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Science, Meet Art.

May 25th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Where the clay for Joan Lederman's pottery glaze comes from.

They come from all around the world in buckets and ziplock bags, tagged with masking tape and a sharpie, from places with exotic and unfamiliar names like the Kane Megamullion, Galleon’s Passage and the East Pacific Rise.   Sea muds, magmas, cores dredged up from the bottom of the ocean — some from as far away as Antarctica and others as close as Martha’s Vineyard — are the cornerstone of a 35-year experimental journey by local potter, artist and scientist Joan Lederman.

I was fortunate this week to be invited to a tour of Joan’s studio, tucked away in a lovely spot right here in Woods Hole.  Here she receives the bounty of the sea (most of it from curious and helpful science friends back from research trips in marine biology).  This rare collection from all corners of the earth does not look like much sitting in plastic buckets and dried bags draped all around her kiln.

But what dazzling things happen when it is fired onto hand-thrown pottery!  Joan stumbled upon this wonderful confluence as a young artist here in the midst of a serious science community, and she has been perfecting the use of these glazes ever since.

Pottery studio in Woods Hole

As you will see yourself when you tour her place, or look at these photos, she is a master craftsman. Blues and browns crisscross with her delicate calligraphy, marking the seven seas or the latitude of the source of her glaze.  Her work is the confluence of science and art.  She likens the patterns that emerge from these ocean glazes to the DNA of the earth’s core itself, almost like an X-Ray of the origins of life.  Under her careful tutelage, ghostly images emerge from these muds, some like prehistoric seaweeds reaching for the sun.

Glazes made from ocean sediment and magma

You may recall from sixth grade science, or in my case helping with the homework of a sixth grade scientist, that the earth’s magma or core comes bubbling up where the plates are shifting, mostly at the deepest and darkest spots in the sea.  Modern machinery and robotics now allows us to see  glimmers of these dark unknown corners, like Robert Ballard did when first exploring the wreck of the Titanic (adjacent sea-mud has been used in Joan’s work!) with a submersible robot called the “Alvin.”  Later explorers have identified “hydro-vents” in which the most primitive forms of life are being studied as we speak, ground breaking work that is re-shaping textbooks, both challenging creationists and hinting at the mysterious hand of God.

Woods Hole is ground zero for this sort of cutting-edge conversation.  Come here to visit the retired “Alvin” (on display along with all sorts of other data about the exploration at the WHOI Exhibit Center on School Street), then stroll out onto Juniper Point and see Joan’s work (by appointment only).

You will especially enjoy the ocean vista from her potters wheel, and imagine her on warm spring days with the french doors flung open, mud in her hair and the wheel whirring along with the bumblebees in her garden just outside.

A wheel with a view

Woods Hole — where science and art meet at the edge of the sea.

New Rooms

May 6th, 2012 by Beth Colt

The Nonamessett Room is made more special with a lovely flower arrangement.

While we renovated the inn this winter, we did not renovate our website, SO for the time being, this post will serve as an introduction to the look, feel, vibe of the “New Rooms” at the Woods Hole Inn.

Some general comments:  these rooms are all on the second floor of the inn.  They all have vintage restored wood floors, the same wood floors that were always here just polished up.  All have rain showers and bath tubs.  All have views either of the village of Woods Hole, or over the harbor of Woods Hole.  All have king beds, luxury linens, ipod docking stations, cable TV with DVD players. air conditioning AND free wireless internet access.  Two have private water view decks, and all share a large deck with a great view of the Martha’s Vineyard ferry coming and going.

We continued with numbers on some, and others received names, like the birthing of infants which is not unlike how making them felt at certain moments.  So without further ado…here they are:

ROOM 10: private entryway, private bath, king room with peekaboo view of the Eel Pond

Romantic getaway in Woods Hole.

Cape Cod getaways start in Woods Hole, near Martha's Vineyard.

ROOM 11: private entryway, private bath, king corner room with views out over the village green

Vintage restored king room at the Woods Hole Inn.

