John Whelan: The Mayo House

“But it’s a long, long while from May to December

And the days grow shorter when you reach September

And the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame

And I haven’t got time for the waiting game”


One of the joys of my life is hosting a radio program on WOMR-FM in Provincetown every other

Saturday. Tina Lynde and I rotate every other week from 6 to 10 in the morning. The theme for her show, “Memory Lane,” and my show, “American Pie,” is the same. We both play oldies rock ’n’ roll. We both grew up in musical families, and although we appreciated our parents' music, rock ’n’ roll really took over our lives in the late '50s and early '60s. Before you decide that our shows are redundant, listen in sometime and you’ll find out that the genre is broad enough for distinctly different tastes under the big tent of rock ’n’ roll. Last Saturday, Tina did her annual tribute to September, her favorite month. Among her song choices was “September Song,” the melancholy chorus of which appears above. Kurt Weill wrote the music and Maxwell Anderson did the lyrics. The song was introduced by Walter Huston in the Broadway musical “Knickerbocker Holiday” in 1938. My favorite version of literally hundreds of versions was done by Jimmy Durante in 1963 as part of an album of songs with the focus on aging. While not a great vocalist, Durante was perfect for his album, “As Time Goes By.” His sentimental delivery fit the list of songs perfectly.

So later last Saturday morning, as I walked Monomoy, our Jack Russell, I found myself singing “September Song.” Monomoy loves to walk down to Farm to Table, the Cape Abilities store on lower Main Street. Monomoy loves Joanne, the store manager, and the other ladies who work there. We made our short visit. Monomoy got her hugs and kisses and we started home. But immediately, “September Song” came back, and I decided right then that it would be my song for this week's article. After all, September is flying by just like July and August. It seems that living in a resort town like Chatham means that your summers are fleeting and increasingly so, as time goes by.

As my readers know, I love living here in Chatham. Unlike a lot of places, life in a small town like Chatham allows one to know the wealthy and the less financially advantaged, the old and the young, the natives and the newcomers. Bob Hardy died last week just two weeks short of his 98th birthday. I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob several years ago for a Cape Cod Chronicle article. He had a great outlook on life and Chatham will miss this wonderful man.

Chatham has enjoyed marvelous weather this September, really the best weather of the entire summer. So we cannot and should not complain. Now that we can park again, it has been possible to look at and admire the buildings on our beautiful Main Street. It is my feeling that Main Street keeps getting better and better. The shopping district is interspersed with historic scenic buildings. The Eldredge Public Library, the Methodist Church, St. Christopher’s Church, the Orpheum Theater and now, the Mayo House have all enjoyed timely renovations. Community Preservation Act funds were a significant part of the money that paid for those renovations. I remember when CPA passed in Chatham. Norm Pacun, Tom Bernardo, Richard Batchelder, Florence Seldin and especially Coley Yeaw fought hard for the Community Preservation Act. My memory says that the real estate industry fought against its passage. The vote was on May 16, 2002 and it passed by only 51 to 49 percent. The town of Chatham is so fortunate that the CPA article did pass. The proponents argued that the 3 percent surcharge would not be much of a hardship and would have a minimal impact, if any, on real estate values in town. That proved to be true. They further argued that the funds raised would make a significant contribution to open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. Evidence of the benefits to each of those areas are all over Chatham.

The Mayo House, at 540 Main St., was built by Josiah Mayo between 1818 and 1820. Josiah was a blacksmith and served as postmaster in Chatham for 40 years. He also was town treasurer and a selectman for two years. Family members lived in the house until 1938.

The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank bought the Mayo House in 1974 and two years later donated it to the Chatham Conservation Foundation. Repair and restoration has taken place over the years since 1976. The house offers visitors an excellent example of life in Chatham in the 1800s on Main Street. Edie Tuxbury, Chatham Conservation Foundation Trustee, is the coordinator of the Mayo House. She manages the volunteer docents who lead tours of the house each summer. Much of the house is authentic. At one time, Josiah Mayo ran a dry goods store in the ell. Business got so good he had to move the store to another building. Josiah Mayo died in 1874 and his obituary in the Chatham Monitor described him as an upright town official and an honest businessman with excellent judgment.

Several years ago, the Chatham Conservation Foundation decided the Mayo House badly needed exterior restoration. The CCF sought and was awarded CPA funds. The plan was to restore the existing windows, replace the shingles and roof, and fix the gutters and trim. Stello Construction did a terrific job and deserves significant credit. The Mayo House is now another jewel on Chatham’s Main Street. It will serve as the office for Executive Director/Land Manager Matt Cannon. I think it is important to disclose that I am a former trustee of the Chatham Conservation Foundation. But the newly restored Mayo House stands on its own merit and certainly is worth your attention. It is just one more interesting place to visit here in Chatham. So many terrific venues. Chatham continues to offer more and more to see and that is true for those who live here as well as the tourist. Happy fall!