Remembering The Good Times at The Christopher Ryder House

Few Cape Cod restaurants have the historical bragging rights of having their building’s plans in the Library of Congress.

Then again, the Christopher Ryder House off Route 28 in Chatham is, at this point, all history. The establishment closed in 1983, but is still fondly remembered by many all these years later.

Many Cape Codders remember the property as if it were yesterday: the dining room adorned with hand-carved cornices and mantels, rich with the deep-brown aged woods and antique embellishments from seafaring days.

History of the Christopher Ryder House

Before a Chatham couple opened a restaurant on these grounds in the mid-50s; before tourists flocked to the Cape from Boston and other communities; before there was even a canal separating the Cape from the mainland, the Christopher Ryder House stood as one of the most historic buildings on the Cape.

The house itself was rumored to have been built in 1809 by seafarer Christopher Ryder, whose family name is also found in Ryders Cove.

His ancestor John Ryder purchased the land in the 1700s from another large Cape Cod family, the Nickersons, who themselves had acquired it from Native Americans.

According to Ryder descendants, Christopher carved most of the mantels and cornices while at sea. When he decided to build, he hired carpenters based in Harwich who travelled six miles each day and worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their earnings totaled one dollar per day – not bad in a time when many struggled to earn seven dollars in a month.

Donald and Louise Kastner inherited the property in the 1950s. Not much is known about those in-between years, since so many files were destroyed at the county’s registry of deeds in the early 1800s.

Legacy of the House

The Kastner family legacy reaches much further than Chatham’s town limits. Internet forums with posts devoted to their restaurant feature memories from folks as far away as Paris, France and Texas; all with their own cherished memories of summers spent working at the House.

The menu was full of classic, hearty Cape Cod surf ‘n’ turf: Lobster Newburg, beef and mushroom casserole, sea scallops in white wine sauce, and tomato canape were all favorites.

Attached to the dining room was an Opera House, one in which regular “Ryder Revues” were hosted and dances and skits were performed.

These community events kept the place open late, too: in the mid- and later years of operation, hours were kept until 1 a.m., with dinner served until 10:30 p.m. There was also a barn full of antiques and gifts which kept earlier hours.

End of an Era

The daughter of Donald and Louise, Wendy, commented on a forum a few years ago. She said it was touching that, even after her parents closed the place in 1983 to move to Vermont, the Christopher Ryder House’s legacy lives on in the memories of all who worked or frequented it.

She did share something more tangible for people to hold on to: a recipe for their famous Clam Dip.

(Lasts one week; 1 oz. per person)
60 lbs. Cream Cheese
1 lb. Chopped Onions
2 bottles Worchester Sauce (5 oz. ea.)
1 qt. Clam Juice
3 cans Chopped Clams
Makes 7-1/2 gallons for 3,500 people.
Crackers: 1 case per day.

What memories do you have of the Christopher Ryder House?

By Staff


  1. Gary Clanahan says

    In 1973 we stayed in Chatham at the Chatham Motel for our honeymoon. We made reservations to eat at the Christopher Ryder House one night. We dressed up for the occasion and were so impressed with the house and its surroundings. But it was the food that we will never forget! I never could again taste stuffed shrimp the way it was prepared here. We recently revisited Chatham and the Cape and searched to see the remains of this wonderful place where an unforgettable memory was made.

  2. Bacro Yannick says

    I was at the Christopher Ryder House for summer 1973 as a cook in the kitchen with a full team of young French guys like me. I was 20 years old and those two months represents certainly the best summer I ever had. This restaurant was so wonderful. I should say those restaurants as there was different places with different “atmospheres”. I had the privilege to know the kitchen as my place was there, preparing grilled meats and lobsters and I will never forget the chef ordering plates for guests. By the way, waitresses were great and wonderful too and I felt in love with one of them… I presume it makes my “souvenirs” quite more delicious