Romance starts with red tulips and clean modern design on Cape Cod.

Nobska Room: Delux private bath with vintage bathtub and glass rain shower, king room with killer views of the harbor and Martha’s Vineyard ferries

Cape Cod's best lodging.

Vintage restored Woods Hole Inn.

Penzance Room: Private water view deck, large private bath with twin pedestal sinks, vintage bath and glass rain shower in a large king room with water views

Woods Hole Inn's honeymoon suite.

Marble tile shower and vintage exposed brick.

Nonamessett Room: Private water view deck, large private bath with distinctive wall mount sink, vintage bath and glass rain shower in a large king room with water views

Views of the harbor and a private deck in this sunny corner room at the Woods Hole Inn.

Modern decor and amenities at the Woods Hole Inn.

The ultimate Cape Cod bathtub, at the Woods Hole Inn.

So there you have it, pictures and information about the five new rooms!  Please use our secure online booking agent at www.woodsholeinn.com OR call 508-495-0248 to book these rooms.  We look forward to welcoming you to Woods Hole.

Opening Party

May 3rd, 2012 by Beth Colt

Remodeled room unveiled at the Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod.

This is a big week at the Woods Hole Inn as we unveil the five new rooms on the second floor of the Inn.  Last night, we hosted an opening party catered by Quicks Hole, with beer from Cape Cod brewery and wines provided by Travessia Urban Winery.

Le Tout Woods Hole was there munching on fresh salsas, lobster taco bites and crabcakes made fresh that very day.  Yum!  The building was packed with people, circling around and oohing and aahing over the new spaces and decor.  Very gratifying after six months of sawdust and construction debris.

Falmouth Town Manager, Julian Suso, presented the Woods Hole Inn with a proclamation from the town, in gratitude for our saving the old grey lady.  We were touched by the outpouring of compliments and appreciation from visitors, who seemed glad to see that this historic structure will live to see many more years in it’s prominent corner in the middle of town.

It was fun to re-visit with the contractors and sub-contractors as well, enjoying the space they all worked so hard to make beautiful.  People lingered over the wallpaper designed from 1946-era check-in cards, gathered on the water view decks, and wondered when they could justify checking in despite living a three minute walk away!

So, without further adieu…drumroll please….here are a few views of the new rooms:

Romantic getaway on Cape Cod, open year round.Room Eleven, a spacious room with king bed and private bath offers a wonderful view of the village green from it’s corner spot overlooking the WCAI building and Pie in the Sky bakery.

Modern decor, doily-free zone at the Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod.Modern decor with vintage restored details define the bath of room 10.  This sink was found in the attic and restored at the Tub Doctor.

Romantic getaway in water view room on Cape Cod.

The Nonamesset Room has distinctive red coral lamps and a private deck with water views over Woods Hole harbor.

Woods Hole Inn romantic getaway Cape Cod.

Hardwood floors, vintage restored bathtub and an unusual shape cast iron sink define the bath in the Nonamesset Room.

Blues and greens restfully dominate in this water view room at the Woods Hole Inn.

The Nobska Room is on the same side of the building as Nobska lighthouse, and looks out over the ferry terminal, Woods Hole harbor and Martha’s Vineyard in the distance.  Love those soothing blue/greens.

Suitcases at the Woods Hole Inn Cape CodSo, pack your vintage bags and come on over for a fabulous romantic weekend at the best new inn on the Upper Cape.  Book NOW; if it goes like last year we will sell out early.

Woods Hole Inn stairs with vintage hardwood floors and hip light fixtures.Escher would appreciate the view from the top of the three story staircase looking down on the famous red chair in our lobby.

We look forward to showing you the place in person.  Some of you have been following along all winter — What do you think??

The Big House on Wings Neck

April 2nd, 2012 by Beth Colt

Atkinson House written about in "The Big House" by George Colt.

I often get asked if I am related to the family in “The Big House” which is a memoir of life on Cape Cod written by George Colt.  The short answer is yes.  Mary Forbes Atkinson Colt was my grandmother, and George is my first cousin.  The central tension of the wonderful book is what will happen to the house, and (spoiler alert!) the great news is that it remained in my family, purchased from my grandmother’s estate by one of my first cousins.

