Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Brewster Historical Society's Captain Elijah Cobb House Museum

When showing historical homes to clients, occasionally one will make such an impression on me, that it will be stuck in my head long after the showing.  The Elijah Cobb house in Brewster was just such a property.  I showed it to a lovely couple in 2013 when it was on the market.  The client, a professional preservationist, and I could not believe how pristine and in tact the house was.  It is unusual for a home to be so remarkably preserved, especially considering its 1799 date.

At the time, we were told that the Brewster Historical Society was interested in the property and we couldn't imagine a more fitting steward of this important georgian property, built by Captain Elijah Cobb.  Sometime later, I was delighted to hear that the Brewster Historical Society had indeed purchased the property and promptly got to work with the restoration.  I saw that Bob Hoxie of Great Hill Horticultural Services was designing and installing the gardens and I knew that I had to make a trip to see the finished results.

The house is a classic example of georgian architecture with its handsome symmetrical facade, hip roof, quoins on the corner boards, double interior chimneys and pedimented door surround with fanlight, framed by fluted pilasters.  By today's standards, the home is reserved, but in the day it was built, there could be no doubt that this was the home of a person of wealth and distinction.

Reeded hand carving on the mantel
The interior of the home is equally preserved and impressive with its original floor boards, dentil and reeded moldings, elegant front stairs, and doors with early faux wood graining and stenciling.  Visitors enter from the ample back porch (a more recent addition), into what would have been the kitchen with its fireplace and beehive oven.  Along the east wall is a door which leads to the back stairs once used by servants to access their north facing bedroom.  This allowed the servants to slip down the back steps and start the fires and morning breakfast with minimum disturbance to the family.
Original kitchen
back servants stairs

In the front of the house are double parlors, one on each side of the graceful stairway.  The colors used in these rooms and elsewhere in the house are the result of careful research.  During the restoration, some paint chips were analyzed and the final colors selected by the curator, Leslie Aberle and the President of the Brewster Historical Society, and noted author, Sally Gunning.  The floor boards are painted with California Paints, Wooden Nutmeg.  The west parlor is painted Benjamin Moore's Homestead Green, the east parlor in California Paints Woodstock Rose and the trim throughout is in California Paints Phelps Putty.  The historical society consulted with Historic New England as well as a private historic preservationist during the restoration.
Dentil molding

Interior Shutters restored and operable

West parlor

East Parlor fireplace
East Parlor Victorian era photo courtesy of
Brewster Historical Society

Faux wood grain on upstairs bedroom door

Detail of stairway in front entry
Front door has both faux wood grain and stencil

Front door - the progression of locks through the years
Captain Elijah Cobb was born in 1768 and lead an exciting life as a ship's captain, taking him to far away places.  His exploits included rum running off the coast of Ireland and being taken prisoner during the War of 1812.  He ultimately returned to his farm overlooking Cape Cod Bay in 1820 and was very active, serving as town clerk, treasurer, inspector general, senator, and justice of the peace.

Captain Cobb's granddaughter, Caroline Dugan, features prominently at the Cobb house through the Brewster historical society's collections, including her photographs capturing Brewster in the late 19th century.  Caroline was born in the home and, in her early 20's, kept a diary detailing day to day life.  A favorite topic in her writings is her charming garden and the abundant nature surrounding her in what was decidedly, the country.  Her diary, embellished with her own photography, was published by The Brewster Ladies Library and can be purchased in the gift store.   For more on the garden, see my separate post here.

Exterior gardens inspired by Caroline Dugan's diary

Guest house late 19th century repurposing of an older carriage shed

The property had originally encompassed 92 acres and went right down to Cape Cod Bay.  In 1892, it had 12 acres left.  Below is an old photo that shows the guest house (above) and highlights the views that the house once had.

The carriage shed
Note that the property had views down to Cape Cod Bay

Great Hill Horticultural Services designed period inspired gardens

For more info, visit the Brewster Historical Society's website for directions and hours and to view a wonderful video tour:

The 2017 hours are 1 to 4 PM Wednesday through Saturday, June 28th - September 2nd.  
and 1 to 4 PM Saturdays from Labor Day - Columbus Day
The Elijah Cobb House is located at 739 Lower Rd., Brewster, MA

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