If Those Columns Could Talk: An Icon in its Heyday

Courtesy of Chris Setterlund

Behind the stately white columns of a long-forgotten building lies an interior ripe with Cape Cod memories.

The former Columns Restaurant along Route 28 in West Dennis still stands today, but lately, it is ever easier to tell how its 150 years have not been kind to it.

Originally a sea captain’s home, the building has stood shuttered for 30 years, but was once a swinging spot for jazz. In its prime, The Columns was a rocking restaurant and club featuring some of the hottest names in regional jazz, such as Marie Marcus, Lou Colombo, Dave McKenna and others.

A Classic Cape Cod History

Like most of the region’s iconic buildings, The Columns structure belonged to and was built by a wealthy sea merchant. In 1861, Capt. Obed Baker built a distinguished home, without the larger columns it is now known for. It wasn’t until his daughter inherited the home that two-story columns in the front were added.

Much like Thompson’s Clam Bar and the Christopher Ryder House, The Columns’ heyday happened between the 1960s and 70s. Big band music banged out of its front doors and windows, wafting into the surrounding streets. Men dressed in linen suits stood around a bustling interior, asking bedazzled ladies to dance.

What Was Raised Beneath this Roof

Later, the club would become known for roosting the young talent of Dick Johnson and his contemporaries who played parts out of the Great American Songbook. Allen, Porter, Gershwin and other greats were common auditory auspices.

Although both ends of the Cape had Jazz Festivals, Falmouth and Provincetown were not necessarily the regional hubs of the genre while The Columns was open. The establishment kept Dennis and the Mid-Cape on the map for culture and entertainment. Regular performer Lou Colombo was himself noted as Dizzy Gillespie’s favorite trumpeter.

But as all good things come to an end, so did the Columns. It has stood vacant for over 20 years, with some efforts to restore and reopen but no true successes.

The building could still see some action, however. It’s been renovated multiple times and has remained on the market for years, but no new businesses have claimed it as their new home as of yet. It was most recently purchased by a famous Barnstable real estate developer; however, no official action has been taken on the property as of January 2017.

Until that point, it will simply have to sit there, harboring memories of many fanciful years gone by.

By CapeCod.com Staff

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