Thoreau’s Cape Cod

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In 1849-1857 Henry David Thoreau took 4 trips to the area called Cape Cod. As George Howe Colt points out in his book “The Big House” Thoreau is the first person to pronounce living near the sea to be a therapeutic thing to do! Up until then only fishermen lived near the sea and it was not considered desirable.

Here is an excerpt from Howe’s book-“In 1849 the notion of voluntarily traveling to Cape Cod to see the ocean -without planning to fish,build a ship,go whaling,or scavenge a wreck-would not have occurred to anyone except,perhaps,a man who had spent two years gazing into a small,dark pond. Cape Codders considered shorefront land nearly worthless.Cape Codders would have snorted if someone had told them their most valuable resource lay in those serene bluffs and forbidding shores. But Thoreau knew better-” the time must come when this coast will be a place of resort for those New Englanders who really wish to visit the seashore.” In July of 1872,the Old Colony Railroad completed an extension down the east shoreline of Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole. Over the next twenty years,the Old Cape Cod was overlaid with the new.”

This is very interesting to me on a personal note as our area in Falmouth was started exactly then-the first six cottages went up in the late 1870’s. Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and many other communities sprung up at this time-many of them,such as ours, were originally camping grounds for church-related activities and renewal. In fact, when you buy a house in our area the lots are designated as “tent lots”!

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