Monday, April 26, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 43: Yarmouthport, Mass. - Part Two

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 43: Yarmouthport, Mass. – Part Two
April 15, 2010

            Nothing beats Route 6A in the spring.  The warm, sweet smelling air coupled with the blooming trees and flowers gives every site the appearance of a painting or postcard.  I decided to venture back over to Yarmouthport to check out some places missed during my first article.  I also wanted to find out just how people spell Yarmouthport.  Is it with the space, or without?  According to the highway signs near Exit 7 it is without the space, so I am going with that way until further notice.
            It was a pleasant change to be able to take a stroll along the historic sidewalks of 6A in Yarmouthport while it was sunny and warm.  Most of my other trips had taken place during the dead of winter so I really appreciated this day.  There are plenty of great places to park to get out and walk along 6A, I chose the small parking area of the Kelly Chapel, located behind the Post Office.  I walked east a little ways, deciding to start from the First Congregational Church of Yarmouth(left) and work my way back. 
            The First Congregational Church, which sits on Zion Hill overlooking the Yarmouthport Village Store, was first gathered in 1639 coinciding with the town’s founding.  The current church was built in 1870 due to the increasing need for a larger building to house all of the worshipers in the town.  It has a majestic quality to it, especially after dark when the face of the church is lit up by a large spotlight.  It is the prefect start to a spring stroll. 
            As you walk along this area of Rt. 6A it is important to keep your eyes open for black and gold plaques featuring a sailing ship.  It is along this stretch of road that there are fifty-three such plaques; these make up the ‘Yarmouth Captain’s Mile.’  It is amazing when you do spot all of the plaques adorning the fronts of homes, to realize that so many sea captains once lived in such close proximity during the 18th and 19th centuries. 
One such house that intrigued me was the Captain Thomas Ryder House located next to the Yarmouthport Library.  The home itself is beautiful, sitting on a modest hill with a large wraparound front porch.  It was after I had snapped a few shots up close that I noticed something odd.  On the three steps leading from the walkway to the street there were words.  The words read ‘The Hillock.’(right)  I do not know what this meant, or how many people that pass by the steps ever notice them, but it makes for a neat mystery that I am trying to figure out.
            Located across from the post office is the Winslow-Crocker House(left).  Originally built in 1780 this house is a great place to check out just because of the story of how it got to where it currently stands.  The house sat in West Barnstable but was bought and moved by Mary Thacher in 1936; she subsequently used the house to showcase her collection of colonial furniture, hooked rugs, ceramics, and other antiques.  Set back from the road the house has a spacious yard, it can make you feel as though you are looking at this house when it was originally built despite the fact that it is not its original location.  The Winslow-Crocker House is available for tours and operates as a museum where many of Mary Thacher’s antiques are still on display.
            Normally I would not consider a bookstore to be an historic spot that needed to be visited.  When it is the Parnassus Bookstore(left), a Cape Cod landmark, an exception can be made.  Located just before the curve that forks off toward Dennis Pond the Parnassus Bookstore has been a part of Yarmouthport for nearly 200 years.  Before it was a bookstore the building housed Knowles General Store.  Inside you will find shelves of old and rare books, many of which have to do with Olde Cape Cod.  Outside there are more shelves of books underneath an awning, I found it a bit odd to have books located outside of the building itself but I believe that it only adds to the charm of this spot.  Even if you are not a lifelong Cape Codder I recommend taking some time to look through the rare books and discover a lot of what made the Cape what it is today.
            After taking this stroll along Rt. 6A the only spot to end it is at the Hallet’s Store(right).  Established in 1889 by Thatcher Taylor Hallet this Cape institution was originally a pharmacy complete with soda fountain and lunch counter.  Now owned by the great-great grandson of Thatcher, Hallet’s is still serving ice cream and sodas as well as doubling as a museum.  The 121-year-old shop still has all of its original fixtures inside; the fact that they still serve sandwiches, ice cream, and sodas as well makes you feel as though you just sat down in the late 19th century.  The dedication to retaining that authenticity is what makes Hallet’s special.  It is open from April through November.     
            Whether you choose to spell it Yarmouthport or Yarmouth Port there is one thing that can be agreed on, a trip down the amazing Route 6A in the spring is something that locals and far off visitors alike will enjoy.  I make this drive a few times per week and still marvel at the fact that so much history sits so close to me.  So visit the Winslow-Crocker house, read a few passages at Parnassus, grab some ice cream at Hallet’s, and if anybody knows what ‘The Hillock’ means on the steps in front of the Thomas Ryder House please let me know.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions:  From Rt. 6, take Exit 8 and head north on Union Street.  Turn left on Rt. 6A and follow it for about ¾ mi., it is up to you where to park and start to enjoy the sites along 6A.
ReferencesParnassus Books
            Yarmouth Historical Society
            Edward Gorey
            Hallets Store

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