A Look Back At a Part of Cape Cod’s Past

Cape Cod is a finite area. It is 339 square miles in size. Those who call this land home know that size is limited and thus have to make the most of what they have. Development is at a premium and there are usually many steps to go through to get from a parcel of untouched land to an erected structure. It is much more common for homes and business which have seen better days to be razed in order to make way for something new. This allows new structures to be developed while also making use of the limited area Cape Cod is comprised of.

However that is not always the case. Much like the Ghost of Christmas Past in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol there are a few structures which reside around the peninsula that have slipped through the cracks and remain as stoic throwbacks to a bygone era. Some are still having their property taxes paid and cannot be touched. There are others that have plans to be remodeled. There are still others which seem to be sitting in a sort of limbo.

It is important to remember that these now abandoned or dilapidated buildings were once a big part of Cape Cod’s past. Countless people pass by these relics daily. Some might wonder what they are, or more significantly what they were. This is not meant to be a commentary on Cape Cod eyesores, it is meant to be a loving tip of the cap to the Cape inhabitants of yesteryear. Here are a few of the Ghosts of Cape Cod’s Past.

The Columns Restaurant, West Dennis
Located along the high-traffic Route 28 this impressive white building still stands tall nearly 150 years after original being built as a sea captain’s home and some thirty years after being shuttered. In its prime The Columns was a rocking restaurant and club featuring some of the hottest names in Cape Cod jazz like Marie Marcus, Lou Colombo, and Dave McKenna. It has been purchased and renovations inside have been made over the past three decades, however it is currently still for sale and no new businesses have made it their home as of yet.

Usher’s Store, Yarmouth Port
This small building is situated along Route 6A in the village of Cummaquid. Now thickly overgrown by trees and bushes it once was a thriving, albeit small, convenience store and gas station. Originally opened in 1924 by Henry Usher Jr. it would add a pair of gas pumps in the 1940’s and serve the much more rural route for more than six decades before closing in 1989. The half-acre lot resides directly next to Anthony’s Cummaquid and can be easy to miss if not looking for it.

Mitchell’s Steak and Rib House, Hyannis
Perhaps the most visible spot mentioned, this former restaurant is passed by thousands of people daily as it sits close to the Airport Rotary in one of the busiest spots on Cape Cod. This once viable establishment with award-winning clam chowder has been closed since 2006 and although it was purchased along with the neighboring VFW hall in May 2014 it still stands as a throwback to its heyday of the 1970’s-1990’s.

The Dome Restaurant, Woods Hole
Located along Woods Hole Road, on the way to the Steamship Authority ferry to Martha’s Vineyard there is a site which is very much out of place on Cape Cod. It is a semi-obscured geodesic dome which is the remnants of a one prominent restaurant. Designed by famed architect Buckminster Fuller in the early 1950’s the geodesic dome would house a fine dining establishment for nearly fifty years. It stands along with the closed Nautilus Motor Inn with plans to renovate it and possibly allow tours in the future.

These Ghosts of Cape Cod’s Past and a few others are the outliers of the beautiful landscape which makes up this peninsula. All of them were at one point viable and popular businesses that contributed to the economy and overall atmosphere of the Cape. At their peak it might have seemed as if they would remain opened forever. It is important to enjoy those establishments which are still in business now as it is always possible that they too will be shuttered one day.

More importantly than businesses, it is important to enjoy those closest, family and friends, as those people will not be here forever as well. 

By Christopher Setterlund

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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