The house was is a state of advanced disrepair when that transition happened, more than ten years ago now.  My cousin Forbes and her husband David totally renovated the place.  There are many parallels to their process and my purchase of the Woods Hole Inn, not the least of which is the vast amount of work that was needed to bring the structure up to modern building code.  Packed with family and friends all summer, I’m sure they sometimes feel like they are running a B&B.

The house is sited in the most wonderful spot on Wings Neck with incredible views of Buzzards Bay.  The porch looks over Bassett’s Island; my grandmother called it the verandah.  She also pronounced Miami “Mee-ahhmee” and made mayonnaise three syllables (“my-on-aisse”) in a vaguely french manner with a dramatic sss at the end.  She and my grandfather dressed in black tie every night for dinner, although by the time I came along this garb from another era was rather tattered, and I had a childish hunch that they were actors in a play I didn’t quite understand.   Think Arthur Miller and you have insights that you will learn more about in George’s excellent memoir.

One of the best things about moving to Cape Cod last year was that my father’s older sister Ellen was living at the Big House.  I would drive out on Sundays to visit her, and she would fill me with stories about her parents, her life, her childhood on Wings Neck.  She remembered my father as a toddler,  all blonde curls and little boy giggles, lolling like a puppy in her mother’s bed.

Aunt Ellen was more bookish, she told me, and sometimes felt as if she did not fit in with the other four athletic siblings. She loved playing the harp, and came of age as a teenager in the middle of World War II.  Her nineteen-year-old  brother Harry was missing in action for over six weeks, during which time they all thought he was dead, but he miraculously returned from the war unscathed.  I can only imagine her life as a young person in such tumultuous times.

Ellen battled cancer for 20+ years, and the rumors of her demise had been unfounded for so long, I came to feel she would be with me forever.  Even her wonderful nurses seemed prepared to be with her out on the Neck for the rest of time.

Sadly, my Aunt Ellen died in the spring of 2011.  How lucky I decided to come to the Cape when I did!   I was so blessed to get a winter’s worth of visits before she wandered up to join my Dad.  At her service, the most poignant moment was her son’s description of the nurses bathing her in ocean water so she could fall asleep with the tight feeling of salt on her skin as she had done in childhood.

So that is the short answer, and in classic Colt fashion, it’s a decent story but it’s not very short:)  If you want more about the Big House, you can see my previous post on this subject here.

Follow my blog for more musings on big houses, Cape Cod and my life on the edge of the world by clicking the RSS feed button on the upper right of this page.  Or check out my Facebook page where I post news and photos of life on Cape Cod year round.

Red Chair Travels

March 26th, 2012 by Beth Colt

The red chair looks out over Vineyard Sound and the Martha's Vineyard ferry before heading on an epic journey to Provincetown and back!

Remember the story of the red chair?  You know, the image I put on Facebook that inspired a visit from a Californian photographer who then sent me the most amazing photograph she had taken of the chair?  I wrote all about this last spring, and told everyone I ever met all about it, and you can catch up with the story here.

Well, now the red chair is headed on a very unique trip.  I have reached out to innkeepers all over Cape Cod.  This chair is going to have the most amazing spring visiting the very best places to stay on the Cape and Islands.

Having checked in on the phone with these fabulous hoteliers, I can genuinely say I am jealous of the chair’s journey.  I too want to spend five weeks crisscrossing the Cape, exploring every nook and cranny from the dunes of Race Point to the shops of Nantucket, from the farms of Martha’s Vineyard to the sand flats of Barnstable Harbor.  I too want to try a growler of Cape Cod beer in Hyannis, or see the whales and dolphins off Provincetown, or chow on steamers in Truro, or skip the boardwalk in Sandwich.

