Sunday, July 18, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Lincoln Lodge, Harwich


    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.

The Lincoln Lodge c. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron

    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 d├ęcor 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.

Lincoln Lodge and Mary Todd Court

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.

Postcard in front of Mary Todd Court

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.

c. Rebecca Lufkin-Catron

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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