The Beach Times

Experience Cape Cod History at Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Tuesday, February 23, 2021

photo of Edward Gorey's characters

Your time on Cape Cod will surely be full of days at the beach, nights exploring the region's dining scene, and mornings relaxing in the comfort of your vacation rental.

However, there's always room for other activities, including learning a bit about the Cape's history.

While this part of the country was one of the first to experience European settlement, there's a fair amount of 20th-century history, too.

Edward Gorey House is a museum dedicated to the life and work of Gorey, a Gothic artist, author, playwright, and animal activist who called Cape Cod home in his later years.

Here's what you should know about visiting one of Yarmouth Port's most famous museums.

About the House

While the museum is known as Edward Gorey House today, it was initially the home of Captain Edmund Hawes, who built the structure at 8 Strawberry Lane in 1820.

The house sits in the East End of Captains' Mile, a stretch of the Old King's Highway that's full of historic homes built by wealthy sea captains in the 1800s.

Many of these buildings are now museums or businesses, although some remain family homes. You can pick up a walking tour map to explore the Captains' Mile before or after spending time at Edward Gorey House.

Gorey purchased the home in 1979 and lived there until he died in 2000. In 2002, the Highland Street Foundation bought the house to preserve the works of Gorey and establish the property as a museum.

Who was Edward Gorey?

Edward Gorey was born in Chicago in 1925 into a family of artists. He was an advanced student from an early age and graduated from Harvard University in 1950 after spending two years in the Army.

In the 1950s, Gorey lived in Manhattan, illustrating book covers, including reprints of classics like T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and H.G. Wells' The War the of the Worlds.

From there, Gorey moved into writing, authoring The Unstrung Harp and numerous other titles under assumed pen names before designing the costumes for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula and winning a Tony Award.

After moving to the Cape in 1979, Gorey started writing plays, many of which would run at the Woods Hole Theatre Company. In fact, some of these shows still appear occasionally at the theater.

However, Gorey was most famous for his illustrations as he developed a cult following through his ominous, sometimes wordless, books of drawings. Followers would attempt to dissect and interpret his pictures, and many visitors to Edward Gorey House continue this tradition to this day.

In his personal life, Edward Gorey was an eccentric yet mysterious person who did things his own way. He was also a bit of a hoarder, as he would make weekly trips to Cape Cod's flea markets and buy anything he'd find interesting.

He would also pick items up from the side of the road and bring them onto his porch or into his house if he found them appealing.

Visiting this museum provides a look at Edward Gorey's life, and the exhibits offer new insights into the artist's career.

Present-Day Exhibits

Much of Edward Gorey House looks much like it did when he lived there. Permanent exhibits show his kitchen, writing area, and some of the eccentric clothing he would wear.

You'll also find original prints and some exhibits dedicated to Gorey's most famous works.

The museum features rotating exhibits that dig a little deeper into the man and his career, too.

Past exhibits include a look at the notes Gorey took, as he was known for writing absolutely everything down, a deep dive on the language of nonsense, a genre that Gorey loved, and Murder He Wrote, which looks at the red herrings Gorey would compose into his productions.

All of this comes together to create a facility that any Edward Gorey lover won't want to miss.

Getting There

Reaching Edward Gorey House is relatively straightforward, as it's just off the Old King's Highway in Yarmouth Port.

You can also take Exit 75 from the Mid-Cape Highway, heading north on Union Street before turning left onto White Rock Road. White Rock Road eventually becomes Strawberry Lane.

When arriving from West Yarmouth or Hyannis, you can head north on West Yarmouth Road from Route 28, which intersects with White Rock Road in Yarmouth Port.

Admission to Edward Gorey House is $8 for adults, $2 for kids between six and 12, and $5 for students and seniors. Children under six are free.

There's a small parking lot outside the museum, along with a yard with a picnic table if you decide to bring your lunch.

Keep in mind that the museum closes between January 1 and early April. It's also only open Thursday through Sunday in the spring, Wednesday through Sunday between July and October, and Friday through Sunday from mid-October until the end of December.

If you want to learn about the Cape's more recent history during your vacation, Edward Gorey House is a great place to do it.

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