Menauhant & More House Tour Preview Salon

This is a presentation I gave on Thursday, July 18 at Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. I spoke about the renovation and additions we did to our summer home on the Cape.

Lauren Huyett Highfield Hall Salon sitetx. Click on the blue highlighted words here. Please note it will take a few minutes to download the PowerPoint document to your computer.

Menauhant & More House Tour

Cuttyhunk

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Going to Cuttyhunk is like taking a trip to the past. A very small island which has a population that swells in the summer and decreases to 15 or 20 in the winter,it is like living in a small town. Everyone knows everyone, there is a small general store, no restaurants except a small cafe near the docks, a little library, church and elementary school (in which there are two students)-these are considered the town of Gosnold.  The views are incredible from everywhere on the island.

It is located at the end of the Elizabeth Islands-between Buzzards Bay to the north and Vineyard Sound to the south.The island consists of 580 acres. Historically, it is the first site of English settlement and over the years, the site of many shipwrecks. Well worth the trip sailing over as we did, there are also ferries that run from New Bedford, MA-VERY occasionally once summer is over!

A True Family Home on the Cape

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We went to visit friends here on the Cape who had renovated their house-gutted it completely. It was originally 3 small cottages from the mid 1800’s that had been made into one home years ago but as our friend said “you went up and down steps” to get to parts of each house. They created more of a logical house in the space-and it is incredible. From the beautiful views to the little details-they had a lot of fun with this project.

I loved the lighting fixtures-they were all made by Eloise Pickard of Sandy Springs Gallery. I also loved the way the owners turned the couches in the living room to look out at the views instead of the more traditional facing a fireplace or facing each other. After all, the views are incredible as they are right near the water.

The pop of aqua in the mudroom,the barstools with both San Francisco and Boston teams to celebrate the owners’ home town teams, the “Lilly” guest room with dresses she had framed from her girls when they were small, the really fun laundry room floor…all of it adds up to a home well-loved and very much showing the creativity and cleverness of the owners.

Trivia Night

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If you are looking for a great party idea, this is it. We had a Trivia Night at our Yacht Club the other night.Spearheaded by a very clever person here, there was a committee of 12 people that came up with questions ranging from “Every breed of dog except one has a pink tongue.What breed is it?” (chow) to many geographical questions which had most people stumped.We also asked questions such as “what part of the blue crab is colored blue?”(the claws) “What fitness guru appeared as a meatball in a TV commercial?”(Richard Simmons)
Each of the 12 teams of 8 people had a white board. They chose one secretary for each table. The question would be asked and they had 30 seconds to confer and to answer-holding up their respective white boards. For each correct answer they received two points. At the end of the evening,we had a bonus round which took names of families in our community and had the reverse name..for instance the word “emptier” meant FULLER…”tactful”….BLUNT and so on.
The prize at the end of the evening was a really creative owl(for wisdom,of course) that the organizer found and made a stand for.The thought is that every other year we will hold a Trivia Night and the winning team will have their names on the trophy for all to see in years to come.We also made five baskets filled with fun games,candies,chips and drinks and raffled those off at the end of the evening.

George Howe Colt

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The intricate challenge that brothers pose for each other, aptly characterized by the playwright Athol Fugard as a “blood knot,” is right up there with the most intense, frustrating, rewarding and self-defining of social bonds. If I speak from experience, having one brother, think how much more is George Howe Colt, with three — an older, Harry, and two younger, Ned and Mark — authorized to expatiate on the subject. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of reading Colt’s previous, National Book Award-­nominated work, “The Big House” (2003), will know his delicate, detailed, ironically self-­mocking way with prose, and his lucid, affectionate fair-­mindedness. That book dealt mainly with the generational fortunes of his Boston/Cape Cod WASP clan; the present one, “Brothers,” is more a meditation on himself and his contemporaries, seen through the fraternal lenses.

But that is only a part of this ambitious study, and by no means the most interesting. Subtitled “On His Brothers and Brothers in History,” it attempts nothing less than an exploration of the full range of male sibling relationships. At its heart are five extended historical narratives, each emblematic of a different fraternal dynamic: the prominent actors Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, exemplifying in broad terms the good brother and the bad; John and Will Kellogg, a feuding, litigious, brother-against-brother pair in Battle Creek, Mich., the former a health spa guru, the latter a cereal king; Theo and Vincent van Gogh, a “brother’s keeper” tale of mutual dependence; the Marx Brothers, who in spite of their profound disharmony functioned for decades as a corporation of zanies; and John Thoreau, a protective older sibling whose death spurred the younger Henry’s loss and grief into literary achievement. Though some of these cases may seem at first overly familiar, Colt has done a prodigious job of research and synthesis, and his skill at storytelling is such that each of them is transformed into something fresh, dramatic and emotionally piercing.