  3. Remember it so well. See photo:

  4. I worked in the kitchen’s of Christopher Ryder House for seven weeks in 1968 as a British university student on a working holiday student visa on my three month stay in the USA. I was paid a hundred dollars a week which was good money at the time compared to what I earned the previous year for my summer holiday job where I lived in Croydon , near to London.
    It was a great experience but also reflected a troubled time in America’s history with half a million troops in Vietnam , two major assassinations – Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy as well as the 1968 election with all its implications. The Christopher Ryder House was advertised a one of the 57th biggest restaurants in America. There were plenty of other students earning some money as well as veterans home from Vietnam , a few were into drugs in addition to professional chefs and hospitality staff. On busy Saturdays , we often had to do the washing up for 1,300 plus bookings . We were helped by conveyors putting plates and glasses through the washing machines.
    After finishing at the restaurant , I had a flight to Toronto and then went round the US by Greyhound for a month at a cost of £30 ( my student flight having been for £60 ) and returned to the UK to resume my degree in Modern History and Politics at Liverpool University .

  5. Joe Hughes says

    I worked as a waiter in the restaurant during the summer of 1971 – I was attending Hotel School in Dublin, Ireland and Donald Kastner came to the College and interviewed a great many of us for summer jobs – our accommodation was provided by various families around the town and I was allocated the (then) old antique shop on Main Street (actually, back then it was a junk shop) owned by a very old lady named Mrs Calder. The wonderful thing for us ‘kids’ back then was that we were only required to work evenings so we had the whole day to have fun. Our Supervisors were Mrs Shea (the Head Chef’s wife) and Ms Irene La Fleur – they were both much (much) older ladies and though they tried to be tough disciplinarians they were more like mothers to us. One of my strongest memories is of a cabinet that guests had to pass on their way into one of the 4-5 themed restaurants and in that cabinet was the most stunning, luscious Strawberry Cheesecake – it was made purely for display and each night was disposed of but I can guarantee that as folks passed that cabinet they had already decided what they were having for dessert. We worked in teams of two – usually, a girl to work the table and a boy to get the orders and serve – it was a clever system because you had the brawn and the brain working in close cooperation – it was there that I met and worked with Nancy from Manchester, Conn and we have been friends for almost 50 years (!!) there too I met and became great friends with Nancy’s friend from home, Diane, and we too have remained friends – there are others too Elyse who now lives in NYC. Another memory and something that I have used in business down the years – the food was always excellent however most people had filled up by the time they reached dessert and selling desserts pushed the bill up and it also pushed our tips up (we lived on our tips – our weekly wage was $20 and even in 1971 that was zilch) – but back to service – when the table was clear I would arrive with a fabulous tray full of delicious pastries and as I held the tray in over the table Nancy would say ‘…these are our delicious French Pastries but we also have in our kitchen…’ and she would reel off a list of tempting ice creams and sundaes – not one person ever skipped dessert! There were 4-5 different themed rooms in one restaurant – there was a room with a Colonial theme, one with a stable theme, the Pavillion was a huge green and white striped marquee, there was a whaling ship theme – I am vague on those – and then there was the Ole Opry House where there were two shows each evening provided by 6-7 kids from the Boston Conservatory and they were amazing! So talented!
    During that summer I fell in love with Chatham – a group of about 20 of us would descend on Lighthouse Beach (still had the inner beach and the outer beach then) and we would laze away the day in the sun – most of our American friends (colleagues) had cars and occasionally they would take us on trips out to P Town or some of the other beautiful Cape villages and towns. Before service each evening the restaurant provides us with a staff meal (a good idea because it stopped us pinching food during service) so by the time that we had finished service and cleaned up we were hungry and that’s when we descended on the Chatham Squire for breakfast (after midnight) and they served the best egg and bacon sandwich on the Cape. Then we had to sneak into the ‘antique’ shop without walking Mrs Calder otherwise there would be hell to pay in the morning – and she had about 9-10 of us young guys lodging over the shop – Oh, it was basic – we shared one bathroom and one kitchen but we each had our own bed – but we were just in late teens and early twenties and what the heck!
    At the end of the summer, I did a bit of travelling to NYC to visit family before returning home. I did debate returning the following year but didn’t, instead, I went to San Francisco and worked at the Downtown Hilton in the Chef’s Table Restaurant. I have great memories and a life long love affair with the United States!

