Friday, July 30, 2021
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
The story of Edna Harris is one of ingenuity, success, and determination. In a time when women as business owners was rare Harris found herself in that position multiple times. She was connected to some of the most beloved establishments in Cape Cod history. It was during the first half of the 20th century that Edna Harris became a Cape Cod icon and business icon alike. This is her story.
Edna Lincoln Sprague was born in Watertown, Massachusetts on August 4, 1877. She married William Harris in Taunton in June 1900. The couple would have four children, three of whom had been born when the couple made their way to Cape Cod in 1912.
Edna’s first foray into business on Cape Cod came in the form of the Megansett Tea Room in North Falmouth. The opening day was June 21, 1913 and it was the subject of rave reviews from the get-go. From the beautifully decorated interior to the comfortable chairs on an attractive piazza this new establishment was primed for success. Like many Cape businesses the Megansett Tea Room was seasonal, closing in October to allow the Harris’ to head back home to Watertown for the winter.
|Megansett Tea Room(Falmouth Public Library)|
Not one to rest on her laurels Edna made constant tweaks and improvements to her tea room in the hopes of increasing business. It was this desire to stay ahead of the curve that would serve her well in her Cape business career. Some new features eventually included a dance room decked out in yellow and black complete with an orchestra run by Sidney Reinherz in 1920. There was also a gift shop added. The new features worked and an addition was built on the Megansett Tea Room in 1923 out of necessity. Edna Harris was an undeniable success and soon others wanted a piece of the action.
In 1930 the Crane family asked Edna to take over the lease of their Coonamessett Inn. At this time Coonamessett consisted of a large ranch house overlooking the pond of the same name. Under Harris it became an icon of Cape Cod. In the beginning she tried to run both Coonamessett and her beloved Megansett Tea Room. This proved to be impossible and Edna gave up Megansett in 1934, the property taken over by the Watertown Bank. After sitting vacant and deteriorating for several years the venerable establishment was eventually torn down.
At the Coonamessett Inn however Edna’s success boiled over. Being in close proximity to the Falmouth Playhouse brought internationally known performers in. This was closely followed by high ranking politicians like Massachusetts Governor James Michael Curley and people from the financial world. These people all raved about the food and accommodations at the Coonamessett, but more so than that they raved about Edna Harris. World War II saw military officials frequenting the Coonamessett as Camp Edwards was close by. This massive success achieved by Harris in the early to mid 1940’s gave her the confidence to make yet another big move in Cape Cod business.
In March 1947 Harris took over the lease of another up and coming Cape establishment, the Popponesset Inn. Opened in 1941 Popponesset at the time had 26 small family cottages, hotel, restaurant and cocktail lounge. Being wary of what happened when she tried running both the Coonamessett and Megansett Tea Room at the same time Edna placed her eldest daughter Hilda Coppage in charge as manager.
Great food, décor, and entertainment at Coonamessett made Edna Harris a household name on Cape Cod and far beyond. Now she was adding that touch to the Popponesset. These facts made it more surprising when in August 1953 the Crane family alerted Edna that her lease at Coonamessett was not being renewed. The property was sold to Richard Treadway, owner of a string of Treadway Inns. By this time Harris was 75 and could have easily gone sweetly into retirement. However she was determined to not be pushed out of a place she made into a giant of Cape Cod hospitality.
In a stroke of genius Edna Harris secured financial backing and purchased the Robert Longyear house at Gifford Street and Jones Road in Falmouth in September 1953. After it was approved to be run as an inn Edna had the Coonamessett liquor license, of which she was in ownership of, transferred to the new property. In a beautiful irony since the original Coonamessett property was to be renamed Treadway Inn this meant that the Coonamessett name was available to be incorporated by Edna Harris. The final twist came when she also took much of the furniture from the old property and brought it to the new location.
On November 24, 1953 Edna Harris’ Coonamessett Inn reopened in the new location a mere three months after she had been told her lease would not be renewed. It was a massive triumph for Harris who kept all of what made her Coonamessett special despite moving to a new location. In a bit of karma the Treadway Inn which took over the property at Coonamessett Pond failed and became Clauson’s Inn at Coonamessett in early 1958.
Edna Harris continued successfully running her new Coonamessett Inn well into her 80’s. Her daughter Hilda Coppage carved out her own legacy at Popponesset with guests marveling at her rapid-fire wit. She was seen as Cape Cod’s answer to comedian Shelley Berman. The mother-daughter combo dominated the Upper Cape for nearly a decade.
After a short illness Edna passed away on January 6, 1967 at the age of 89. She had been working hard at Coonamessett until her body literally could not give any more. Her daughter Hilda Coppage ran the Coonamessett for a few more years before selling it in 1969 to Josiah K. Lilly.