These meaty accounts, approaching novella length, are supplemented by briefer examples drawn from every conceivable brother act: the Kennedys, DiMaggios, James boys (both outlaws and authors), Manns, Capones, Wrights, Rothschilds, Lehmans, Mayos, Collyers, Clarks, Kaczynskis, Bachs, Joyces, Chaplins, Bushes, Grimms, Goncourts, Nicholases, Disneys, Gershwins, Waughs. . . . Psychological and sociological studies are also cited in analyses of birth order, parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, the pigeonholing of traits and the developing of one’s own niche, and the prevalence of sibling aggression among animals. Siblicide does indeed occur in nature: “Sand tiger sharks . . . devour one another inside their mother’s womb,” while “spadefoot tadpoles are more considerate; they taste other tadpoles before devouring them in order to determine whether their prospective meal is a relative. If they accidentally swallow a sibling, they spit it out, but if food is scarce, they become less gastronomically discriminating and gobble up any passing tadpole, related or not.” Humans are relatively gentler, we learn: brothers under the age of 7 fight only “every 17 minutes.”

How is it, Colt ponders, that two brothers like the Booths who were reared in the same family can be so different? “Psychologists say that the experience of each child within a family is so distinct that each grows up in his own unique ‘microenvironment,’ ” he writes. “In effect, each sibling grows up in a different ­family.”

He alternates historical and scientific material with chapters about his brothers and himself. I love the chapter where he describes the competitive atmosphere in which he grew up. Here is an excerpt:
“Part of the reason I craved attention was that with three young boys in one house,I harbored the suspicion that there might not be enough to go around and I’d better make sure I got my fair share-or preferably,a little more. Harry,Ned and I rarely fought physically,but there seemed to be nothing we didn’t contest:who found the most foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in the backyard at Easter;who collected the most Halloween candy;who could make a popsicle last the longest;who got the first look at the Sear catalog;who got the Sunday funnies first;who had the best godparents(i.e. whose godparents gave the best presents).Stakes were high at the dinner table.Who got the biggest chicken breast? Who got the biggest piece of bacon on his cheese dream?” He then goes on to say that the “Holy Grail was the prize at the bottom of the cereal box”. This part literally made me laugh at loud remembering my own kids when they were small….

The Black Dog

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“On New Years Day 1971, the doors to the Black Dog Tavern opened. Everyone said the chowder was just right, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.”

The Black Dog is a restaurant and tavern in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. The restaurant was founded in 1971, and became well known for its souvenir T-shirts, featuring its logo of the eponymous black dog. They subsequently expanded to sell other products with the same logo.
The Black Dog T-shirts became well known during the 1990s as photographs of celebrities wearing the shirts began appearing in national publications.I also remember they changed the color of the t’shirt every year so that kids had to have the “new color” every summer-very smart marketing! A photograph of then-President Bill Clinton jogging while wearing one was distributed by national wire services. Black Dog merchandise became part of the Lewinsky scandal, as items from the store were purchased by Bill Clinton and given to Monica Lewinsky.
Marketing at The Black Dog was effective. During the early 1990s, the merchandise was only sold at the Martha’s Vineyard location. Only a limited number of people were allowed in the store at one time, so lines formed down the wooden fenced ramp that ran from the front door. While waiting in line, visitors were given catalogs to browse. Nowadays, the merchandise is also available at “mainland” Cape Cod and Newport “Black Dog” stores as well as online.
In 2000, The Black Dog released a cook book called The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook.The New England Multihull Association and The Black Dog host a 22-mile yachting race from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown and back called the Black Dog Dash.
The Black Dog currently has many locations on Martha’s Vineyard and one on the island of Nantucket, as well as in the mainland Massachusetts towns of Falmouth, Mashpee, Provincetown, Newburyport, and Chatham. Outside of Massachusetts they have stores in Newport, RI, Portland, ME, Mystic, CT, and Annapolis, MD.

Highfield Hall in Falmouth MA

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The story of Highfield Hall coincides with the arrival of the railroad in Falmouth on July 18, 1872. The ability to reach Cape Cod from Boston or from New York by train transformed the area from a quiet farming and fishing community to an exuberant summer community. Middle class families stayed in inns, many of them homes converted to lodgings to handle the explosion of summer visitors. Wealthier families eventually built seaside estates in areas such as Quissett, Chapoquoit and Penzance.

Among the first newcomers escaping the heat of the city were the Beebes of Boston. James Madison Beebe, wealthy from various dry goods and manufacturing businesses, and his wife, Esther E. Beebe, first converted the Thomas Swift House on Shore Street to a summer home they called Vineyard Lodge. They subsequently bought more than 700 acres of land on the hill above the railroad station, more than half of which has been preserved as Beebe Woods.

