By 1880, a stream leading from Salt Water Pond in Harwich Port, Massachusetts to the "South Sea" (Nantucket Sound) was filled by 50 men with shovels to create a dike and complete a race track or trotting park around the pond. This dike was improved with drainage pipes by summer of 1881. A nostalgic story ran in The New York Times (1910) bemoaning the loss of sulky racing at Wychmere Harbor twenty years before. "In the good old days the natives held full sway on the occasion of the horse race". T.B. Baker, Chester Snow, William Stetson and Luther Fisk were among area horse owners who claimed bets on the trotters and sulkies. "There was usually an accident, but there was always another race, until a New York Syndicate bought the bluff and the land about the pond and called it Wychmere".
It was reported in the Harwich Independant (June 1881) "The Sea View House, Harwlch Port, is one or the most popular, as well as most delightfully situated Hotels upon the Cape. It is located in the very hcart of one of the pleasantest villages in Southeastern Massachusetts. Harwich Port contains as many live men to the acre an any country village in the State, and they, believe in keeping their village up to a high standard, and that is the secret of its fresh, thriving appearance. The Sea View is located on Main Street, and directly in the rear of it is it most beautiful pond of fresh water. Around this pond the enterprising citizens have constructed a splendid half or three-fourths of a mile Trotting Park. The south side of the Park is bordered by the waters of the Bay as well as Pond, and is thus continually fanned by not only the cool and invigorating breezes of the Pond, but of the Bay also. This must make it delightfully cool even on the hottest days, and from its peculiar location it is almost entirely free from dust.. The trotting upon this Park can be witnessed from the windows and grounds of the Sea View. The popular landlord of the Sea View, Rinaldo Eldridge, Esq., is too well known to need any words of commendation. Suffice it to say that he is as wide-awake as ever, and makes the Sea View first class in every particular. With its pure air, beautiful surroundings, unequalled facilities for boating and bathing, the Sea View offers attractions to Summer visitors which but few Hotels afford."
By 1887, the sulky track was had ended and by February 1887 the canal into the Salt Pond had been opened enough so "small boats can sail into the pond and secure safe anchorage".
In 1888, a new plan was drawn and approved by th State Harbor & Land Commission to improve the channel and by 1905, the State had made good making the pond over into a harbor. Stone riprap lined the channel. A short granite jetty on the west side was soon added. Within five years a considerable fishing fleet of shoal draft catboats were calling 'Wychmere Harbor' home.
The name, meaning "salt lake", was coined by the three Brooklyn doctors turned realestate developers who began calling their association the "Wychmere Syndicate". The three saw a chance for a financial killing as they purchased the vacant lands to the east, north and west of the harbor and Andrews River. They hoped to capitalize on prospects for quick access to the Cape from several sources which included the building of macadam and hard clay roads and the newly minted automobile, and the Old Colony railroad which had extended tracks to the Lower Cape giving a means to travel easily to New York, Providence and Boston within hours instead of days. Although plans were in place,It was the "Syndicate", not the Pond Improvement Association, that put pressure on the Commonwealth to make improvements to the Salt Pond "canal" into a useful harbor by 1905.
The greater part of property surrounding the harbor "twenty years earlier was owned by Capt. Braddock Phillips, Theophilus Burgess, and Jeremiah Walker. It was then the site of three or four old-fashioned houses over looking Salt Water Pond. Around this pond was the one-mile race track, and above it, to the north the old Sea View Hotel” (New York Times , 1910). The Sea View Hotel lasted no more than three years and burned to the ground. The hotel dominated the land of the current Pedicini family property on the north side of the harbor.
Until the latter part of the 19th century, Wychmere Harbor was still being called Salt Water Pond by locals as a new "nom de plume" given by the Syndicate had not yet caught on. Living on the shore near the little salt pond held little attraction. Afterall, it was not a harbor at all but the reminents of a "kettle-pond" with a tiny entrance stream to allow egress of skiffs and too brackish to readily support volumes of shellfish for sustenance. Then too it was a natural habitat for annoying "no-see-ums". These swarms of biting midges which inhabit brackish areas on Cape Cod and come out when the wind dies, driving all but the hardiest humans to high ground. Window screens would not be invented until 1874. Through the efforts of the Syndicate a channel opened the pond to the ocean. Such a dramatic change in the harbor by the dredging improvement of "the landlocked basin" allowed for a dramatic change in its salinity and marine life. The increase in water exchange that followed also changed the habitat that supported the midges and they were all but gone. These changes made the attraction of the area a huge selling point for cottage lots and screenless windows of the era.
