“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
Andy Williams was right, Christmas and New Year’s in Chatham is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas in Chatham, with families celebrating together, is terrific. And Chatham’s First Night is as good as it gets, anywhere. And since this will be my last column of 2016, I will use this opportunity to thank Tim Wood and Hank Hyora for allowing me the privilege of writing this column for The Cape Cod Chronicle. I also want to thank Mary Ann Gray and Jean Young and the helpful people at the Atwood House who provide much of the historical material in my articles. I could not function without their help.
This is also the opportunity for me to wish all our readers best wishes for the holiday season, and a healthy and prosperous New Year. I expect 2017 to be an interesting year.
But now I’d like to take you back to the 19th and 20th century to examine one of Chatham’s old inns. In years past, as one approached the Chatham Light, there was a small commercial center. The legendary Andrew Harding's Store was on the west side of Main Street. Next across the street, on the southeastern corner of Main Street and Water Street, was the Hawes House. In Book IV of “Some Early Chatham Homes,” published by the Chatham Historical Society, I learned that the original old house was bought in 1815 by Collins Howes, Sr. for his new bride, Rhoda, from Rhoda’s father, Ebenezer Bangs. Collins and Rhoda lived in the house all of their married years. Collins died in 1871, but Rhoda lived in the the house until 1890, when she died at 96. Rhoda was an eye witness to so much history in the Old Village. She was interviewed when she was 95 by a reporter for the Boston Globe. Her memory was good and her memories were incredible. She knew the commercial wharf at the end of Water Street operated by her father and brothers. At 14, she saw the construction of the first set of twin lights in 1808. And she remembered the War of 1812 and the British warships just offshore.
In 1892 her granddaughter, Selena Howes Hawes assumed ownership of the old house. No, I did not make a mistake, Selena Howes had married Zenas Hawes and so she had to change only one letter in her new married name. Selena and Zenas ran a summer boarding house in the home. It was a primitive boarding house with no telephone or electricity. Nevertheless, business flourished and they built on in order to accommodate more guests. The Hawes House did have the first telephone in the village some years later. Their daughter Eva and her husband Isaak took over in 1925 and in time left the business to their son Freeman and his wife, Lucille. So the Howes family owned the Hawes House for more than 150 years.
I recently spoke with Freeman and Lucille’s daughter, Linda Salvi, about the Hawes House. She said that during her time there the same families came at the same time every year and often stayed in the same rooms. Linda spoke about the three meals served each day in the large dining room. Preparation for breakfast started each day at 5 a.m. The main meal was served at lunchtime and supper in the early evening. The main meal usually featured a meat dish and whatever fresh fish had been caught that morning. Food was cooked in the kitchen located in the cellar and was transported upstairs in a dumbwaiter. By that time, the Hawes House had three buildings and the beach.
My personal memory of the Hawes House goes back to the early 1960s when I delivered the mail in the Old Village as a summer mail carrier. On beautiful warm days, I would reach the Hawes House at about 3 p.m. and a number of older ladies in white dresses would be sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch. They were always friendly and usually had a few choice comments for the mail man.
Don Aikman and his family were guests at the Hawes House beginning in 1938. He specifically remembered Freeman Howes in his apron after cooking in the kitchen downstairs. Don and his family often went fishing, and he remembered returning with striped bass for Freeman to cook for dinner. Don also spoke of the cold water showers at the annex. You wanted to be first to shower since the sun warmed the exposed pipes and some days you could have a warm shower. Come later and your shower was cold as ice. Don also mentioned that his family was allowed to leave their fishing gear in the basement of one of the buildings when they left after the summer. Those fishing rods would be found in the very same spot when they returned the following year. Great memories, and one more thing. Don met his wife, Debbie, at the Hawes house. Debbie was a waitress there in the late '50s and early '60s. Debbie remembered that working for Freeman and Lucille was wonderful. She worked as a waitress three meals each day, and then was a chambermaid after breakfast. The girls did get a little time at the beach before the main meal and more beach time in the afternoon. They cherished their “beach time.” Debbie remembers staying in an attic room way upstairs. Both Don and Debbie remembered the desserts at the Hawes House. Grapenut pudding, Indian pudding and another dessert called “floating island” were the specialties of the house.
Romance had to be in the air at the old Hawes House, or maybe there was something in the water because summer guest Bill Koerner also met his wife, Nancy, there. Great memories for the Aikmans and Koerners, but the Hawes House is now a private residence. Danny and Maryalice Eizenberg have lived there for more than 20 years. Maryalice is a skilled painter and I love walking by in the summer when she is painting in the front yard. The Hawes House Inn may be gone, but I believe all the various members of the Howes family would have a big smile seeing Maryalice working there.
Again, happy holidays and we’ll meet here again in 2017.