The Beach Times

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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