By this time (1903) the Brooklyn Doctors, who seemed somewhat confused in believing that Harwich Port bordered Vineyard Sound, had acquired land for 53 house a lots and had built or remodeled ten large houses for season rental between Harwich Port and South Harwich. These were named: Hepasbeth Lodge;Edgemere;Erne Holm;Pine Hurst; Hithe Cote;Beach Lodge;Rosehedge;Lakenest;The Anchorage;Bonniview.
|June - October||Seasonal|
|Hepasbeth Lodge||Snow Inn Rd||Edgemere||Snow Inn Rd||Erne Holm||Snow Inn Rd||Pine Hurst ||Bay View Rd||Hithe Cote||Snow Inn Rd||Beach Lodge||Snow Inn Rd||Rosehedge||Razed||Lakenest||S. Harwich||The Anchorage||S. Harwich||Bonniview||S. Harwich|
Where did the name Wychmere come from?
New York Times 1910 article "Passing of the Picturesque Cape Codders"
Wychmere Harbor Salt Pond Dredging History 1881-1887
Harwich, Massachusttts Profile 1890
Harwich Sailing Vessels 1872-1900
Catboats built or sailed from Harwich Mass 1878-1920
Something Interesting Wychmere Harbor Slide Show
Tales of Harwich: Cats & Keepers
The material shown here was scanned from a printed brochure on the Wychmere Cottages printed about 1903.
Many thanks to Dave Davis for providing me with the historic item.
Some of these images may get distorted in the viewer frame but they are still interesting. Enjoy!
At about this same period, Charles Jenkins was very active in building catboats and had a contract to build surf-boats for the Life Saving Service. These were known as the "Monomoy" and "Race Point" models by the USLSS which had 13 stations from Monomoy Point to Provincetown. Many stations particularly Monomoy were manned by a crews from Harwich Port. One of the most famous incidents was the "Monomoy Disaster" in March 0f 1902 when the surfboat was capsized drowning all but Seth Ellis who was rescued by Captain Mayo from the tug. Ellis would return to service in charge of the Monomoy Point. His son Joseph Ellis would later be appointed Harbormaster at Wychmere Harbor.
Jenkins was born in Falmouth and moved to Harwich Port where his home shows on the map in 1887 where their home was on the southeast corner of Bank Street and Main Street. It is believed he built these boats in the large yard. By 1901, the Town of Harwich had begun to improve roads for the automobile and a macadam road was laid down Bank Street to the home of Charles Jenkins. Jenkins also had a serviceable railway below the store of H. Kelley Co. by SEa View House. Two catboats that Jenkins apparently built side by side were hauled by horse to Wychmere Harbor and launched (?) in 1894. These were the "WYCHMERE" owned by Ensign Rodgers and the "ATHLETE" owned by Benjamin Doane. Much later, it appears the ATHLETE was sold to William H. Whiting, a wealthy New York banker who owned one of the Wychmere Sea Shore Cottages called Beach Lodge. Mr. Whiting must have been a very popular summer resident as he eventually became the first commodore of the Stone Horse Yacht Club in 1933.
Note on this map: It appears the Brooklyn doctors may have thought Harwich Port was on Vineyard Sound!
Note on this map: This is Harwich Port showing the Commercial Wharves
More Harwich Historic Images
Here is an old mounted and framed photograph that was given to me years ago but I did not pay much attention to until now. I need some help identifying what is going on here. (on back of photo it says "Rose Acres" "Nickerson Hoyt Rd" and "C.Squibb"This is taken from the northwest side of Wychmere Harbor I think on Snow Inn Road. What is the beautiful gambrel cottage on the right side with the unusual fence. But I don't think this is the Bruce Steere boat house. Is it? I think the other fence along the harbor is part of the sulky track.Also, look at the far side. No Maher House and is that a golf course over there? What is the other house(s) on the far side? I think this photo is late 1880's.