After the death of James Beebe in 1875, his children built two grand residences on the hill. Brothers Pierson and Franklin and sister Emily built a lavish “summer cottage” in the Queen Anne stick style modeled after the British Pavilion in the great 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Highfield Hall was completed in 1878, and its sister mansion, Tanglewood, where the J. Arthur Beebes took up residence, was finished in 1879. Thus began over fifty years of Beebes living and entertaining in their “summer cottages” at Highfield. In its heyday, the hill must have been a bustling scene. The miles of carriage trails, riding trails, gardens, two huge homes, and numerous outbuildings required a small army of servants to maintain. The Beebes even started a farm on Shore Street to provide produce for their Falmouth and Boston residences.

The Beebes were undoubtedly a formidable family. The children made an impact on Falmouth with their financial support for the building of St. Barnabas Church on Main Street (1890) in memory of their parents, St. Barnabas House (1890), a carriage shed (1894) for the church which in 1962 was converted into a garden chapel, and conversion of the Bodfish House into the Rectory (1901). For some years in the 1880s, the Beebes were the largest taxpayers in Falmouth.

Franklin, the last of the Beebe children, died in 1932. After that, Highfield Hall passed through a succession of owners, each with a dream for its use. First, in the thirties, E.H. Bristol wanted to turn it into a health resort. That was succeeded by two dreams in the forties: J. Elwin Wright, a religious revivalist, wanted it to become a religious hotel and retreat. Subsequently, Arthur J. Beckhard ran the two mansions as hotels and converted the former stable into what is now Highfield Theater.

In 1949, the entire Beebe estate was purchased by DeWitt Ter Heun, a friend of Arthur Beckhard. TerHeun and his wife loved the theater and the opera and hoped to turn the Highfield estate into a center for the performing arts. They launched a training ground for student actors, inviting first Williams College and then Oberlin College to perform at Highfield Theatre. The couple remodeled Highfield Hall to serve as their summer residence, adding a plantation-style front on the building. A portion of the house was in use as a dormitory by the theater company, while all of Tanglewood was used for that purpose. Mr. TerHeun’s daughter, Patricia, converted the Tanglewood stable into an art gallery, showing the works of abstract artists such as Jackson Pollack and Robert Motherwell. The TerHeun summers were alive with theater, art, and culture on the hil

After Mr. TerHeun’s death in 1962, the estate was eventually purchased by summer residents Marjorie Whittemore and Stanley Welsh. They ran the theater and kept up the two houses while considering the options of what might be done with the property. At that time, the Highfield parcel was the largest single plot of developable land on Cape Cod. Welsh and Whittemore, who were siblings, considered creating a planned community on the property which would have featured clusters of houses, shopping, and a school (much like the concept employed a decade later at Mashpee Commons). Up to 500 residential units were considered, but various roadblocks from town officials, along with Whittemore and Welsh’s own hesitancy to develop the land, prevented any progress with the concept.

In 1972 the entire estate was purchased by Josephine and Josiah K Lilly III. The Lillys generously gave the nearly 400 acres of Beebe Woods to the town for permanent conservation as green space. The buildings and acreage on which they stood were donated to a local arts organization.

Sadly, on May 20, 1977, Tanglewood succumbed to the wrecker’s ball and bulldozers, and Highfield Hall entered two decades of neglect and vandalism.

In 1994, Highfield almost suffered the same fate as Tanglewood when a demolition permit was pulled by the owners. However, the Town of Falmouth had just instituted a demolition delay bylaw, which mandated a 90-day period after application for demolition of any historic building so that the local Historical Commission could attempt to effect a preservation compromise This bylaw went into effect two days prior to the permit being issued!. An advocacy group, Friends of Highfield, sprang into action to save the building. That group became a not-for-profit corporation, Historic Highfield, Inc., in May 1994.

Many years of legal disputes followed as Historic Highfield tried to stave off demolition and gain control of the building from its nonprofit owners. Volunteers cleared the lawn, boarded windows, and tried to ward off further decay and vandalism. They also raised money and worked to convince residents that Highfield Hall was worth saving. Eventually, collaborating with Selectmen, Historic Highfield was able to convince the town that Highfield Hall was important to the Falmouth community and extraordinary measures were warranted to save the property.

In 2000 Town Meeting Members authorized Falmouth Selectmen to take Highfield Hall and six acres by eminent domain, and in 2001 the Town signed a lease with Historic Highfield to renovate and operate Highfield Hall. The extraordinary restoration effort that followed was made possible through donations totalling in excess of $8,000,000 — almost all of which were contributed by private individuals.