannis and recounted many stories that went with them. Later, many audience members shared their own recollections of local history.
We hope to share some of her photos on this website in the near future!
Oak Grove Cemetery Tour: A Stroll Through History
The Hyannis Historical Society and the Barnstable Historical Society presented a well-attended walking tour of Oak Grove Cemetery off Sea Street in Hyannis July 30. Historians Nancy Viall Shoemaker and Rev. Stephen Trimble hosted nearly 40 participants who ambled over the gently rolling lawns and lanes while enjoying tales of those who found their final rest there.
Historians Nancy Viall Shoemaker and Rev. Stephen Trimble describe the impressive Castonguay chapel, built by Harold Castonguay as a memorial to his daughter. Castonguay, president of the Hyannis Cooperative Bank, was a noted collector of classic cars and helped restore the historic Baxter Grist Mill near the Yarmouth/Hyannis line.
The sphere marking the graves of Benjamin and Elizabeth Baxter is a fitting tribute to their globe-trotting lives. English born, they sailed to America in Capt. Baxter’s ship, then back to England for the birth of her first child. During a subsequent journey to India, Elizabeth gave birth to a child in the Straits of Malacca and another in Bombay Harbor.
The tour pauses at the grave of Susan Godoy, beloved for her contributions to the musical life of Federated Church of Hyannis. Godoy lived in the pink octagonal house on South Street built by her great-grandfather Capt. Rodney Baxter. A prodigy born in 1921, she performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1934; an organ march she composed was played at her Radcliffe graduation.