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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 19, 2015: Cape Cod Stories: The National Seashore

[For many up here in New England, summer means a trip or twelve to the Cape—Cape Cod, that is (with no disrespect to the beautiful Cape Ann). So this week, I’ll AmericanStudy five Cape Cod stories—share your own summer favorite places and their stories for a crowd-sourced weekend getaway, please!]
Three exemplary sites within the National Park Service’s Cape Cod National Seashore.
1)      The Dune Shacks: The particular form of house and living that developed on Cape Cod’s outermost beaches has come to be known as a “dune shack,” and has within the last few years been preserved within the National Register’s Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District. Initially used mostly by fisherman and the Coast Guard, the dune shacks also came to be associated with the Cape’s artistic community, particularly through the writings and life of “poet of the dunes” Harry Kemp. And the National Park Service has found a wonderful way to preserve and carry forward that latter legacy, working with non-profits to offer an artist-/writer-in-residence program at the Dune Shacks.
2)      The Penniman House: Located atop Fort Hill in Eastham, the impressive second home of prominent local whaling captain Edward Penniman (constructed in 1868) has become a site through which the Park Services tells a representative “Whaling Story.” As that second linked site illustrates, such stories were and still are composed out of a combination of the profession’s mythos (see: Captain Ahab) and its often far different realities (see: the concept of the Widow’s Walk, which may be apocryphal but captures the hardships and losses of whaling accurately in any case). And on both those levels, along with its roles in the local and global economies, whaling comprised a vital part of Cape Cod’s and American community and identity throughout the 19th century, making the Penniman House an important stop for any visitor to the National Seashore.
3)      Doane Rock: One impressive and unique site that captures two Cape Cod histories, Doane Rock is both Cape Cod’s largest exposed glacial boulder and the namesake of Deacon John Doane, one of the first residents of Plymouth Colony to settle the Eastham area in 1644. As such, the Rock both represents deep continuities, across nearly 20,000 years and certainly linking the region’s earliest European arrivals to our own moment, and at the same time reflects the vast changes that the area has undergone in its natural as well as its human histories. An ancient world still with us and an ever-changing place that we must approach with new eyes—that about sums up the Cape for me, and Doane Rock helps us consider and appreciate both sides.
Next Cape story tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Summer favorite places you’d highlight?

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