This 1640 house in Barnstable, Massachusetts, is so drenched in history that you may even hear echoes of the first Thanksgiving.
By Tim Clark
Nov 08 2015
a spacious addition was built on the footprint of the original barnPhoto Credit : Craig Anderson
I drove to Cape Cod, hardly thinking about the fact that it was July 2, the last workday before the long Independence Day weekend. However, traffic was surprisingly light, and I crossed the Sagamore Bridge at about 11:30 a.m., in plenty of time to meet Bobbi Cox, owner and broker for Mulberry Cottage in Barnstable, at noon.
“It’s close to the road,” she warned me ahead of time. And why not? It was built around 1640, when the only traffic to be concerned about was the occasional war party of Wampanoags investigating the tall-hatted strangers who had shown up 20 years earlier in Plymouth, robbing Native burial sites of grain to keep from starving. Eventually the Pilgrims, as we’ve come to know them, and the local tribes made peace over a big meal. But that’s another story.
The road, now Route 6A, is also called Main Street, or Old King’s Highway, which gave its name to the National Historic District that was declared in 1973. It’s the largest in the nation, encompassing more than 1,000 acres and nearly 500 buildings.
Living in a National Historic District is a mixed blessing. On one hand, the owner of a property must get the approval of the local board for any changes to the exteriors of buildings and structures (including paint colors), fences and signs, and new construction or demolition.
On the other hand, it’s beautiful. And who wants to buy a 375-year-old house on Cape Cod in order to change it?
The house was built for Samuel Hinckley, one of the earliest settlers. Somehow he and his wife managed to stuff 13 children into a two-room half-Cape (“They must have hung them on hooks,” Bobbi remarked), and until the early 1900s, it was called the Hinckley House. (I read that Samuel Hinckley is said to be an ancestor of three presidents: Obama and father and son Bush.)
That changed when the Beale family moved in and planted a mulberry tree in the front yard. It has been Mulberry Cottage ever since, even though the tree blew down in a storm decades ago.
The Beales were local landmarks. Louise Darwin Miller (Mrs. Arthur Beale), a poet and dedicated bicyclist, was famous for her daily 16-mile round trip from Barnstable to the South Shore and back, which she celebrated in verse:
No gas, no oil
Do I need!
No traffic cops to fear!
My pedal’s license covers all,
As across the Cape I speed!
Bobbi Cox and her first husband, Bill, bought Mulberry Cottage in 1984, and Bobbi has made it a showpiece, preserving historic features (Indian shutters, wide-board floors, corner closets, a narrow staircase that winds around a massive central chimney) while adding modern conveniences such as a state-of-the-art kitchen, walk-in closets, and built-in bookshelves everywhere. In addition to 3,700 square feet of living space (five bedrooms, three and a half baths), there’s a spacious barn in back—a 1997 replica of the original barn—all on a landscaped lot of just under half an acre. It’s offered for $725,000.
There are too many treasures inside to describe, but I have to mention the museum-quality collection of wooden duck decoys belonging to Bobbi’s second husband, John Powlovich. John is the kind of collector who prefaces all his comments with “I’m no expert” and then demonstrates his expertise.
I could have spent all day at Mulberry Cottage, but Bobbi had other commitments, and I needed to get off the Cape against the inflowing tide of Independence Day tourists. But she generously gave me a brief auto tour of Barnstable, which seems to have the Nation’s Oldest This or the First American That on every corner. And of course there are heart-lifting glimpses of the ocean and the dunes of Sandy Neck a short walk from the house. Little wonder that Mrs. Beale wrote of the house:
The mulberry tree has grown so huge,
The house was hard to find,
But when we found the key-hole,
And opened wide the door,
All the rooms were smiling at us:
The house that we adore.
For details, contact Bobbi Cox, Kinlin Grover Real Estate, Osterville, Mass. 508-420-1130 (office), 508-737-3763 (cell); firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yankee likes to mosey around and see, out of editorial curiosity, what you can turn up when you go house hunting. We have no stake in the sale whatsoever and would decline it if offered.