The Hammond House

Those were the days, my friend

We thought they’d never end...

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days”

Mary Hopkin

The Hammond family has been part of American history since Benjamin and Mary Hammond immigrated from England to Rochester, Ma. in September 1634. Benjamin and Mary became Cape Codders shortly thereafter, moving to Yarmouth and later to Sandwich. Calvin Hammond, a great-grandchild, was the first Hammond to settle in Chatham. Calvin was born in 1745 and married Patience Young of Harwich and lived in the Old Village section of town. Three of Calvin’s grandsons – Calvin, Luther and William – were sea captains and all were born in Chatham. The Hammond family had lots of children and many went to sea. More than a few died or were lost at sea through the years. Reading the genealogical tree of the Hammonds is like reading a history of Chatham. The Hammonds married Eldredges, Doanes, Bearses, Cahoons, Ryders, Hardings and Goulds, and many of their descendants stayed on in Chatham..

Captain Darius Hammond, born in 1834, was a very successful sea captain and built his home on Silverleaf Avenue, just behind the Chatham Light. That beautiful home is still there today and has a sign designating it as the Darius Hammond House. In their book, “Chatham Sea Captains in the Age of Sail,” Joseph A. Nickerson, Jr. and Geraldine Nickerson wrote about Darius Hammond. He ran a packet between Chatham, Long Island and New Bedford for 32 years beginning in 1876. His primary cargo was produce and his packet made the voyage in about seven hours. One notice in the Chatham Monitor stated that the packet left New Bedford first thing in the morning and that the goods were available in stores in Chatham by 3 p.m. that afternoon. Darius also was known as a “lifesaver.” In his travels, by luck or skill, he was able to save a great number of folks from drowning. Apparently, he was reluctant to speak of his deeds, but he did receive recognition from the Carnegie Hero Commission. The Boston Globe wrote an article about Hammond’s “lifesaving habit” when he retired in 1908.

Captain Alpheus Hammond bought his home on Andrew Harding’s Lane in 1856. The house dated back to 1807. Unfortunately, that house was one of those lost to erosion after the 1987 break. There were many other Hammond homes but time and space limit me in this article.

The Chatham Historical Society has created a very complete record of the Hammond family, with genealogical charts and short life histories of many of the family members. Moving forward to the 9th generation, I found descriptions of Hammonds that lived in the 20th century and who were well known in Chatham. Clint Hammond, in particular, was interesting. Unlike most Hammonds, Clint was born in Taunton in 1900, but lived most of his 90 years in the Old Village. Clint was an oysterman, founding J. C. Hammond Oyster Co. in 1938 on the Oyster River. Clint had an oyster grant and he worked at his trade experimenting with seed and various growing techniques. Clint was a wonderful man, perhaps the last of the old-time Chatham oysterman and an articulate speaker on most things pertaining to life in Chatham. Clint lived on Main Street in the Old Village.

Carleton Hammond was born in Chatham in 1911, the son of Captain Francis Hammond and Mertis Hammond. Carleton graduated from Brown University in 1934 and the Harvard Business School in 1936. He served in World War II and after a number of other positions was president of the Chatham Trust Company from 1969 to 1974. He was married to Dorothy Pearson and they had two sons, Paul and John. John was born in 1945 and died in Norwalk, Conn. in 2012. John’s older brother, Paul, lives in Connecticut and was the source of some of my information for this article. Paul was a close friend of mine growing up. We attended Camp Malabar together in the early 1950s and enjoyed summers in Chatham throughout high school and college. Carleton Hammond’s family home at 83 Main St. in the Old Village was sold in 1999 after Mrs. Hammond died.

Carleton’s older sister, Jeanne Hammond, was born in Chatham in 1909. She married Joseph Cassis in 1935 in Haverhill. Joe Cassis was a contractor in Boston and together they ran the Hammond House in the Old Village. The Hammond House is the last building on the west side of Main Street before the Chatham Light. There was also a house on the east side at 84 Main St, that served as an office and Jeanne and Joe’s residence. Another house on the west side was also part of the inn. The Hammond House featured a restaurant in the 1950s and 1960s in addition to offering rooms for rent. The Hammonds owned the land out to the beach and there was a stairway for the guests. As today, a private beach was a very attractive amenity. Joe Cassis regularly had clam bakes for the guests down in a hollow between the dunes. Joe was a terrific cook. The Hammond House Restaurant was in the front of the main building, and at one point was considered to be one of Chatham’s best restaurants. In the mid-1950s, Holiday Magazine mentioned it as one of Cape Cod’s “top three” restaurants. That may have been a stretch, but it did feature good steaks and excellent seafood. Running a restaurant was a tough business and the seasonal nature made it hard to hold on to decent chefs.

Paul Hammond worked there as a bus boy and another friend, Susan Miller, had a number of jobs at the Hammond House. Her family had been guests and were friends of the Hammonds. Susan worked a number of years as a chambermaid and lived in a tool house at the inn. The Goodyear Blimp spent the summer in Chatham in 1961 and Susan became friendly with Captain Smith, the chief pilot of the blimp, who stayed there. The blimp needed someone to run out and catch the ropes when the blimp landed. Captain Smith asked Susan if she knew anyone who could do the job. I was the lucky one chosen and enjoyed a wonderful summer working for the Goodyear Blimp.

Jeanne Hammond Cassis died in 1984 and Joe Cassis passed away four years later. The entire property was sold and is now condominiums. I’m afraid very few people in Chatham today can say they once had a meal at the Hammond House. Like Port Fortune and the Hawes House, the Hammond House, once an important part of the Old Village, is only remembered by those of us with a long Chatham memory. Oh yes, those were the days.