Cotuit Museum


The grounds of the Historical Society or Santuit & Cotuit hold  the Dottridge Homestead, the Cotuit Museum and attached Fire Museum, The Cotuit Archives. the Rothwell Ice House. Cotuit Museum Shop and Historical Kitchen Gardens.  The buildings are open weekends from Memorial Day through Christmas. The archives are available for research, and the Homestead and museums are available for private tours by appointment.




Cotuit Museum 

Cotuit Museum 1 The Cotuit Museum, located directly behind the Homestead, offers regional items from the permanent collection and features ship models, Cotuit souvenir China, photographs, quilts, advertising signs, whaling artifacts, tools, fans, and the office of Dr. Donald Higgins.

The permanent collection offers a glimpse of everything in Cotuit’s past from the 1800’s to today. With several exhibits featuring Whaling, Cotuit in Motion, Education, Cotuit’s Origins, Hotels, and Industries.

A special exhibit is changed every season to exhibit a further look into Cotuit’s past.  See past exhibits here.

The office of Dr. Donald Higgins is another highlight to our collection. A full room exhibit re-creation of a doctor’s office complete with Dr. Higgins’ own office belongings and tools adds a familiar touch to those who grew up in Cotuit with Higgins as their family doctor.


Dottridge Homestead

DotteridgeSamuel Dottridge was born in London on December 26, 1786. By the age of 18 he left his home country and arrived in Brewster, Massachusetts working as an apprentice to John Baker to learn the trade of house carpentry. From age 18-21 he was indentured to Baker and had to follow strict rules including attendance to work every day unless authorized and he could never frequent the local pubs.

As soon as his apprenticeship ended in 1808, he married Abigail Kelley Chase, a 31 year old widow with two children.  While living in Harwich, they had two more children and decided to move to a village that friends and neighbors were also making the move to, Cotuit. The three room house was set on a drag and pulled by yokes of 17 oxen from Harwich to Cotuit.

Once in Cotuit Highground, the house was then placed on the corner of Shell Lane and Ocean View Ave (then called County Lane), facing the ocean. The front doorstep was right on the road and there were lilac bushes out front just as there are today. Samuel not only made his name as the village carpenter but he also owned a salt works on Bluff Point that provided the greatly needed salt to the local fisherman.

By 1837 Samuel owned a house, a barn, expanded his three rooms to five, had 45 acres of land and 1,150 feet of salt works. At the time, all this was worth a total of $300.

Dotteridge 2Samuel and Abigail had five children together; seven including her two from her previous marriage. After her death, Samuel remarried two years later to a woman in Sandwich and moved to the town with her leaving his home to his grown family.

The home passed hands several times mainly within the Dottridge lineage until it was inherited by HSSC’s founder, Nita Crawford. She moved the house back from Ocean View Ave. and used it as the laundry for her hotel, The Pines. When the hotel closed in 1958,  she worked with others in the village to restore the home to how it would have looked when Samuel Dottridge owned it. It was then moved to its current property on the corner of Shell Lane and Main Street and formally given by Nita Crawford to the Historical Society of Santuit and Cotuit.


Kitchen Gardens

9898764In 2007 The Historical Society of Santuit and Cotuit voted to establish an early 19th Century landscape on the grounds of the Dottridge Homestead. The first phase of this project was completed that summer with a Kitchen Garden on the south side of the property. Seven raised beds, constructed from rough sawn lumber, were created, running east to west, for maximum sun exposure. Crushed seashells line the pathways.

Heirloom plant varieties, grown in New England prior to 1850, were chosen from lists in the publication Landscapes and Gardens for Historic Buildings by Favretti. The Kitchen Garden interprets domestic life with herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit. It is a small sample of plants that would have been tended by Mrs. Dottridge. With a busy household of seven children, the Dottridges would have had a much larger garden to sustain their family.

In 2011 the Cotuit Bird and Garden Club commenced a project to re-plant the beds with heirloom plants, and in 2012 these wonderful volunteers added a new root garden to the ‘good wife’s garden’.
Rothwell Ice House

5932680Ice houses were a large part of the Cape Cod landscape during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, as ice was used to preserve food, cool drinks and make ice cream. Ice harvesting on New England ponds, lakes and rivers used to be a big winter business.

Santuit/Cotuit ice was harvested from Eagle, Lewis and No Bottom Ponds and sold to townspeople to preserve their food. During the months of January and February it was a common sight to see ice blocks 10-12 inches thick harvested and stored in large and small ice houses.