Edna Harris was beloved and admired. Her legacy followed her even after she left this world. In a time where woman were seen as merely a Mrs. to their husband, rarely having their actual names mentioned in the newspaper, Edna Harris broke through and left an indelible mark on Cape Cod and beyond. She was a pioneer for women in positions of power in business and a true icon of Cape Cod hospitality.
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Friday, July 23, 2021
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Cape Cod over the centuries has had a rich connection to the ocean. There are numerous beautiful sea captains’ homes which dot the peninsula from one end to the other. Many of these have been deemed of historic significance, such as those on the Captain’s Mile along Route 6A in Yarmouth Port. Some of these homes have enjoyed a second life though as a piece of Cape Cod’s historic nightlife including The Columns in West Dennis which began as the home of Obed Baker. Another such sea captains’ home which went on to live a second life resided a stone’s throw from Allen Harbor in Harwich. It was originally the home of Captain Leonard Robbins and would go on to become the popular Lincoln Lodge during the mid-20th century.
Around 1833 the home would be built for the aforementioned Captain Robbins. It would be christened the Massachusett Lodge for a planting field located in the area run by the Native American tribe of the same name. It would be owned by three different people throughout the 19th century before being purchased around the turn of the 20th century by a retired judge from Chicago named William Keough.
Keough would make many changes to the home, mostly enlarging it into a stately summer manor. However after nearly thirty years as owner of the home Keough’s life would change drastically. He was called into court in Chicago in the late 1930’s in a dispute over properties he owned, battling against members of notorious Al Capone’s gang. When Keogh refused to sell his properties the rents were raised immensely. He went to court to appeal the rent increases. When his appeals were denied it did not sit well with him and Keogh in turn shot and killed the victorious party’s assessor in the courthouse. The retired judge would be declared legally insane and sent away to an institution. Subsequently Keough’s children would sell the property to the Borden Family whose dairy company still operates to this day.
It would be the Borden’s who took the stately manor and turned it into a rooming house. They would also be the ones to give it its ‘Lincoln Lodge’ name. The property would be named for Joseph Lincoln rather than former President Abraham Lincoln. Joseph Lincoln was an author born in Brewster who during his career, specifically the first few decades of the 20th century, wrote about a fictionalized version of Cape Cod and had pieces published in such illustrious publications as the Saturday Evening Post. When the property was sold again in the 1940’s to William Jenks he kept the Lincoln Lodge name, assuming it was in honor of President Lincoln.
Jenks would sell the Lodge to Else Lufkin in 1953 and the former sea captain’s home would embark on its most celebrated chapter. Lufkin and her son Robert Jr. would begin the process of turning the former rooming house into a popular eating and drinking establishment. The Lodge’s décor was cozy with half of the establishment having half circular couches with coffee tables facing a field stone fireplace and colonial wallpaper. The other half had the dining area and bar. One popular change was the addition of the ‘Village Fare’ which was a changing buffet dinner Saturday nights. In the late 1960’s Lufkin would build a two-story motel on the property known as the Mary Todd Court. This meant that visitors could enjoy an evening at Lincoln Lodge, and if it was desired, stay the night close by.
The Lincoln Lodge would promote its menu heavily including jumbo shrimp, clam pie, scallop stew, and Southern fried chicken. It would also become the Cape’s only Fondue restaurant adding to the popularity and uniqueness of the Lodge. Woe be to those who dropped food into the fondue. According to Bob Lufkin’s daughter Rebecca Lufkin-Catron there were specific instructions on how to rectify their mistake.
“A waitress would bring that customer a box with slips of paper with instructions for the customer,” she explains. “These would include instructing he or she to sing a song, tell a joke, recite a poem or kiss the host or hostess.”
Bob Lufkin would promote an air of fun and comradery at his spot. This included Hawaiian Luau’s on the outside lawn where a Hula dance instructor was on site to teach the dance to patrons. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron describes another way of bringing strangers together, Nut and Bolt Night which began after 9pm.
“A guy would be given a bolt and a gal a nut as they came in the lodge,” Lufkin-Catron says, “Which was a way to get people to mingle, by seeing whose nut matched whose bolt.”
However Robert Lufkin would shift the focus of his establishment in the late 1970’s when he created the hugely popular drink the Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
Lufkin created a monster with this famous drink. Although Lincoln Lodge was opened for cocktails nightly until 1am Sunday was set aside as Sleigh Ride Night. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron says it was so popular that on Sleigh Ride Night people would be lined up outside all the way to the end of the parking lot just to get a taste. Due to its potency though Lufkin set a limit of two drinks per customer. To this day Lufkin-Catron says that she is asked just what is needed to make a Nantucket Sleigh Ride. However that is rightfully a guarded family secret.
