Watch Hill Way

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June 2014
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From the Editor
This newsletter is fit to bursting with so many interesting features that my letter this time around is short and hopefully sweet.  This issue launches a new series called "Village People" with John Whelan, and excellent reporting and tales of the past from our unofficial historian Debbie Aikman. Two new Old Village members, Jeanne Marie Carley and Ginny Nickerson, have also generously given us respectively, a short history of folk whirligigs, and a lovely memoir of childhood at Watch Hill Way. Nickerson's memoir, along with the striking photograph above, epitomize the symbiosis of humanity and environment. In the best of worlds, houses and humanity interact to pass along a sense of place and pleasure to future generations.

The above photo of Watch Hill, courtesy of Toni Henderson, was probably taken by her father Lester K. Henderson in the late 1950s. Henderson was a portrait photographer who piloted himself to his customers throughout the U.S. in his Cessna 195.  The house on the hill (next to the Cape) had been part of the servants' quarters and replaced Marcellus Eldredge's mansion when it was torn down. 

President's Letter


WELCOME SUMMER! The long winter is behind us now and we are looking forward to the excitement of summer here in the Old Village. Contractors are busily trying to finish the projects that were promised when things were quiet! Now they are running out of time as each day brings a few more folks back to town. It's a time of change for those of us who live here year-round: more restaurants and shops are open, talk turns to baseball and beach, downtown gets busier and seasonal friends are back in town.


Please spread the word to your neighbors - The Old Village Association welcomes new members. Anyone may join, of course, but we especially urge property owners in the Village to get onto our email or mailing list so they'll be notified of our news and upcoming events. For information call President Nancy Koerner (508-945-1912) or email And please encourage your families to join us for activities listed in Village News!


~ Nancy Koerner, President

From the Old Village Board 


This letter to the editor appeared in the April 10, 2014 issue of the Cape Cod Chronicle, and was signed unanimously by the board of directors:


The Old Village Association is devastated by the total loss of the iconic John Mallows house at 3 Main Street. The Mallows house was originally built prior to 1815 on the site of the Chatham Beach and Tennis Club. Even though it had no studs (stud construction didn't come into use until 1815) it survived two moves, first across the street to face Silverleaf Avenue and years later turned to face Main Street. The current owners decided that major changes were necessary, and the permitting process went on for several years. Throughout this process, Association members made clear their hopes for simplified plans for the new addition. We're shocked to learn that these plans actually included stripping the original house down to its bare bones, with the North end left completely open and the interior gutted. The extent of the demolition probably left the structure at risk, storm or no storm. Considering the exposed location, we're left to wonder why so little was done to reinforce and protect it.


The "skeletonizing" of historic houses has become increasingly common. The Association hopes that this tragic event will result in stricter rules and regulations involving partial demolitions, and that the Town, its boards and commissions, as well as the Cape Cod Commission (which approved the plans for 3 Main Street under National Register District procedures) will better monitor these "restorations" so that -above all else- the original house will be saved.

~ Old Village Association Board of Directors



Ginny Nickerson is a Chatham native.  Her pastel "portraits" of scenes in our area crystallize the beauty and timelessness of our shoreline.  She is co-owner of Chatham's Nickerson Art Gallery. Following are her words and photographs recalling childhood times at Watch Hill Way. 


Some of my fondest memories of the Old Village take place over many years and many summer days spent at Anne Place's property on Watch Hill Way. Immediately after WWII ended, my father, John Hughes Nickerson was discharged; he came home to Chatham. Shortly afterward he flew to Arkansas and married my Mother, Jane McCarter. Together they moved to Chatham in 1945.  I'm not sure of the details but my Mom and Anne Place Mason Henderson became friends shortly after my Mother moved here and they remained dear friends until Anne's passing in 2009.