Can anyone help identify this?
Thomas E. Leach
Harbormaster / Natural Resources Director 508-430-7532
This is a copy of Charles D. Cahoon's painting done about 1886 which must have been painted very close to this site depicting the sulky racing around the Salt Pond. Note the fencing in his work depicts that which appears to the left of the Edgemere photograph above taken some years later. The fencing must have gone around the entire one mile track. Charles lived and painted in his Harwich Center house until 1951. His works portray the Cape, its citizens, sand dunes, beaches, marine life, and architecture in the last century. This copy came from Sam Sisson by way of Dan Carroll in 1970. The trunk of Sam's car was a rolling museum. You never knew what he had in there, but it was always interesting.
'Edgemere' was built by the Wychmere Syndicate in 1891. The syndicates three principals were all from Brooklyn Heights, which may explain how I got here in the first place. My grandmother was from the Heights.
The syndicate owned about 150 acres between Freeman St. and Bay View Rd. Irregular lots of a more generous size were offered for between $400 and $2000 per acre. Several houses were built by the principals as summer rentals, June throught October. Edgemere rented for $300 for the season. The three principals, Julien, Gilfillan and Church (all doctors, as was my great grandfather) are on Tim Millar's street list.
'Edgemere' was torn down and replaced with a larger house built closer to Freeman St.(Snow Inn Rd.). Going back from Welch to Brown and before, the house was owned by Kenneth Steere (Bruce and Dave's father) for a few years before and around WWII. Before that it was owned by the Graffs. Perhaps they built it. The family liked big houses. The Graff daughters (3) married and built big houses at the end of Saquetucket. One married a Krueger, later the Cote's house. One married a Pettingill, across the way, facing the Sound.
The house across the street where my grandmother summered, 32 Snow Inn Rd., was named 'Hithe Cote' by the syndicate. ( hithe meaning port or haven, cote meaning pen for lambs and goats !) The owners in the early /middle 1900's were the Allisons and the Pardees. The present owners refer to the house as 'Hithe Cote'.
The Amos Eldredge house was built across the street from Hithe Cote and just south of the Edgemere property. Later it belonged to Tod's mother. She tore it down for taxes around 1962/3
As relates to my earlier transmittal about Francis Nickerson, I would conclude that Rose Acres refers to the property he and Lillian owned on Hoyt Road. My reasoning being that the syndicate had another house on Freeman St., 'Rose Hedge'. It was located on what later became the Merkle, then Steere property.
With all this info came the knowledge that the first jetty for the Mere was built in 1900 by the state for $5,000, which explains how the land accreted earlier in the century before Waldo Brown spearheaded the construction of the extended jetty/outer harbor. When the Snows saw all the free land developing at the water's edge they found the way to stop Freeman St. in its tracks, claim their accreted lot line on a bearing perpendicular to Nantucket Sound as provided by colonial law, and by so doing bring us to the Fennel empire as well as diminish a little every year the Town's water frontage at Merkle Beach.
I'll drop some some photos off. Thanks for Davie's letter.
Matt Sutphin, Harwich Port (2/10/09)
I concur with Matt that the photo probably is that of the famous Judge Joseph N. Welch's home (represented the Army at the Army-McCarthy Hearings, played the judge in Anatomy of a Murder, 1959) etc.
He slammed the over zealous Senator with this:"Have you no sense of decency, sir; at long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
Old Eugene folded shortly thereafter.
I would love to have someone send me a link or a copy of the map that Mr. Sullivan referred to.
This was fun Tom!
Gotta stop in and see some of you hidden "Treasures".Obviously they are not all at the bottom of the ocean.
