Oldest Homes are Treasures in Cape Cod’s Oldest Town

A Column by Chris Setterlund

A Column by Chris Setterlund

SANDWICH – The oldest town on Cape Cod is also the location of some of the oldest buildings on the Cape.

Sandwich was established in 1637 and incorporated as the Cape’s first town two years later.  There are numerous historic sites inside the town’s borders, the historic town center itself is chock full of them. But two historic homesteads are among the oldest houses on Cape Cod.

On a quiet road in the historic Spring Hill Historic District in Sandwich sits the oldest home in New England that is still owned by the same family that built the house more than 300 years ago.  The Wing Fort House on Spring Hill Road was built in 1641 by Stephen Wing and has remained in the Wing family for more than 380 years.

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The Wing Family came to Sandwich from Saugus in 1637 and were part of the original settlers of the oldest town on Cape Cod. The Wings were a prominent family in town for many generations and the Wing name also graces the Henry Wing Elementary School.

PHOTOS BY CHRIS SETTERLUND. The Wing Fort House in Sandwich.

PHOTOS BY CHRIS SETTERLUND.
The Wing Fort House in Sandwich.

The Wing homestead was sold by Cora Wing in 1942 to the Wing Family of America, a nonprofit family association which still maintains the property to this day.

The ‘Fort’ part of the homes name stems from its possible original use. It is said that the oldest part of the house, called the ‘Fort House,’ was named because it was used as shelter from a Native American attack. The view from the rear of the homestead includes Spring Hill Creek and and, in the distance, Cape Cod Bay.

The Wing Fort House in Sandwich.

The Wing Fort House in Sandwich.

Stephen Wing was also an active member of the Quakers. In fact the very first ‘Friends’ Meeting’ in America, as they termed it, was held at Spring Hill in 1658, another claim for the history books.

The home is open Tuesday through Saturday from Mid-June through the end of September and is a must-see for both history lovers and those who enjoy picturesque scenery.

In the historic Sandwich town center is unique historic building. The Hoxie House, built in 1675, is one of the oldest houses in New England. It is also notable for being a “saltbox-style” house. With two stories in the front and one in the back and a steeply sloped roof, this early style of architecture was so named because it resembled an actual saltbox.

The Hoxie House in Sandwich is considered by some to be the Cape's oldest house.

The Hoxie House in Sandwich is considered by some to be the Cape’s oldest house.

Though it takes its name from a 19th century whaling captain, the Hoxie House was originally inhabited by Sandwich’s second minister, Rev. John Smith, his wife Susanna, and their 13 children.

The whaling captain Abraham Hoxie lived in this house beginning in the 1850s.

The house was occupied until the 1950s without electricity, plumbing, or central heating. At that time, the Town of Sandwich purchased the building and restored it.

There is a view behind the Hoxie House of Shawme Lake and across to the Old Town Burial Ground cemetery. Here you will find some of the oldest gravestones on the Cape, including that of Thomas Clark who died in 1683. This spot is open every day from mid-June through mid-October.

All told there are 67 houses and buildings still standing from the 17th century with six of them on Cape Cod. These are treasures offer a window back to the infancy of this country when it was still a British Colony. Places like the Wing Fort House, the Hoxie House and others allow you to visit those days of the 17th century in 2014.

Have fun and happy traveling!

If You Go: Wing Fort House – 69 Spring Hill Rd., East Sandwich

Hoxie House – 18 Water St, Sandwich

Chris Setterlund, who lives in Yarmouth, is a lifelong Cape Codder and the author of In My Footsteps, a guide to historical sites on Cape Cod.