I have two sisters and the three of us used to play with Anne and Les Henderson's two youngest daughters, Gale and Toni.  We had a wonderful time during the summer months playing in the stable, which was part of the old Marcellus Eldredge estate. The stalls had been converted into four different "areas", each with the name of a real race horse. One was used for children's games ( Santa Claus), another became the bar ( Liquid Lunch), a freezer was kept in another and was a general catch all (Pot 'O Gold).   The fourth was a library (Cavalcade).  An iron spiral staircase would take one upstairs and we would crawl down through a trap door in the floor to where the hay used to be stored. From this area the hay would be pushed down into each stall into the metal hay racks used to feed the horses. We would play horses and pretend we lived back when the stable was a working facility in the late 1800's (built 1889) and early 1900's. It seemed as though there was always an area we needed to re-explore. Anne had created many little closets and hideaway areas where one's imagination could go wild.
Looking down the hill from the Mill house to the Stable


Gale's older half sister, Pam Mason, had a horse which was kept in a stall down next to the outer garage so horses were very much real to the whole scheme of things. Pam's brother, Peter had installed a swing in the middle of the inside main section of the stable and we spent hours and hours swinging and climbing up the ropes trying to touch the top of the building.  Who could get to the top the fastest was always an on going challenge. Coming down too quickly did burn our little, tan legs but somehow the fun outweighed any pain incurred. A band-aid was attached and we were running out the door again. We could not bear to miss anything!



One of our favorite sports was to swing high enough (with the help of any able-bodied person who would push us) to touch our toes to the nose of one of the mounted deer heads.  Pleas were made to our fathers (cocktails in hand), brothers, or each other to keep pushing and pushing. This practice came to an end when one of the noses was damaged. We could still swing, but no more touching.  

Mill/Pump House now converted into a home


In the middle of the living room was the most heavenly couch.  It was down filled and covered in the softest, wide wale, butterscotch colored corduroy known to man!  At least four of us at one time could snuggle down into the depths of those delightful cushions and feel as if we had gone to heaven. 


The  Hendersons had the most wonderful yellow lab, Perch. She was the best dog and made sure we were all safe and stayed in good order. We would all spend endless hours down at the beach, swimming, sunning and playing water games.  Fluffernutter sandwiches were our staple for lunch. Sand included! There was a sand pit built half way up the wooden stairway and we roasted marshmallows and had hot dogs and steamers. And more sand!



We had a girls club. We most likely had to accomplish evil initiation stunts to become a member but once "in" we could spend the night in the windmill.  The mill was actually a pump house and it was dark, dank and most of the time cold and smelly but we loved it!  Creaking up the stairs and trying to sleep at night was a little scary but we had to be brave or be considered a "sissy". We would play croquet on the little, hollyhock lined court, which I believe at one time may have been the foundation for the green house.  We played fairies in the rhododendron; there was a "secret garden" which was an overgrown ring of forsythia twenty feet tall where we picked blackberries, and a thicket of "bamboo" (Indiana Buckwheat) growing up and hiding the huge rocks on the edge of the bluff, placed there to save the embankment, but creating wonderful playhouses. We ran, climbed trees and enjoyed many childhood days on this magical property.


In the winter, when the Hendersons lived here in the 1950's, their house on the hill was equally enchanting, but in a very different way.  Anne had a unique flair for decorating.  I found every room as if it was a movie set. Interesting art work, unusual antiques items here and there, and for a little one it was a visual experience and treasure hunt rarely seen.


As with most things in life, the property has changed; it's been sold and is being renovated. We are fortunate that the stable is being kept close to its original footprint and I have been told by Gale that the swing remains! But, those of us who were fortunate to have spent many hours playing and running around this area of the Old Village will always have our memories of the grand times at Watch Hill Way.


~  Ginny Nickerson

The Tom's Neck Hamiltons  

Debbie Aikman first came to Chatham as a college student to waitress at the Hawes House (corner of Water Street and Main Street). She is a past president of the OVA, and is currently Treasurer. She and her husband Don purchased their house on Water Street, where they currently reside, in 1974.


The Mystery of "Eliphamet" - The first known use of "Eliphamet" as a street name appeared as a misprint that apparently went unnoticed in the 1932 Town Report. A report containing the misprint was submitted by an appointed street naming committee. The last paragraph of the report states, " far as possible old time names should be restored, and where no names were known that those with historical significance should be adopted". (See chart which details the suggested names for existing streets in the Old Village in 1932.) The presumed intent of the committee was to name a street after Eliphalet Hamilton.


