Cape Cod Modern

November 24, 2014

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I have had a mid-century house – an Eichler built in 1958 nestled at the foot of rolling golden hills in California – and I currently live in a Colonial Revival – built in 1907 in the Georgian style in a town with more history than I can fathom – and after my adventure today of hiking the dunes on Cape Cod and discovering Mid-century gems cast away and being left to ruin, my heart aches for a clean simple box, unadorned and angular sitting amongst the scrub pines with a view out to sea. Waxing poetic, huh?

Well, I can’t help it… I LOVE ARCHITECTURE.  I love design, I can’t turn it off and I certainly can’t own a house in every style I love.  So I blog about it.  Here’s what I did today… My partner in crime and life and I drove a short distance from our little cottage on the beach and followed a winding little road out to the open seashore of Cape Cod.  There in all it’s glory the sandy cliffs play host to a very important modern structure named the Hatch House.

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The experimental Hatch Cottage was designed by Jack Hall in 1960 for Robert Hatch, an editor of The Nation and his wife Ruth, a painter. The family occupied the cottage until 2008 when ownership reverted to the National Park Service. CCMHT received a lease in 2012 and finished restoration in spring 2013. Since then the cottage has hosted four artist/scholar residencies. All the original furniture and artwork has been re-installed by the Hatch family.
It’s hard to describe the setting of the Hatch Cottage, with it’s panoramic view of the bay, perched on the edge of a kettle hole, with a vernal pool below, and it’s untrammeled west facing hillside which takes in the sunset over the water. Because it’s in the National Seashore, surrounding development has been frozen since its construction. The cottage itself is a matrix of cubes. Some are single and some combine to make bigger shared spaces. The cubes are connected by outdoor decks which seem to dematerialise due to the decking being laid on edge; making the whole seem to hover a few feet above the ground. The rooms open and close with shutters of different sizes to regulate temperature, air and sun. There are two rooms with queen sized beds, a bunk room, one bath, a lovely path to a generally un-occupied bay beach and access to many trails through the woods.
*This excerpt taken from the Cape Cod Modern Historic Trust website, see more at ccmht.org

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After seeing such a beautiful modern structure built in a truly majestic setting I thought the rest of our day would be spent discussing the merits of this incredible structure and how we might someday replicate it – or something close to it – for our very own… But I continued to be surprised after we parked on an unmarked fire road somewhere between Truro and Wellfleet and hiked into a pristine pine and oak forest.   The most beautiful fall-infused path opened up to miles of open seashore and the forest revealed its hidden treasures… many abandoned mid-century homes, slowly being reclaimed by the land they were built on.  IMG_6287

Now owned by the federal government, these beautiful examples of mid-century architecture are decaying.  Still beautiful, only hauntingly so, I could so easily imagine living in any one of the structures we came upon.  This sad structure being the first we saw, I will admit it’s heartbreaking but this was the worst of what we saw…  many are still habitable and CCMHT has begun to lease and preserve the most important structures. The landscape has grown in since this structure was built to a point where the  ocean view is now shrouded by evergreens.

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This house still has its wonderful view, ceiling suspended red metal fireplace and a spooky ouija board just inside the expanse of glass that protects the interior from the coastal elements.  The living room spans the entire water side of the main living floor with accordion doors in the back that close to create a private bedroom or den.  It’s also in pretty bad shape, but it’s not open and exposed to the wind, rain and salt air.  Below the main floor (that also had a wall of kitchen in the back left corner) are additional   bedrooms, a bonus room and full bath.  I was happy this one was locked up tight.IMG_6288

Yeah, this one not so “locked up tight”.  The door was wide open and the elements and animals of the forest had certainly made themselves at home here, but you can still see how fabulous living in this structure could be.  There were even a few pieces of furniture I would have considered “rescuing” but I’m certain anyone else would have seen my good intentions as “stealing”… So I left those cool little rattan chairs behind for the  critters.

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 Thanks for stopping by & reading! IMG_6291

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2 Responses to “Cape Cod Modern”

  1. petehocking Says:

    Beautiful reflection, Bill. There are so many ghosts in these here dunes.


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