Memories of East Bay Lodge

Longevity breeds respect.  It also creates memories spanning across several generations.  There are few places on Cape Cod which have created so many memories across so many generations like East Bay Lodge did.  How could there be?  This icon of Cape Cod ruled the restaurant industry as well as the hotel industry for a century.  It housed weddings, banquets, private functions, and birthdays while also giving visitors a place to rest their heads in between sunny days of exploring the Cape.

The legacy of East Bay Lodge goes all the way back to the latter part of the 19th century.  The lodge was built by Nelson H. Bearse Jr. in 1886.  Bearse had gone to sea at age twenty-two, captaining a schooner named Nelson Harvey.  The inn would be created out of Nelson and his wife Mary’s home overlooking peaceful East Bay and Nantucket Sound.  The village of Osterville from the start was a prime resort area attracting people from all over.  It was only natural that with much room in their home the Bearses could accommodate visitors.  In 1890 an extensive remodeling job was done on the Bearses home, turning it from a good-sized family home into the glorious inn that would become one of the finest in all of New England.  Another expansion would occur in 1900 when the neighboring Josiah Ames Homestead was turned sideways and incorporated into the lodge.  In 1911 another annex was constructed to house the growing staff.

The 20th century dawned and the popularity of East Bay Lodge only grew.  It became the place to be and to be seen for vacationers rivaling any other inn or resort along the east coast.  Once it opened for the season the arrivals at the lodge would be posted throughout the local newspapers.  Guests could walk the beautiful grounds, traverse through the flower gardens, find a cozy nook to relax in the shade of a tree, or simply stare off at boats passing by and breathe in the salty air.  For fun there was golf, tennis, croquet, fishing, boating and swimming to be had.  East Bay would grow to be more of an estate with time, boasting multiple buildings and seventy-five rooms.  It was meant to be a home away from home with guests rarely staying for one night but more often weeks or months. However not all of those who wished to stay there had the means to do so, for those there was another side to East Bay Lodge.

Inside the elegant resort was home to some of the most exquisite fine dining Cape Cod had to offer.  From the décor to the cuisine East Bay Lodge took on a whole new life for those who came to dine there.  The interior of the dining room was dotted with beautiful oriental rugs over hardwood floors.  Each table was adorned with white tablecloths, fine china, and silver.  It was a feast for the eyes before the food was even thought of.  Fine dining meant formal dress, men would need to wear jackets while women needed to be in a dress or formal pant suit. 

Though it would change over time the menu always catered to the finest tastes.  Swordfish, cod, scallops, lamb, prime rib, filet mignon, and a wide array of wines would be available for guests of the hotel and those who came simply to enjoy an elegant dinner.  One could even find unique delicacies like shad roe and frog legs on the menu at times.  Vegetables from the garden outside would be used to make some of these sumptuous meals.

Once the Bearse’s retired in 1917 East Bay would be taken over by Charles Brown and Forrest Toward.  Mr. and Mrs. Bearse would move to Providence thereafter.  Brown was at one point president of the Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Hotel Association.  There would be some close calls with disaster like the fire in May 1923 which luckily was contained with very minimal damage.  In 1924 Brown became sole owner.  He would continue to make this a place to be for more than twenty-five years until retiring in 1943.  It would be purchased by F.L. Putnam. 

East Bay Lodge would stand among the giants of the hospitality industry of the early 20th century like the Chequessett Inn in Wellfleet, and Wianno Club in Osterville.  Its popularity would allow it to become a year-round business as it became a hotspot for banquets, weddings, private parties, and holiday gatherings.  Bob and Janel Kesten would move to Osterville and take over East Bay in 1965 promoting the dining side to the inn as much as the hotel.  There would be entertainment and dancing nightly to add a little more flare to the well established lodge.  The Kestens would also promote catering to help bring the East Bay experience to places outside of the grounds.  Shellfish buffets, fabulous roast beef, Sunday brunch, and a constant finger on the pulse of yesteryear kept this spot pumping out satisfied guests and customers as it reached its 100th year.  Francis Ricci would join the ownership a few years after the Kestens.  They would stay aboard even as the famed lodge again changed hands in 1984 being sold to Basil Ente. 

Sadly all good things come to an end. Such was the case with East Bay Lodge.  After serving and delighting innumerable guests over a century the restaurant would be shuttered in 1996.  It would be run as an inn by Jim Crocker for two more years before it was closed and ultimately demolished in 1998.  It was replaced by Cove at East Bay, a selection of fifteen luxury townhouses which still stands today.

To this day people still wistfully think back to past visits to East Bay.  They remember each trip there as a special occasion whether they were celebrating a special occasion or not.  The longevity of East Bay Lodge not only bred respect and created memories; it made it one of the most beloved spots on the Cape for countless guests.

By Christopher Setterlund
737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
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