Cape Cod History: The Southward Inn in Orleans

The intersection of Cove Road and Route 28 in Orleans was the site of legendary establishments for more than five decades. Beginning as a family home and ending as one of the most popular entertainment spots on the Cape in the mid-20th century it may no longer stand but its legacy lives on.

Originally the aforementioned intersection was home to the Newcomb Lodge. In the early 20th century it was built as the home of Alexander Newcomb. He was a well-known businessman in Orleans holding positions such as bank president, town clerk, and selectman for eighteen years. Newcomb was believed to be the first person to own an automobile in the town. Unfortunately he also became the first person to die in an automobile accident in town as well in May 1911. His home would be left to his adopted daughter Mary who turned it into the Newcomb Lodge.

In 1916 George Southward would purchase property in Orleans owned by Edgar Snow in May and create the first Southward Inn along with his wife Rebecca on Main Street. The establishment barely had time to get its name out there when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Two years later Southward would take a risk and move his fledgling business to a different location.

Mary Newcomb would sell her father’s home to James Eldredge in 1917 who would then in turn sell it to Southward in February 1919. It would be a move of only half a mile but it would eventually take Southward Inn light years from where it began.

Southward Inn would be a fully functioning restaurant as well as hotel picking up steam in popularity in the Roaring Twenties. By the time 1925 rolled around George Southward was sixty-one years old and looking to reduce his workload. He would sell his establishment to Camille Remillard. Unfortunately that did not last long and by 1932 Southward Inn was back on the market. With no other offers George bought back the inn reassuming management duties.

Southward would again enter retirement, relinquishing control of his establishment in 1935. Bill and Eve Rich would take over and begin to push the inn to new heights. Southward’s wife Rebecca would die the next year while George passed in 1938 closing the book on the original owners.

As the 1930’s ended and the 1940’s began business at the Southward Inn continued to grow. The Rich’s would keep the beautiful ambience of the inn with the warm fireplace upon entrance. They would add a special touch of a loudmouthed parrot who enjoying chatting it up with patrons, a unique sight for a Cape Cod establishment. They would employ great chefs like Thomas Garner and Robert Swan who enhanced the cuisine while the liquor business increased throughout the years as well. Items such as the Cape Cod bay scallops, lobster Newburg, and codfish with sour cream brought in customers from all over. However folk artist, entrepreneur and local celebrity Peter Hunt would add the finishing touches to the grand masterpiece that was the Southward Inn.

Hunt’s furnishing designs gained great acclaim in Life and Mademoiselle magazines. He would open a collection of shops in Provincetown along Commercial Street known as Peasant Village which established his style and legend on the Cape during the 1930’s and 1940’s. In 1951 Hunt designed the Carriage Room at Southward Inn furnished with antiques, copperware, old photos and coach lamps. In 1954 Hunt would write his Cape Cod Cookbook using recipes from Southward Inn forever preserving its legacy.

It was after the debut of the Carriage Room that the entertainment at Southward Inn really took off. Under the ownership of Frank and Betty Richards, who purchased it in 1952, the Orleans staple began to bring in some of the most noted jazz artists of the decade to perform. Pianist Dick Miller, Leroy ‘Sam’ Parkins & the Excalibur Jazz Band, and others would thrill audiences with their slick style. In addition to that square dancing became a craze at Southward Inn to the point that every Friday night Fred Moynahan and his orchestra would perform for those wishing to show off their dancing skills.

From Jazz music to square dancing, the Carriage Room to other unique lounges like the Garden Room, Fisherman’s Bar, and Terrace Lounge, the Southward Inn had numerous reasons why it was so popular for weddings, private functions, and birthdays. Small touches like the chatty parrot or the king and queen playing cards on the restroom doors made this spot unlike any other on the Cape. However its sale to Delbert Johnson, then owner of the Governor Prence Motor Lodge in North Truro, in September 1961 for $125,000 ($1,000,000 today) would prove to be the end.

The following year Southward Inn was rechristened The Nauset Inn, the same name as a former Orleans hotel from the 1920’s. The business would continue on into the 1970’s, even undergoing another name change to the Head of the Cove. The legendary establishment would close and be torn down in 1977. Today the Masonic Lodge stands on the site of the original Southward Inn on Main Street, a Bank of America stands at the site of the second Southward Inn on Route 28.

By Christopher Setterlund



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