Sheldon Thayer, Harwich (2/10/09)
Great to see the photos. I'd like to get that ride, if possible. Your Snow Inn Road photo is likely the first iteration of Judge and Agie Welch's house, up beyond the Steere boathouse. I can be fairly certain of this because my grandmother, Caroline Squibb Sutphin, lived a few summersin the old Pardee House across the street. The photo was likely taken from there. My grandmother was born in 1885. The photo is likely 1900-1903. She had an older brother named Charlie. Perhaps he took it.
Francis Nickerson lived on Hoyt Road. His house was torn down a few years ago. He was a great gardener. As a kid I remember lots of roses and a fish pond behind his house. The photo may be refering to Francis and Muriel's home as "Rose Acres". Or the photo may be refering to the house on the harbor, the Welch site.
Perhaps the house in the photo is where my grandmother met Francis. I would not rule out the possibility that Francis was taking care of that property , that there were many roses, and that Francis was getting credit for the property looking so good. Later my grandmother and my great uncle Charlie both bought land at the end of Walther Road where they both built houses. Francis took care of their grounds until my great uncle died, and then my grandmother in 1964.
You might get Davie Davis and George Rockwood to tell you more about theharbor photos. Davie's father had a big motorboat in the harbor, the 'Harwich' around 1927. One photo shows a Wianno tacking in the channel.
I would say the 1905 photo was taken about midway at the 'Clam Bar'. Andbears no relationship to the photo of the house, which would bear about 45 degrees to the left.
The plateau across the harbor would be where the church is now. The roof to the left being the old house recently renovated across fro the church.
I have a complete listing of all of the properties and will put together a listing for you if you want. Here is a quick review from Rt 28 going down Freeman Street (what it was called back then and now Snow Inn Rd) on the right side of the road toward the water.
- Mrs. Robbie
- F. Nickerson
- G.H. Freeman
- W.H. Whitman
- W.W. Gilfillan
- Miss LK Nevins *
- J.E. Patton *
- A.W Julien *
- Dr. S Church *
- Mrs. W.H. Davis
* Also, on the map that I have these homes are clustered together right across the street from Amos Eldredge’s home. The drive way in Tom’s picture (lower left) must lead up the hill to these homes.
Peter Sullivan, Harwich Port(02/09/09)
Thanks for the latest updates.
I have access to Federal census records and have been searching for the references you've been getting.Earlier census doesn't identify the street address, which makes it more difficult, but in 1910 there is an Amos Eldredge, age 55, 2nd wife Elizabeth 27. He is listed as a yachtsman with his "establishment" being given as"Sea". I could list neighbors if anyone thinks that would be helpful.
Regarding the Nickersons on Hoyt Road, in 1930 Clifton F. (Francis?) Nickerson, 32, lived at 246 Hoyt Road (extension) sic. His wife was Lillian C, 24, daughter Muriel F,5, and son Clifton A, 3y 9mo. The father was listed as a caretaker for a private home. Right family?
On the 1920 census, Clifton F Nickerson was 21, living with his family at 165 Main Street Harwichport. Father Clifton C was a poultry farmer.
I also remember at least one house called "Rose Acres", but not the exact location. Near 28 on Neel Road?
I was here summers from 1946 and have great memories of what Harwich was like back then.
Tim Millar, Harwich (02/09/09)
Buy a coffee mug of Wychmere Harbor 1910
and help our research.
Buy a coffee mug of Wychmere Harbor 1905
and help our research.
Be it enacted, etc., as follows:
Section 1. The persons known as the Wychmere Trustees, consisting of William Gilfillan, Stewart Church and Alexis A. Julian, with their associates and successors, are hereby authorized to construct a bridge for foot passengers and vehicles over Andrews creek in the town of Harwich at a place not more than five hundred feet distant from the point where the said creek flows into Vineyard Sound, and at a place where the abutting land on both sides of the said creek is owned by the said trustees. The said bridge shall be constructed and used subject to the laws regulating the construction and use of bridges over tide waters and to any regulations made by the harbor and land commissioners in respect to such bridges.
Section 2. This act shall take effect upon its passage.
Approved March 25, 1907.
Some later Wychmere Home Movies
Frank Thompson's DUKW
Sailing out of Wychmere 1950's
Kidnapping Peggy McMath