I recently visited Nantucket, an island to the east of the Massachusetts mainland. It's famed for playing a central role in the history of whaling, as immortalized in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. On the final day of our visit, clouds closed in and winds caused whitecaps to form in the harbor. We planned our day for inside activities and visited the Whaling Museum, which is on Broad Street, not far from the harbor. The museum offers films, multimedia presentations and many impressive artifacts from the whaling era. The coverage of Nantucket's history was thorough and it explained a few things we noticed on a walk through the village two days before. I wrote about the first part of that walk in my last post, which is here.
As my son and I walked up Main Street, we found buildings which were clearly much older than those found on the waterfront or in the immediate downtown. For example, here's a building erected in 1802 and named after Admiral Coffin, whose family was among the early settlers of the island.
From Main Street, we walked uphill and then meandered to the right, into a neighborhood whose buildings and homes offered a distinctive look. Here's one home that caught my attention along that walk. The trellis, finely clipped hedges and broad veranda of this house and its surrounding yard were examples of themes which recurred often during our walk.
We continued our walk and eventually looped back, heading toward the downtown on Centre Street. Here, almost all of the buildings dated back to the period that ranged from the late 1700's to the middle of the next century. Many have been converted to cafe's or B and B's and most had plaques which stated the year the buildings were built. In the heart of this neighborhood, we encountered one of the tallest buildings in Nantucket, a white-steepled church.
One of the aspects we liked most about our walk was the sense of neighborhood. Nantucket has been highly proactive in preserving its architectural heritage and the fruits of those decisions were evidenced as we saw entire streets whose buildings hearkened back to the Federalist era of the United States. There were also a number of clever touches, little gateways from the street into a yard. Here's one I particularly liked:
My son and I took a break from our walk, scouting around the downtown for liquid refreshment. My son opted for a coffee. I wanted a smoothie, but didn't find it. Instead, we walked over to Main Street and found a pharmacy which had an old style soda fountain. No smoothies, but they did have a combination of lemonade and orange sherbet, which I purchased. We strode up the brick sidewalks outside the pharmacy and found a park bench nearby, then chatted while sipping our drinks. Thus fortified, we resumed the walk, this time turning left off of Main Street onto Orange Street. We immediately encountered another neighborhood lined with older buildings. The streets were narrow here and we had to be careful to stay on the brick sidewalks to avoid passing cars. We meandered again, heading toward the shoreline, which took us through several residential neighborhoods. We eventually found a spot where the road cut over to the right. A sign noted an ongoing project to remove invasive species, but there was a walking path. We followed the path, which led us to a stretch of unfettered Nantucket with wonderful views of undeveloped fields and swamplands.
Ahead was the proverbial crooked path. Alongside, tall grasses and shoots waved in the breeze. New growth plants emerged from vernal pools in counterpoint to the aromatic decay of vegetation, all part of nature's perpetual cycle.
Even on a sunny day like this, the weather can change quickly in lands by the water. The heat of midday gave way to the cooling breezes of late afternoon and I zipped up my windbreaker for the last part of the walk. We circled back through more residential neighborhoods and spotted one house whose combination of weathered shingles and complementary earth tones seemed perfect for this particular street.
We concluded our walk by stepping along the cobblestones of the downtown and returning to the area near our B and B. Here's a parting view of Nantucket, as seen from Children's Beach, looking out onto the harbor.
Visiting Nantucket is truly a walk into history which offers many reminders of colonial America. We enjoyed this short stay immensely and look forward to returning again to this island of contrasts.