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

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