The Chairman of the street naming committee was esteemed lawyer Heman Andrew Harding, son of Andrew Harding. There are many papers for Eliphalet Hamilton in his voluminous collection which is archived at the Historical Society. Heman died in 1936, prior to the first street sign having been erected. He was, no doubt, unaware of the misspelling of "Eliphalet" that appeared in the Town Report. It has remained unchallenged until recently, when Don Edge decided to make an effort to get the error corrected.


The Hamilton Connection to the Lane - The Eliphalet Hamilton family home, as shown on an 1858 Walling map, was located in an area between School Street and Main Street, opposite to the lane from School Street to Mill Pond. Eliphalet (1735-1832) was the grandson of Daniel Hamilton, an early settler of Chatham who jointly owned all of "Tom'sNeck" (now the Old Village) with his brother in law John Smith. Eliphalet had a grandson, also named Eliphalet (1796-1858).   Both Eliphalets probably used the lane to access Mill Pond.



Evidence of the Original Street Name - Registry of Deeds documents for property transactions between 1937 and 1965 for Charles Merton Rogers have "Eliphalet's Lane" as the street address. The Rogers family originally owned most, if not all, of the land south of the lane and north of Water Street until 1937 when land,which included a boathouse,was sold to Spaulding Dunbar. A 1939 site plan for Mr. Dunbar has "Eliphalet's Lane" as the road name. Mortgages in 1972 and 1973 list "Eliphalet's Lane" as the street address for another lot which was subsequently sold.



New Recognition - To honor history, an informational sign reading "Originally Eliphalet's Lane" is being added to the street sign by the Town, at the corner of Eliphamet's Lane and School Street, Friday June 20th, at 2pm. It will be paid for by the Old Village Association, as requested by Old Village resident Don Edge and approved by the OVA Board of Directors. The Eliphalet Hamilton legacy will now be suitably remembered.

~ Debbie Aikman 

List of Suggested Street Names from the Committee Report of 1932
Total of sixty-four Streets in existence at the time
In the Old Village, there were eleven streets as follows:

Present Name
Suggested Name
Silver Leaf Avenue  
Zenas Nickerson's Corner  to
Water Street
Silver Leaf Lane
Water Street
Harbor to Mill Cove
Water Street
Mill Lane (private way)
Water Street to Old Mill site
Mill Lane
School Street
Water Street to Main Street
School Road
Hamilton Road
No name
School Street to Mill Cove
Eliphamet's Lane
Gould Lane
Main Street to Harbor
Mistover Lane
No name
Main Street at Tuttle's Market to Harbor
Andrew Harding's Lane
Holway Street
Main Street to Wrinkle Point
Wrinkle Point Road
Holway Road
Hallett Lane
Main Street to School Street
Hallett Lane
No name
Water Street to
Aunt Sally Hammond's Hill
Aunt Sally's Lane
Hammond's Lane
No name
School Street to
Charles G. Hamilton's dwelling
Sunset Lane

Village People - with John Whelan


John Whelan is a retired stock broker who has lived in Chatham a long time.  He keeps busy walking, and playing softball and paddle tennis. He writes a monthly column for the Cape Cod Chronicle, and has written two children's books. He's also a DJ on WOMR-FM, 92.1 Community Radio for Cape Cod, playing oldies rock and roll, and is enjoying retirement in Chatham. This is the first in his new series for us. 


I know that many of our members know John Hutchinson, but I feel confident that many are not aware of John's career as an artist. John has lived off Silverleaf Avenue for a number of years with his wife, Cynthia, since returning here from Salem, MA.   His family has had a home in the Old Village since 1900. His mother, Harriet Jaquith Fitz, was also a successful artist. She had studied with Harold Dunbar in Chatham and later studied art in Paris. She is one of the featured artists in Carol Pacun's book "The Creative Spirit: Art in Chatham's Old Village" (1996). John spent three-and-a-half years in the Navy after graduating from Harvard and actually had very little formal art training. A friend showed him some of the basics and he went from there. He worked for a number of years developing his skill as a marine artist in Salem, and, at one point, was an Associate Member of the American Society of Marine Artists, a very select group. John painted all kinds of ships, large and small and many marine scenes of New England.