Why send a chair on a journey like this?  Because, like the surrealists used to say, this chair is not just a chair.  It is a metaphor, an invitation to come explore yourself in a quiet and beautiful place.  It is an open seat at the table of relaxation.  It is the beckoning hand of civilization, marking the edge of the wildness of nature where you can lose and find yourself at the same time.  It is the dialogue between artists and innkeepers, dreamers and shop-girls, lost travelers and those that welcome them into warm beds.

And that, my friends, is why the chair needs to travel!

Today I prepared my  heart, then drove the chair to thirty minutes up the road to the lovely village of Sandwich where the chair will be hosted by the Belfry Inn and Bistro for a few days.  This is a really cool place — a converted church with all the stained glass still intact.  I must admit, I felt a bit like a mother taking their child to overnight camp for the first time!  I mean, all the preparation I have put into this trip, and when it came down to it I really did not want to let that chair out of my hot little hands.  I was feeling anxious and worried, wrote a long note to my fellow innkeepers about it’s care and safekeeping, even fretted a little about leaving it on side deck rather than handing it directly to the next innkeeper.

But I have to remember, the soul of this chair was meant to be shared.  I found it at the swap shop, and so much joy has come already from sharing it.   I have to believe more joy, laughs, curiosity will come as others are touched by it too.

Some nostalgic images of the chair at the Woods Hole Inn before it headed out:

Red Chair before making it's journey from the Woods Hole Inn to Provincetown and back.

Oooh, that Cape light.

Red Chair enjoying the end of the day at the Woods Hole Inn.

On a foggy day:

Foggy day red chair in Woods Hole, looking over Coffee Obsession.

Then getting ready to head out today, with a little note that says “Read Me!” filled with instructions and well-wishes.

Leaving the waterfront across from the Marthas Vineyard ferry can be traumatic:)

Here we are all loaded up in the car:

Leaving Woods Hole in my Prius.

Arriving at the Belfry Inn in Sandwich MA, a lovely 30 minute drive on a windy bright day:

Arriving at the Belfry Inn in Sandwich, MA.And finally the hiding spot:

Red chair hidden in red brick wall at the Belfy Inn in Sandwich, MA.

Isn’t everything better when shared?

More to come on this story, plus read about it directly in a new blog called RedChairTravels.com.

Warm Foggy Spring

March 26th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Orange kayak on the edge of the beach in Woods HoleLast week was unseasonably warm, daffodils sprouting overnight everywhere you looked.  Last year at this time,  I took a picture of the witch hazel blooming with snow all around it.    As I drove around on errands yesterday, the car thermometer said 80 degrees.  What a difference a year makes.

All week, an Atlantic fog hovered just off shore, drifting in to fill the village streets and float over the Eel Pond each evening as the sun set.  In the mornings, I returned from my walks feeling as if I had marched through a cloud, eyebrows dripping with the thick humidity.

The construction is cruising along upstairs at the Woods Hole Inn.  This week, the painters finished up on the first floor, and we followed behind them spring cleaning.  Our guests return next weekend, so we are in the crazy push to get tidy — with the closets back in order, the breakfast recipes brushed up and the outdoor cushions on the porch.

Upstairs, the painters are done and the floors are finished.  The rooms look really great, all spit-polished and shined.  I am especially enamored of the floors.  We saved the old hardwoods, and patched where the walls used to be so that the floor is a crazy quilt of old and new.  It’s as if the bones of the old building are exposed, and along with the salvaged moldings, the vintage restored tubs and and the old-fashioned radiator system, I think it will make you feel that the heart of the place still beats with 1870′s joy.

Soon, exterior painting begins.  I look forward as the pale shingles — looking a bit like band-aids randomly placed — turn to a rich saturated blue to match the rest.  With that, the Woods Hole Inn will look much as it has since it was built over 130 years ago.

Woods Hole Inn, the best place to stay in FalmouthHere is the old grey lady on a foggy day last week, a bit lonely in the grey March streets.

Totally restored rooms at the Woods Hole Inn, near Martha's Vineyard.

A sander on the raw floors where we intentionally left some paint in the crevices to celebrate the marriage of the old with the new.

