Yesterday afternoon, the weather forecast here on Cape Cod called for rain on every day of the next week. This got my sad face going since rain and 68 degrees is not conducive to having fun on the golf course, beach or touring around. Our motto up here is “wait a minute, the weather will change”. And of course, this morning, the forecast has rain for Saturday, then sun with low 70’s seven days following. I don’t know why I look.
We’re currently in the middle of our “next trip”, which is at Cummaquid on Cape Cod for June, July and August. That will leave us back in Sarasota for the sopping wet weighted blanket of a month that is September. Oh well. We sold the Cape house last spring so we’re renting this summer. We survived the trepidation that accompanies sending a check with way too many zeros for a place you’ve never seen except in pictures. We crawled out of the Jeep after the three day slog from Sarasota to find a comfortable bed, modern bathroom and strong wi-fi surrounded by friendly neighbors and a fragrant garden in full bloom.
Cummaquid is a cute area located in the center of professional historical cuteness, Barnstable Village. In Cummaquid (Indian word meaning “Long Neck”), Cape Cod style houses (pitched roof, center entrance, six over six windows with window boxes) sit behind carefully mown green lawns and neatly tended gardens. Peonies and roses are in bloom, with geraniums ready to provide backup. Our house is located just off the Old King’s Highway (OKH), a treacherous, two-lane path through the beginnings of our country. On the Highway itself, houses often date from the seventeen hundreds, albeit with new plumbing and somewhat updated electrical.
OKH is the largest historical district in the country, stretching from Sandwich in the west to Orleans in the east. It has its own governing body, the OKH Historical District Committee, which has absolute control over any alterations, demolitions or additions to structures in the district. You can paint the interior walls of your historical home any shade of magenta you’d like, but the exterior will be white or a very pale yellow if you choose to paint. And don’t even think about adding new windows.
Robin and I are on a mission to find a new, smaller house on the Cape for our summer getaway: maybe. The housing market here, like in the rest of the country, is frozen in place. No one wants to give up their 3 percent mortgage for a shiny new 7 percent one, so any acceptable house that comes on the market is usually snapped up in days. We were watching one that wasn’t snatched up, a good-sized colonial almost in the center of the village with lush but manageable gardens. The only catch was that it was built in 1739.
Because we are dreamers, we imagined that this would be a great house to live in. We could visualize reading in the garden on a warm afternoon, smelling the lavender and sipping iced tea. We saw ourselves strolling to the village for coffee in the morning or a casual dinner in the soft evening light. Even though it was a 1739 house, we’d only be using it in the warm months so heating issues wouldn’t be a major concern. We scheduled a showing as soon as we unpacked.
We found a handsome house, pale yellow clapboards, white trimmed six over six windows and what looked like a new roof. Great so far. A small green lawn and gravel parking spot sat between the house and the historical highway. Next door was the oldest library in the country, just down the street from the county courthouse and several of centuries of colonial history. The garden was at the rear, north facing so usable during the hot summer months. And then we went inside.
I’m sure you know how this turned out. The center entrance opened to a small reception area with a three-sided staircase winding up to the second floor. Dining room on the right, living room on the left. After that, a rabbit warren of small rooms, passageways, doors going nowhere and floors at a different level in each room. Even using extra care, I managed to stumble over several oddly placed door sills. The kitchen and butler’s pantry had been updated ten years ago, bringing them into the 1950s. Did I mention nothing was level? The only bath on the first floor was at the far back of the house, perhaps added in the 1970s. The “three-season” porch was an addition from the 1940s.
The master bedroom (excuse my political incorrectness: primary bedroom) was on the second floor along with another five or six rooms of indeterminate use. The main feature of the primary was a floor that sloped about eight nausea-inducing degrees from front to back. The primary bath fittings were new in 2010 and connected to plumbing installed sometime after 1739. The realtor was thrilled to show me the less than expansive six-foot clothes closet which would have room for about half of Robin’s polo shirts. People did not have a lot of clothes in 1739.
We had arrived at the second floor via the rear staircase which went straight up instead of winding through several ninety degree turns. The realtor mentioned how great this was for bringing furniture up and down stairs. Oh boy. Because building codes were not in use in 1739, climbing the steep stairs felt more like crawling up a ladder. Great exercise for the thighs. For the trip back to mother earth, we tried out the front stair and I’m glad to report there were no fatalities.
The current owners lived in the house for about twelve years, giving them plenty of time to devote to their hobby which apparently was fixing things. I asked the realtor where they were moving. His response? Building a modern house across the street as soon as they could sell this one.
We drove back to the rental, resetting all our dreams of living in the historical village center and generally rethinking life. We arrived to find an email from the broker saying that an offer had just come in on the place and did we want to make an offer as well (no). I guess there is a God.
Postscript: This morning, the house is “back on the market.” Stay tuned.