John told me he had a good friend who lived in Nantucket who owned a 1934 Ford station wagon. On the occasion of his friend's 40th birthday, John had painted a picture of his friend's old wooden beach wagon as a gift. This was a natural for John. He had a life-long love of old wooden beach wagons or "woodies" as they are popularly called. John actually owns a 1940 Ford Deluxe woodie himself. The painting was terrific and it pointed John on a very successful path of painting woodies on the sand and at recognizable local scenes. John had an exhibit of a number of these paintings at The Sailor's Valentine Gallery in Nantucket. The gallery is long gone, but John's paintings of woodies are treasured and can be found on the walls of some of the finest homes on the island.



"Fishermen at Monomoy" by John Hutchinson. Image courtesy of the artist. 


I had the pleasure, over twenty years ago, of being invited to go with John to the Daffodil Festival on Nantucket in his woodie. For those of you who have never been, it is a wonderful event. An incredible number of old cars assemble on the cobblestones of Main Street in Nantucket and then parade out to Sconsett. Hundreds of people line the route and cheer as the old vehicles drive by. About 3 million daffodils are planted along nearly every road in Nantucket and it is a fantastic scene. The old cars then park along the side of Milestone Road and the participants have a picnic. Many of them are dressed in costumes appropriate to the age of their cars. Often, the finest of china and silver are used for the elaborate picnic. Many a sterling candelabra can be found and it is a great day.


John has a website,, and on it you can find his history and some examples of his art. I love the paintings of the woodies and some of the other marine scenes from all over New England. John has been busy since moving to Chatham and several years ago he wrote a book with his good friend Ted Whittaker. The book is called "Beach Wagons in Chatham", and there are no longer copies to buy, but you can read it at the Atwood House Museum. You probably could also borrow a copy from John.    


Next time you see John, start a conversation about his career as an artist. I know you will find it fascinating, as I did.

~ John Whelan 


 Whirligigs in Chatham


The following article is excerpted from a chapter entitled "Weathervanes & Whirligigs: silhouettes in the  sky" in Jeanne Marie Carley's forthcoming book "Folk Art of Cape Cod and The Islands" (Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2014), which recounts the histories of the hard working, entrepreneurial people of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket and their role in this nation, as told through the folk art primitives the residents produced from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. The compelling art displayed includes the works of itinerant painters, domestic weavers and quilters, seminary school watercolorists, and carvers in wood, metal, and stone. You can learn more on the book's facebook page or visit Schiffer Publishing Ltd .

Carley (neƩ Gendreau) is a folk art historian and writer with a background in journalism, art and genealogy. She is a graduate of Marquette University's College of Journalism, and has written for newspapers, magazines, corporate and academic publications (public relations). After studying at the
American Folk Art Museum she was named a Fellow of that institution. She has written and lectured extensively about American and French-Canadian folk art. Her family history pursuits include writing for three genealogy publications, and editing two award-winning genealogical journals. She is married to William M. Carley, a former investigative senior writer for the Wall Street Journal, and they are residents of Chatham, and Sarasota, Florida, as well as members of the Old Village Association. 


Weathervanes and whirligigs are two of the most favored forms of sculptural folk art. Although they are both animated by the wind, weathervanes were always functional,whereas whirligigs were usually a source of amusement or a child's toy. There is some debate about their origins that may never be resolved. Some suggest they were Sabbath-day toys in Pennsylvania German communities, where children were forbidden to play on Sunday. Supposedly, fathers carved them to please their children and set the toys outdoors for the wind to move them into action. Others believe they acted as vanes to test the velocity of the wind.


Whirligigs may have been used at some time to scare birds away from newly planted gardens, but generally experts believe imaginative amateurs whittled them merely to amuse. Whatever their purpose, whirligigs were popular in rural areas of New England, New York, and the Midwest in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. During the Depression, many farmers and others affected by bad economic times made whirligigs and sold them by the roadside.



