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.

Edward Gorey Yarmouth Port

Taking the Self-Guided Captains' Mile Walking Tour
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, October 7, 2019

Captains Mile

There's a ton of history along the Old King's Highway, which stretches between Sandwich and Orleans and passes some of Cape Cod's oldest sites. Between Barnstable and Brewster, you'll come across over 200 historic sea captains' homes, many of which are being used by modern businesses.

The highest concentration of old homes sits in Yarmouthport in a 1.5-mile stretch between Willow Street and Union Street. Here, you'll find over 50 sea captains' houses, all of which are marked by a black and gold schooner plaque, which is given out by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Since many of these buildings are in operation, and some are still residences, you'll have to do your viewing from the sidewalk. But a walk through the Captains' Mile is well worth your time during your Cape Cod vacation.


The West End

The West End of the Captains' Mile is a section between Willow Street and Thatcher Street. The first two homes that you'll encounter are located at 92 and 95 Old King's Highway. The home at 92 Old King's Highway belonged to John Eldridge, a captain who delivered mail between England and Cape Cod. He was also in charge of Union transport ships during the Civil War. Eldridge's brother, Asa, was Yarmouth's most famous captain and set a record by sailing from New York City to Liverpool in just 13 days. His home is just down the street at 100 Old King's Highway.

Captain Bangs Hallet built the other home, and Allen H. Knowles later occupied it. Hallet operated trade ships between China and India, eventually retiring on Cape Cod. Knowles transported passengers between England and Australia and was recognized by the British government for saving the crew of another ship.

Moving further down the highway, you'll encounter the homes of George Taylor, Frederick Howes, Thomas Matthews, Otis White, Paddock Thacher, and James Crocker, just to name a few. One of the largest residences in the area belonged to Josiah Gorham, who operated ships from Boston and was described as a man with exceptional tastes.

The final historic home in this area was Captain Edward Gorham's residence. Edward, brother of Josiah, delivered mail between Boston and Cape Cod. His home is on Summer Street, just around the corner from the Old King's Highway.


The East End

On the east side of the Captains' Mile, you'll find a higher concentration of homes, some of which you can actually go inside. In fact, the first two homes you'll encounter, Captain Bangs Hallet House and Edward Gorey House, are museums that give tours.

As the story goes, Captain Bangs Hallet House originally belonged to Allen H. Knowles. The two captains traded when Hallet retired, and this home became known as Captain Hallet House. Today, the museum includes period decor and a maritime exhibit. Edward Gorey was actually an artist, but his home-turned-museum originally belonged to Captain Edmund Hawes. The museum is dedicated to the artist, but it's still worth checking out if you want to enter an old captain's house.

We mentioned Edward and Josiah on the west end of the mile, but there were six brothers, five of whom were ship captains. The remaining three captains, Thacher, Oliver, and Joseph, all had houses on the east end of this section of the highway.

The Taylor and Matthews families are also highly represented in this part of town. For the Taylors, you'll find the houses of Freeman, Thacher, Seth, Nathaniel, Gorham, and Solomon all within this region. The Matthews are represented by George, Oliver, Issac, and Samuel. Other families with multiple members living in this region include the Thachers, Hamblins, Hawes, and Brays.

The last house that you'll encounter is at 500 Old King's Highway and belonged to Samuel Matthews Jr. Matthews would go on to become a Yarmouth Selectman and a representative in the State Legislature.


Check Out Some Living History

Seeing these homes, it's not hard to imagine what life might have been like in the 1800s on Cape Cod, especially for those with a little money. These homes are diverse, as well, since more successful captains might build structures in a grand style, while others have smaller, charming bungalows. You can pick up a free brochure with information on the homes, in addition to a map, at the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, which is right behind Captain Bangs Hallet House.

Whenever you're passing through Yarmouthport on your Cape Cod vacation, keep an eye out for the gold and black schooner plaques because their presence means that you're looking at history.

Captain Bangs Hallet House Captains Mile Edward Gorey Old Kings Highway Yarmouth Port

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