Shiny and new restored hardwood floors on Cape Cod.

A view of the final flooring, in the Nonamesset Room — a great spot to spend a few days with corner light, harbor views and your private deck.  These rooms will be furnished and open for guests by the end of April if all goes as planned.

Romantic walks in the fog on Cape Cod.

The ferry waits in the morning fog, its distinctive horns dancing and reverberating across Vineyard Sound.

Sunset over the Eel Pond in Woods Hole in the fog.

Finally, sunset this week over Eel Pond as the fog rolled in.  I am grateful for spring, especially this particular warm, foggy spring.

What are you grateful for?

Vintage Restoration

March 12th, 2012 by Beth Colt

View into Great Harbor Woods Hole from the town dock, winter sunset 2012.

The winter months pass faster than you  might imagine, as you count the days for Cape Cod summer to return.  The sunsets are glamorous and this winter has been unusually warm — a mixed blessing for those of us so close to sea level.  If global warming is for real, then we are looking into the maw of the beast.  The silver lining? The mild weather makes it easier to dash out at sunset and catch this kind of panorama.

Construction continues at the Woods Hole Inn.  The second floor, where the new guest rooms are located, is almost done.  This week they put the finish paint on, and next week will be consumed with refinishing the amazing original hardwood floors.  Radiators went back in, the old school cast iron kind, and french doors were hung on the doors to the decks.  Deck railing comes next week as well.

On the third floor, where the staff of the Inn will live soon enough, the drywall and plastering is complete and carpenters are putting the trim on the windows and molding along the floor boards.  Sadly, the old wood floors up there were trashed, a cruel fate required for structural reasons by the Falmouth building department.  In it’s place, the sustainable cork tiles will look modern and clean.  The shapes of the rooms can finally be seen fully, and it’s odd to have such an intimate memory of the bones underneath the skin of the walls.

We are ordering a special wallpaper for the front hall, made from the piles of 1946-era check in cards we found stashed in the attic.  I am confident that it will look graphic and interesting, and also delight those who want to reminisce about Mrs Josiah Smith of Vineyard Haven who stayed at the inn in 1946 for $3 per night.  In addition, I found two incredible Russian ship lanterns, galvanized metal with red paint and old marine glass.  I am having them made into lights for the front porch.  You will tell me if you think they make the right “vintage restored” statement when they are finally hung in place.

I took my copy of building plans and wrote a love note to the person who will unearth all our work 50 years from now.  I tried to express the joy I found in the doing, but I secretly hope they will know my passions from the lines of the house before they ever find my rushed scribbles.

A few images for you:

Stairs in the Woods Hole Inn, under construction winter 2012.

View from the top of the stairs looking down.  The splattered wood you see in the middle will be removed so that you can experience three stories in the entrance.  These are the walls that will be wall-papered with the check in cards from 1946.

Amazing living room at the top of the Woods Hole Inn, under construction 2012.

Top floor, a lovely living room with private balcony and views to Martha’s Vineyard.  Grey from the fresh plaster, this will be painted white and all trimmed out.

Fresh plaster in the living room atop the Woods Hole Inn, Cape Cod MA

Another view of the same room, the light streaming in from the side of the building that faces the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.

Vintage restored floors in all new bathrooms at the Woods Hole Inn, March 2012.

New bathrooms with combo shower-tubs and the vintage floors brought back to their pre-paint glory.

Restored cast iron tib, wainscotting and Cape light combine at the Woods Hole Inn, under construction March 2012.

Cast iron tubs came from the tub doctor in New Bedford.  They look happy to be out of the showroom and back in the action.

Nobska Light from the water on an incredible summer's day.

Finally, the perfect image of the summer coming, from my friend Denise at the Sippewissett Campgrounds.  This is what we are all waiting for.  Thank you for sharing this, Denise — Nobska Lighthouse on an incredible summer day.

I can’t wait to be out on my boat looking up at that lighthouse, waiting for the fireflies to come out, basking in the last light of the day as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound.  See you all this summer.