Washer Woman, early twentieth century, courtesy Abigail Dougherty, Chatham, MA. 
 Photo by Marty Koblish

Around the turn of the twentieth century, many animals such as birds and horses often appeared on whirligigs turning in the wind. As a typical example, a seagull is shown with its paddle wings flying through the air. Patriotic themes, like the American flag, Uncle Sam, or Abe Lincoln, were common, while others had comical or bawdy overtones. A Cape Cod example shows a man going from his house to an outhouse. Most of these devices are made from wood and have metal parts, although some are constructed from sheet metal. They are either three-dimensional or made with silhouette-type figures. Whatever the style, most of these ingenious devices involve a narrative and provide some fun.



Their primitive appearance appeals to the folk art enthusiast, who is often captivated by the complex and whimsical nature of some of these whirling mechanical gadgets. The earliest whirligigs were single figures, but they developed into more complex artifacts. On multifigured whirligigs, a propeller turns gears and rods that activate the figures. Their homespun charm often lies in the activation of many parts, such as a girl churning butter or a washer-woman scrubbing away, a sawyer sawing wood or a fisherman catching a fish from his boat. Other whirligigs include a girl pumping water and a windmill with an elephant. Single-figure whirligigs usually have paddles for arms mounted on a wooden or metal rod passing through the shoulders of the doll-like figure; Nantucket is known for its many popular bow-legged sailors made in that style. Others were made in the form of Happy-Jacks, Hessian soldiers,or policemen. The seamen are especially popular on the island and on Cape Cod.


Miniature Windmill and Advertising Sign, A.W. Edwards, Chatham, MA. Late nineteenth-early twentieth century, Courtesy Chatham Historical Society, Photo by William M. Carley

On Cape Cod, there were typical Yankee characters who, with creativity and whittling skills, created these wooden novelties as souvenirs. One of them was Arthur W.Edwards, who owned a Chatham bicycle shop, where he sold and repaired bikes. He set up a little shop called "Shavings" on Old Harbor Road and sold various wooden objects: doorstops, lighthouses, windmills, and a series of whirligigs with nautical themes, including sailors with paddle arms. He also made windmills and dancing figures that are still sold at auction. Edwards was featured in a 1918 novel entitled "Shavings" by Joseph C. Lincoln, a Chatham summer resident and noted author of nostalgic Cape Cod books. An early twentieth century postcard pictures a whirligig-maker in front of his souvenir-filled cottage that no longer exists. When Edwards' toolbox, some signs and patterns were auctioned at a local auction house a few years ago, it was described as "a rare find of Cape Cod folk art at its best."

Man Going to Outhouse, Unidentified maker, early twentieth century, courtesy Robin Zibrat, Chatham, MA,
 Photo by Marty Koblish


Whirligigs have evolved from being simple play toys and souvenirs to today's inspired creations that are the imaginative work of the hobbyist or are manufactured for sale. At a folk art and history seminar held in Cooperstown, New York, in the 1980s, a whirligig-maker demonstrated his own humorous whirligigs with political themes. They cleverly satirized contemporary political scandals: Reagan's Iran-Contra scenario and the television evangelists, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. In recent years, an annual whirligig festival has been held in Nova Scotia where the most innovative and complex whirligigs compete for prizes; the subjects include miniature carousels, circuses, and multifunctioning activities.

Whatever their theme, they usually provoke smiles or laughs, and sometimes amazement at the intricate mechanisms.






The American Folk Art Museum in New York has the largest and most unusual collection of whirligigs. More can be seen in major museums. Although few whirligigs are found in Cape Cod museums, there are several collectors in the area. The whirligigs pictured here resemble the type of home-made objects made by Edwards and others like him. They were purchased in local antique shops by Chatham residents, who were charmed by their winsome appeal and display them proudly.

~ Jeanne Marie Carley 

Chatham Sewer Project Update

Phase 1B of the sewer project is part of a planned three-year effort, costing approximately $27M to complete the extension of sewers in the Oyster Pond and Little Mill Pond watersheds. The Oyster Pond watershed sewer work in Phase 1B, which includes Stage Harbor Road, Cedar Street, Harding's Lane and Elizabeth's Way has just been accomplished. Initial paving has been done on these roads, with a final topcoat scheduled for the Fall.