    • Michael Joyce says

      Joe, I’m one of those who shared mrs calders accomodation. Give me a call

    • Aidan O’Connor says

      I was a busboy in CRH in summer of 1971. I was a student in University College Galway. I stayed in Mrs Godwin’s on Old Mail Road. With a number of UCD lads… Great times in Chatham!

  6. Joe Simmons says

    On this 50th anniversary of the moon landing i am reminded of how I watched this momentous event on TV while working as a bar busboy at the Christopher Ryder House. Normally the restaurant was completely full but that evening, not surprisingly, things were quiet so we had some time to watch the landing. Like the students above I too was working there during my summer vac – from University College Dublin.
    I shared with a group of boys above a antique store in Chatham and spent most days on the beach with them. I have very fond memories of that summer listening to the nightly production of Hair and working with a wonderful group of guys and gals, especially those I worked with in the bar, What a great introduction to America – and to Americans. My one (and only) regret was turning down an opportunity to join some friends who were driving to a pop concert one weekend – at Woodstock!

    • Joe:
      We must have worked together in the summer of 1969…you as a bar busboy and me as a bartender, alternating a week in the “kitchen bar” and the next week in the Opera House. Best job I ever had!!

      -Nick Marble

  7. Nick Marble says

    I tended bar at the Christopher Ryder House in the summers of 1968 and 1969. Best job I ever had. The beach in the mornings and afternoons, then work started either at 5 Pm or 7PM. I met my first wife there…she was one of the singers who roamed through the cocktail lounges with 2 other accomplices.
    Loved every minute of my job…so many great kids. I was a rising senior in college in 1968, then off to the Army in October 1969.

  8. More fun facts about my 2 summers (i968 and 1969) as a bartender at the Christopher Ryder House:
    Frank Shea, the chef, would arrive at the kitchen bar (where the diners could not see us), and always get his drink of choice: a large tumbler of Canadian Club and ginger ale…which was far stronger on the former than on the latter. Anyway, in return, he would bring me either a huge filet wrapped in 2 pieces of bread, or a huge lobster tail swimming in his special lobster bisque sauce.
    Many of us topped off the night at a local bar, then known as The Sign of The Surf, now a very decent restaurant named The Impudent Oyster.
    My second summer at the CR House was kind of bittersweet, for on the positive side I got engaged to one of the entertainers, but every day that summer brought me one day closer to the reality that awaited me: the US Army (on October 1) and the distinct possibility of combat in Vietnam. As luck would have it, I spent my entire 2 years of active duty in the US. Miracles DO happen.
    I remember the Barn Girls, the guys from Ireland, super fun tending bar in the Opera House, gathering at the end of the night to divvy up the tips so I’d always have cash in my pocket, the singers/dancers in the Opera House, great kids to work and play with, Mr and Mrs Kastner and their kids, days at the beach and so much more.

    • Bill Grady says

      Nick, back in the mid to late 60’s Ihad the pleasure of dinning at the CR House in a party of 10.
      We were celebrating the end of Summer .
      Meal was of course beyond excellent with terrific service.
      My question to you is , ” What was the name of the dinning room that had a type of stained glass ceiling?
      Thank you


