Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
and The Captain’s House Inn
Many years ago Patti Page sang these familiar lyrics:
If you spend an evening you’ll want to stay
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay
You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod
She surely must have in mind one of the most charming towns of Cape Cod, Chatham, which has often been referred to as the "elbow of the Cape." If you look at a map of Cape Cod, it certainly does resemble an elbow, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Nantucket Sound to the south.
History of Chatham
Once upon a time Native Americans, the Monomoyick called it Monomoit. Eventually, its name was changed to Chatham – "first stop of the east wind." We are not quite sure if it is in fact the first stop, however, it certainly sounds enticing to the many visitors who are attracted to the area every year.
Explorer, mariner and soldier, Samuel de Champlain once paid a visit to the area in 1606 before there were any English settlers, and he anchored in Stage Harbor. Apparently, according to some historical accounts, he was in need of rudder repairs, and at the time, he called the harbor area Port Fortune.
It is quite interesting to note that it was Champlain, who had been given the task by the French King, Henry IV, of chartering the coast of Acadia from Cape Cod to the Bay of Fundy. The result was the first detailed maps of the important estuaries and bays of the New England coast.
Fifty years later, an enterprising Englishman, William Nickerson, purchased four square miles of the land- mass that made up Chatham from the Monomoyick for a shallop (small boat), ten coats, six kettles, twelve axes, twelve hoes, twelve knives, and forty shillings in wampum, a hat and twelve shillings in coins.
Unfortunately, for Nickerson, the authorities of Plymouth County did not consent to the transaction, and it took another sixteen years and a fine of ninety pounds until title had eventually been transferred to him.
Originally part of Eastham, in 1712 the town was incorporated under it’s present name either after the English seaport: Chatham or for the Earl of Chatham.
It is a town that can easily be described, as encompassing all that is enjoyable in life and one of New England’s most preserved towns. There are no external neon lights, side street vendors, and the signage is in no way "tacky." Its residents take great pride in the visual appeal of their town with its tree-lined Main Street, quaint shops, and a working lighthouse, whose beacon at night still illuminates the harbor and seventy miles of coastline.
Nearly two hundred years after the first Englishman set foot in Chatham, a sea captain by the name of Hiram Harding, built a house for his bride, Lydia, in Chatham. The Harding’s had 10+ acres and raised 8 children, as well as several cows, pigs, chickens and apples.
Little did Hiram know that over one hundred and sixty years later approximately two and a half acres of his property would be called THE CAPTAIN’S HOUSE INN, owned by a retired Navy Commander, Dave McMaster and his charming English wife, Jan.
When I asked Dave and Jan what made them purchase the Inn, they indicated that the town of Chatham reminded Jan of the English Village she grew up in, and as for Dave, it was like a homecoming – he grew up on the south shore only fifty miles from Chatham.
Guests will relish staying in one of the inn’s sixteen rooms: the main inn, an 1839 Greek Revival style sea captain’s home, the attached "Carriage House," the 200 year old "Captain’s Cottage," and the luxurious "Stables." Awarded the triple "A" four Diamond rating since 1987 and many more accolades, it deservedly merits the reputation as being one of Cape Cod’s most romantic and finest inns. Where one of the guests of the inn described it in one word – "wow!"
When people come here for the first time, they don’t believe it. Open year round, peace, friendliness, tranquility, elegance and the feeling that you are visiting a typical inn in the English countryside are the hallmarks of The Captain’s House Inn.
When Dave and Jan purchased the Inn in 1993 their primary objective was to market the property as a romantic getaway. Beyond a doubt, they have magnificently attained their goal. Immediately they upgraded all of the rooms to reflect distinct personalities. Installed were fireplaces, king or queen canopy beds, or four- poster beds, and TV/VCR combinations. A large complimentary video library has also been provided for the Inn’s guests. Occupancy is limited to couples (no cots are permitted in the rooms). In addition, many of the rooms come with oversized or double whirlpools and soaking tubs and/or two person showers.
Some of the Inn’s rooms are named after the clipper ships that Captain Harding and his son Joseph sailed – Northern Light, Wild Hunter, Wild Pigeon and Whirlwind. While, others are named after Harding’s daughters, Hope, Mariah, Clarissa and Eliza Jane.
The Inn discourages weddings, although there are exceptions, when the wedding party does not impact on their other guests, who might be on a honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary. Honeymoons are emphasized, and in fact Dave and Jan have even had the pleasure of watching many a bride prepare for her wedding at the Inn and then leave for the ceremony.
The Ritual Afternoon Tea
When Lily and I arrived at the Captain’s House, after traveling eight hours from Montreal, we had the good fortune of being just on time to experience the Inn’s famous ritual of afternoon tea served between 3:00 and 5:00P.M. An occasion you would not want to miss abounding with graciousness and hospitality. It truly felt like experiencing an English high tea with the tiny sandwiches prepared on very thin slices of bread and filled with thinly sliced cucumbers and other "goodies." Just to savor the famous English scones served with butter and jam together with different blends of tea was worth our long journey from home. What a welcoming touch!
The next morning’s breakfast feast was equally something to savor, and would certainly win a cuisine award for taste, preparation, presentation and composition. Something expected of a first class inn. Incidentally, British Hotel Management students serve afternoon tea and breakfast in the dining room that overlooks the Inn’s beautiful gardens.
Dave and Jan welcome guests into their kitchen, and they are encouraged to come in anytime of the day or night and enjoy some of the complimentary cookies, cakes and beverages that are always available. Jan commented to me, "we are not afraid if guests do hang around the kitchen, at least they will know that it is clean." It certainly is immaculate!
For the convenience of their guests, the Inn provides beach chairs and umbrellas, beach towels, coolers & backpacks, croquet on the lawn, an outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis rackets and balls, a state of the art compact workout facility.
If you want to know where the most romantic attractions are just ask the locals. Dave and Jan recommended the following to me, and I would have to agree their choices were right on the mark: “The breathtaking view from the Chatham Lighthouse overlooking the Chatham Break onto the North & South Beach. Dinning at 28 Atlantic with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Pleasant Bay. A stroll down Main Street on a warm summer night and listening to the town band playing music on a Friday night, and stopping at the Chatham Candy Manor for a fancy chocolate. Watching the sunset from Rock Harbor."
I may add to the list, a walk in the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, where hiking the nature trails is nothing short of astounding!