The May 2013 Annual Town Meeting appropriated $10M toward the funding of Phase 1C, targeting the Little Mill Pond watershed. The remainder, $17.5M, was appropriated at the May 2014 Annual Town Meeting. The schedule for Phase 1c is currently being developed.


Upon completion of Phase 1C, in combination with Phase 1B and portions of Phase 1A, the sewering of two watersheds will be complete and the impact of nitrogen originating from wastewater in these watersheds will have been addressed. For up to date information and comprehensive FAQ's visit the

~ Debbie Aikman 

Natl Trust blog logo
Preservation Toolbox

The National Trust's online "Ten on Tuesday" series contains many useful blog posts, including two recent contributions from Emily Potter. Since it's time to kick back and enjoy a little down time, check out some preservation themed Summer Reading, why not enjoy a fun film this summer that has preservation in mind? Take a sneak peek at these Preservation Themed Movies. For further reading on what's current in the minds of fellow preservationists, have a look at

~ Village News ~ 
Events in the Village and Close By

June 20-22 History Weekend  in Chatham
A bonanza of activities and events designed to make our town's history alive and fun!  Hosting locations include the Atwood House Museum, Chatham Windmill, Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum,  Nickerson Family Association, and many more. Visit the Historic Chatham website for complete event listings, all of which are free for the weekend.
Friday June 20th, 2pm - Photographing a new sign reading "Originally Eliphalet's Lane" at the corner of Eliphamet's Lane and School Street.  The sign will be installed by the Town, and has been paid for by the Old Village Association, as requested by Old Village resident Don Edge.
Wednesday July 2 - 9am to noon 
Third Annual Village Kids for Food Drive  


Our Village Kids will be knocking on your door July 2 hoping you'll have food or a cash donation for the Chatham Family Pantry. We expect it will bring in lots of good things for those in need. As always, the food must carry a current expiration date, and be a regular sized item in an unbreakable container. Especially needed are cereal, chili, brownie mix, canned fruit, beans or chili. For more information, call 508-945-1912 or email Co-chairs Lisa Green and Nancy Koerner are happy to answer your questions.

July 10 through mid-September - Chatham Fiction Writers Summer Group at the   (Friends  Room),  Thursday evenings 6:30 to 8:30 PM. To help you improve your fiction writing! Each week, readers put "eyes on" your work. You get feedback. You also read the works of the others, comment, and listen in on the advice they get. The group is limited to eight members. If you'd like to sign up or have questions, contact organizer Joe DeRosa at o r (781) 799-5640. 


Also at the Library, Chatham Alliance meetings are held and open to everyone, and usually from 3:30-5:00 pm, the first Thursday of the month, September - June (except January). There is usually a speaker/lecture on a topic relevant to conservation and preservation in Chatham at each meeting. Once or twice a year the Alliance also hosts forum/panel discussions on conservation and preservation topics of broad current interest.  For more information email David MacAdam. 

Iced Tea at the Porches
 The Porches

August 7 - The Old Village Association will have a wine, cheese, and iced tea gathering on the Porches from 4 to 6 pm. A speaker will give a brief talk about sewering the Old Village, and Avis Chase board member Wandra Powell will tell us about the Chase cottages. 


Monday August 25, 5pm - NEW DAY AND TIME. Annual Meeting at the Chatham Beach and Tennis Club.  Stay tuned for speaker announcement!                                   

Eligibility for Chatham Historic House Signs has been revised, and now houses 100 years or older are eligible for the signs that, in three lines, summarize the early history of pre-1914  buildings, e.g.

The name of the first owner - FRANKLYN NICKERSON

The function of the building - Market 

The date - c. 1850


The information and application form are available on the Town web site under Historical Commission. Questions?  E-mail


In Remembrance
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out the families and friends of

Margaret Dopp Tura
Alice Paine Walsh Weidman
Daniel Buckley

If you'd like to contribute or subscribe to future e-newsletters please contact us. Allowing us to email you helps us conserve resources and funds! Your email address will be used only for OVA communications.


Happy Summer! 

Old Village Association
P.O. Box 188
Chatham, MA 02633