The Nantucket Sleigh Ride increased the establishment’s popularity, as did a new entertainment license in 1984. However both of these positives were double-edged swords. By 1985 there was an outcry by some neighbors about overcrowding and noise at Lincoln Lodge due to its increasing business. Though Lufkin went above and beyond to try to control noise and minimize intoxicated customers he continued to battle against neighbors and local police for several years. The constant battles with the town, coupled with increased police presence in the area and shortened operating hours on Sundays proved to be too much.
Lufkin would sell his beloved Lincoln Lodge in May 1988 to Scott Sogard who would drastically change the business which had been there for more than thirty years. He would rename it Goucho’s Mexican Restaurant which it would remain for a decade before becoming Widow’s Walk Condos in 1999. As of 2021 the former Lincoln Lodge is still operating as the condos.
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Friday, July 16, 2021
Monday, July 12, 2021
Buildings come in all shapes and sizes. There are countless uniquely designed structures all over Cape Cod. Simply taking a drive down Route 6A can open up a world of wonder and amazement at some of the newer and historic homes that don’t fit the normal mold.
The same can be said for restaurants. Not all are built the same. In fact for years in Orleans, the Hunan Gourmet III Chinese Restaurant was actually built into the side of a hill. It has been closed as of 2021. However, any uniquely designed restaurant on Cape Cod, current or past, must take a backseat to the Dome Restaurant, which resided in the small scientific community of Woods Hole.
|Falmouth Historical Society|
This one-of-a-kind establishment existed inside an actual geodesic dome.
A geodesic dome is sphere-like in shape and consists of a thin skin with a network of triangles as a frame evenly distributing stress on the dome. Spaceship Earth at the EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is one of the most famous geodesic domes on earth.
The idea of the geodesic dome was the brainchild of architect R. Buckminster Fuller. Born in Milton, Massachusetts, in 1895, Fuller developed the geodesic dome while in the navy during World War II. He saw it as a potential solution to a world housing shortage and received a patent for his geodesic dome in 1954. Fuller put his money where his mouth was by having a geodesic home built for himself and his wife, Anne, in 1960 in Carbondale, Illinois. That home still stands as of 2021.
|Falmouth Historical Society|
So how did a geodesic dome come to be a popular and perhaps the most intriguing restaurant ever built on Cape Cod? It was actually part of a larger project known as the Nautilus Motor Inn. The dome, called Club Dome, was simply part of the package.
The fifty-four-room Nautilus Motor Inn was designed by Falmouth resident and MIT-educated architect E. Gunnar Peterson in 1954. R. Buckminster Fuller oversaw the construction of the geodesic dome, which ended up being fifty-four feet in diameter and twenty-seven feet tall. The first free-standing dome of its kind would also prove to become another first. It would be the first geodesic dome restaurant.
Elegant décor was combined with spectacular views of nearby Little Harbor to make the Dome a unique place to dine. Many special occasions were held in this setting, including weddings, and it only made the moments more magical. The upscale 170-seat restaurant was more than just a novelty, it was a hit throughout the 1950s and ’60s. The views were matched by specialty sandwiches on the Dome’s menu: “Nobska Turkey Special” (with bacon, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on a bulkie roll) and the “Nautilus Roast Beef” (with sliced onions and Russian dressing on a bulkie roll). The Dome also served breakfast and specialized in locally caught seafood.
|R. Buckminster Fuller who created The Dome(1971/Wikimedia.org)|
Unfortunately, over time, the owners of the restaurants noticed that the construction of the dome was causing problems. Its glass enclosure caused the interior of the restaurant to heat up much like a greenhouse thanks to the sun overhead, and it also had problems with water leakage. To remedy, this fiberglass was laid over much of the dome, obscuring the majestic harbor views that patrons loved.
For decades, the Dome was a must-see attraction almost on par with the nearby Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It closed in 2002 and in the time since has fallen into disrepair. There have been plans to restore the geodesic dome and make it an historical attraction for visitors from as far back as 2008. The closed Nautilus Motor Inn was to be torn down as part of the plans.
In December 2016 the 5.4-acre property was purchased for $2.9 million by a group called Woods Hole Partners. Led by Mark Bogosian and Jonathan Janikies their plan has been first to renovate the geodesic dome. This will be followed up be the construction of a 43-unit senior housing complex on the site of the former Nautilus Motor Inn. It will include four affordable housing units.
|The former Dome Restaurant in 2016|
As of April 2021 the plans were close to moving forward but ground had not officially been broken on the project. For now the historic geodesic dome, the former home of a beloved Falmouth restaurant, sits decaying and unoccupied at the top of the hill.
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