One of the joys of Cape Cod is the ability to go back in time to experience just how our predecessors lived, worked, raised their families and connected to the land and community.
One such locale is the Benjamin Nye Homestead, lovingly restored and curated by the Nye Family ancestors.
We recently visited the homestead, which was undergoing necessary renovations to replace parts of its foundation to assure it will be a jewel of the Cape for decades to come. The wood work was being done by hand!
When you visit, here are some facts to guide your tour:
- This is the second home built in Sandwich by settler Benjamin Nye (abt. 1620-1706), who traveled from England to what is now Lynn in 1635 about the ship Abigail. Two years later, he traveled to the Cape with 60 families and settled in the new town of Sandwich.
- He married Katherine Tupper in 1640, where they settled on nine acres at Spring Hll, about a mile east of what is Sandwich Village. He built his first house there and raised eight children.
- By the late 1650s, he had acquired a salt marsh and a spring fed pond. Near there, he built a dam and mill.
- In 1669, Benjamin built a new house next to the mill, which is the current homestead and museum.
- In 1676, Benjamin built a mill to process homespun woolen cloth. By now, his property had become very much a family homestead, where seven generations lived before it was sold to a distant cousin, Ray Nye in 1911.
- He eventually rented it to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. A game farm (mainly pheasants) was developed on the northern portion. The southern part, near the Homestead, was added to an existing trout hatchery also purchased by the state in 1912.
- In 1924, Ray Nye gave the house and property to the Commonwealth “for the purpose of protecting any species of useful wild birds, quadrupeds or fish, and for aiding the propagation thereof”.
- In 1962, the Nye Family of America Association, formed in 1903, acquired the house from the state.
The main home is described by the family as “a fine example of a Cape Cod farmhouse with rooms restored to several different time periods of early American life. Most of the furnishings have been donated, usually by Nye descendants, and some antiques have been purchased. An understanding of these artifacts helps to give us a sense of how our ancestors lived, through cleverness and hard work. However, they also show us something of the sense of beauty and decoration of past generations, especially during the 19th century.”
Outside, you can enjoy views of the salt marsh, meadow, mill pond and stream, as well as the Grange Hall, mill, old trout pools and several other old houses.
Inside the saltbox home, there are two large front rooms i- the hall to the east and the parlor to the west. In the back is the kitchen; to the east, a butter; and to the west a small chamber or bedroom.
The original chimney had three fireplaces – the largest (about 8 feet wide with a bake oven) in the hall, one in the parlor, and a small one in the master chamber, upstairs. This chimney was replaced in 1816 by a five fireplace design, built largely out of bricks from the original, according to the Nye Family history.
“The east parlor, originally the Hall, was the room where in colonial times cooking and all manner of household work took place – the main living room,” the Nye website explains.
“When the house was rebuilt in 1816, it became a nicely finished parlor, with an inner wall for insulation, 6 over 6 windows, a chair rail and other moldings, and a smaller fireplace with a fancy mantle. During the 2009 restoration of this room it was discovered that the original color of the mantle was black, and so it was re-painted that color.”
Here are more excerpts from the Nye Homestead website:
- Today, the kitchenappears much as it would have in the late 18th century, with wooden ware, pottery, tin ware and wrought iron and brass implements.
- The small bedroomwest of the kitchen is restored to the 1830 period, with a rope bed, wash stand, a chest of drawers, and other bedroom furnishings.
- The west parlorcontains a collection of Victorian antiques, all donated from various Nye descendants.
- In the front hall underneath the stairs, a small door enters into the bugaboo room, the irregular dark space between the fireplaces that resulted when the chimney was rebuilt. It could have been utilized for storage, drying, or as a warm sitting spot.
- Five bedrooms upstairs includes a master change with a loom, wool and flax wheels, and other devices used in colonial homes to make cloth from wool and flax raised on the farm.
- A marine room is dedicated to the many Nyes who went to sea or were involved in related salt water industries. One of the featured mariners is Capt. Ezra Nye of Sandwich, who set speed records in the New York to Liverpool packet run.