  9. Christopher Carroll says

    I had been an actor since the age 0f 17. In 1966 I had just finished my hitch in the U.S. Army and the opportunity to perform in Broadway-style revues at the Christopher Ryder House presented itself.
    This, though it was non-Union work, would provide me with my re-entry into Theatre. The other performers were young students, 19-20 years old, from the Boston Conservatory of Music.
    At age 24 I was the old man of the group. I loved doing the shows. The Kastners were very nice, though I remember Mr. K. being taken aback when I refused to share a room.
    He said, “What do you do at school ?”. I said, “I don’t go to school. ” I got my own room.
    The house was on Main Street and thirty years later when I visited Chatham, the house had become a shop or boutique called The Blue…..something. Originally, there was a hotel across the street called the Blueberry Inn. Also a wealthy lady I knew had a beautiful home in Chatham called Cranberry Walk. Thirty years on, the inn had become the Cranberry Inn and the house which was now owned by someone else and was now called Blueberry Walk !
    I discovered a beautiful deserted beach nearby seemingly right on the tip of the “elbow” of the Cape.
    The last time I was there, the little beach was packed.

  10. I had just thought of the Christopher Ryder House a few minutes ago and decided to look it up. Was so sad to read of its closing. I visited back in the early 70s with a bunch of my girlfriend’s and we had a great time there. This was just one of the places we stopped at on our trip around Massachussetts. Wish we could be made the trip back there before it closed.

  11. Anyone work at the Ryder House in the summer of ’78?

  12. nadine friedly says

    Does anyone remember the radio commercial for the CRH from the 1960s? I want to say that it was to the tune of “In the Good Ol’ Summertime”, but I do not know for sure. Thank you so much !!

    I can sing the Thompson’s Clamber song! “hey, where ya going”?…….

    • In the good old summertime
      That’s when everybody goes
      To the Christopher Ryder opera house
      To see their fabulous shows

      • Amen to that. My parents took us there as kids as early as the late 1960’s. I loved the food and the shows. My parents always treated us to the best, on a public school principal’s salary. Those evenings are forever etched in my heart, even after my dad died just before Thanksgiving, 2021 at the age of 90. I will always associate the Cape and the Ryder House with my father and those magical summers.

  13. Joe Simmons says

    Hi Nick And Michael,
    I haven’t checked out the site since I posted my note.
    So hello again to both of you, great to hear back.
    1969 is a long time ago but it was such a great time it somehow seems a lot closer.
    Hope you both are well.
    Michael – are you back in in Ireland? I’m in the UK. Thank you for reminding me of our landlady’s name, I just could not remember it. I do however remember that she got very cross if we came in late and left the back door unlocked – we used to joke that she was scared that people would leave junk for her, rather than stealing any of her “antique” stuff. Very unkind!
    If you guys want to get in touch my email is [email protected]

  14. Roberta Jones says

    Every summer we rented a cabin in Chatham..breezy days and tranquil nights. August and reading paperbacks, playing cards. There were no televisions in the cabins. But my sisters and I talked, talked, talked. My parents were so handsome. Great vacations. Seafood restaurants…clam rolls… sandwiches, salads and lazy beach days. Lighthouse beach.. shopping at Christmas Joy and wrapping Christmas presents in the height of sum, August. But gettin dressed up for the Christopher Ryder house was something! My mother Regina wore a short chic Father Ralph wore handsome suit tie and slacks. My sisters and I wore dresses and it was magic. Christopher Ryder house was something. Handsome valet guys..pretty gals and great seafood. The cabaret after was sexy and fun. Had to dance with your Father while Regina ordered Irish coffee. Beautiful long nights..crickets in the scrubby we drove back to the cabin..dressed up..holding hands.. talking..making memories…
    up the steps and thru the screen door. That Christopher Ryder house was something. Roberta

  15. My family had a house in West Dennis for over 50 years from 1955 until 2006. We went to the Christopher Ryder house only for special occasions. The food was delicious. I was a little girl, and amazed at the entertainment and the singing waiters and waitresses along with the floor that moved up and down!
    Today when I hear someone talking about the Christopher Ryder House, I smile and think of all the great memories of good ole Cape Cod! I am now a full-time resident recently moving to the Cape. I am in my happy place, a lifelong dream fulfilled!

Speak Your Mind

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy