Cape Restaurants, Jazz and Route 6A: New Books Delve Into Local History

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Local History

Cape Cod Jazz by John Basile.

Three new books released by the History Press and its sister publisher, Arcadia Books, will thrill those interested in the history of the Cape’s iconic restaurants, the Cape Cod jazz scene and Route 6A.

Long after they closed their doors for the final time, beloved restaurants tend to live on in the minds of their patrons. Christopher Setterlund’s “Historic Restaurants of Cape Cod” will take you on a nostalgic culinary journey.

“I spent months asking anybody I could about their favorite restaurants, made a list of close to 100, and slowly whittled it down by seeing how much meat was on the bone for a proper history,” Setterlund recalls. “I loved getting to speak with so many Cape Cod legends.”

The book, which features iconic restaurants Cape-wide, includes two restaurants in Chatham — the Christopher Ryder House, 1953-1983, and Northport, 1964-1995; and three in Harwich – Cape Half House Restaurant, 1962-1992, The Sword and Shield Restaurant, 1968-1990, and, of course, Thompson’s Clam Bar, 1950-1997. Three Orleans restaurants are also featured – The Cleaver Restaurant and Lounge, 1974-1995, Reno Diner, 1942-1960, and Southward Inn, 1916-1962.

If you’re not hungry by the time you finish this book, an appendix of recipes from these famous old restaurants will make you so. A recipe for the Double Shot Rum Pie at the Christopher Ryder House is included.

Setterlund, who lives in South Yarmouth, is a 12th generation Cape Codder and the author of the 2013 “In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide.” He will host a book release party at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, 307 Old Main St., South Yarmouth on Monday, June 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Books by the Sea in Osterville is co-hosting the event.

“Cape Cod Jazz: From Colombo to the Columns” by John A. Basile, reminds us that the great cornet and trumpet player Bobby Hackett (1915-1976) lived in West Chatham and is buried in Chatham’s Seaside Cemetery. In 1977 the Cape Cod Jazz Society raised funds to pay for a gravestone to mark Hackett’s grave.

Basile, editor of the Register newspaper covering Barnstable, Yarmouth and Dennis, says the book is something he has wanted to write for a long time. “I’ve been interested in jazz since I was a kid, and since I first came to Cape Cod to live in 1982 I’ve been fascinated by the wonderful jazz musicians we have here. So many of these great musicians were capable of playing on stages anywhere in the world, but they chose to make Cape Cod home,” he says.

Through the years, Basile saved newspaper clippings, concert fliers and other memorabilia, so he was well-prepared when he embarked on his book.

Jazz first appeared on the Cape in the 1920s. By the 1950s, a jazz revival took place at the Southward Inn in Orleans. Storyville Cape Cod opened in 1957 in the former Prohibition-era Robin Hood Inn off Route 124 in the Harwich woods. Louis Armstrong performed there during opening week and the place continued to attract top talents. Sadly, Storyville closed after its fourth season. In the 1970s and 1980s jazz was featured at the Captain Linnell House in Orleans. Today a jazz festival is held every summer at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Harwich.

As president of the now-defunct Cape Cod Jazz Society, Basile presented many jazz parties and concerts. His first book was the 2014 “Legendary Locals of Yarmouth.”

Basile will speak and sign copies of “Cape Cod Jazz” at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, 307 Old Main St., South Yarmouth, on Wednesday, June 28 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Along Route 6 in Massachusetts” by James A. Gay of Quincy will guide you on an armchair road trip, via postcard and vintage photos, from Provincetown to Seekonk.

Route 6 — what we now call Route 6A – was in the beginning a “Native American trail.” In time, “the King’s Road” was widened so that stagecoaches could travel along it to Provincetown. In 1920 the Commonwealth officially designated it “the King’s Highway,” much to the chagrin of residents of Orleans, who accused officials of trying to “rewrite American history.”

Five years later, Route 6 received its numerical designation of “6.” (East-West roads were given even numbers.) In 1937 Route 6 became part of a transcontinental highway of 3,652 miles, running to Long Beach, Calif. That same year its name was changed to “Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Highway.” When the Mid-Cape Highway was built in the 1950s, Route 6 was renamed Route 6A and the Route 6 designation given to the new roadway.

“My wife and I would drive the route and stop exactly at the particular spot that I had a postcard for,” Gay says. “Some locations were exactly the same and others were completely different.”

Gay is a local historian and a member of the U.S. Route 6 Tourist Association. A resident of Quincy, he is the legislative director for State Rep. Peter V. Kocot. His first book was “Battleship Cove.”

Gay will sign copies of “Along Route 6 in Massachusetts” on Saturday, June 24 at 2 p.m. at Titcomb’s Bookshop, 432 Route 6A, East Sandwich.