Steady Pressure

March 8th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Buffy Colt walking in Woods Hole.

My mother should write a self-help book.  With over 30 years logged as a kindergarten teacher, she has lots of great advice. My husband quoted her in our local paper this week and I have received a few calls and emails saying that her words inspired them.  She has certainly inspired me over the years, so I am going to share some of her wisdom.

Steady Pressure.  This is a central tenet of my mother’s philosophy.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, buried under a pile of obligations and work, do not despair!  Tomorrow is another day, and if you just apply steady pressure to your goals you will, like the hundreds of students my mother taught over the years, eventually learn to read, or climb Mt. Kilamanjaro, or get your inn open in time for the summer season.  Insert your problem here: __________.  Now apply steady pressure.  (Ping me in a few months and let’s see how this maxim is working for you, it’s a powerful one.)

Life is a series of sorting and collating exercises.  This gem has a lot of meaning for me.  Remember the simple sorting skills you mastered in kindergarten?   Place all the red apples in the bin with others,  move the oranges to the basket with their friends, place the bananas in another spot.  Put your coat on the coat hook with all the other children’s coats.  Keep your boots on the mat by the front door.  These exercises bring order to that first collaborative work experience (yes, I mean your kindergarten classroom) and help you start thinking about math.  But your adult work flow can be thought of exactly the same way.  Match like with like and you simplify, bring order, establish rules and systems.  Get in a rhythm, find the patterns and then refer to step one (apply steady pressure:).  At the very least, you will always know where your snow boots are.

Share the sandbox.  If you are always stealing the shovel from others, you will be isolated, lonely and bored when the other children stop playing with you.  If you were lucky and you had my mother in kindergarten, you were gently cajoled away from this, and coaxed into more civilized attitude.  Sadly, many people missed this key lesson.  The result, in it’s adult form, is hard to watch — angry, greedy and alone, these are the people who we all love to hate.  They are the staple of reality television.  To them I say, we are still here waiting to share the sandbox with you, so come on in and try again.

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats.  The slowest learner in the classroom is helped by the fastest, and buoyed along by the general skills of the group.  In my mother’s kindergarten, this meant working in groups, completing ambitious projects where everyone worked together.  To mix metaphors, think of it like tennis — you always play better with a better partner.  In business, this means you make your business the best it can be and you help your competitors improve as well.  The better you are together, the more will keep coming your way.  I certainly see this in Woods Hole, and not only out in Great Harbor where the boats all move together with the relentless tides.

Find the Farmyard.  My mother grew up on a farm, and as a teacher she developed what she called her “farm curriculum.”  She focused on the seasons, taught the kids all about farm life, even brought a baby lamb to school for a few weeks each spring during lambing season.  The benefits of this were huge.  The kids were enthralled with the information, and left her classroom with a knowledge that never gets covered in the years beyond.  Now her instincts are so in vogue!  At the Woods Hole Inn and the Quicks Hole restaurant, we are part of the “farm-to-table” movement, and because of my mother I never feel out-of-place when I visit the farms from which we source our incredible pea-green sprouts, our arugula and our fresh hot peppers.  It’s not too late for you to learn all about your local farmer; if you visit Cape Cod, the Coonamessett Farm right here in Falmouth is a great place to start.

Don’t Hold a Grudge.  You are the sum of your grudges, and they will only bring despair and unhappiness.  In kindergarten, the children were brought together, each holding my mother’s hand, crying and shouting at each other until they fully vented their feelings.  There may be no real resolution to their real feelings of hurt and betrayal, but waiting until they express, apologize (sometimes:) and it blows over kept the whole classroom open, vibrant and warm.  How great would it be if we could still do this as adults?  But the conventions of society shackle us in this effort, so take this to heart — work hard on your own feelings to air and move on from petty grievances with employees, customers and your competitors.  It leaves so much more open space for happiness, clear thinking and good work.  The benefits will be felt by all, but mostly by you.

My debt to my incredible mother inspired this, and I hope she will not mind my posting the lovely photo I took of her this weekend.  And now a few shots of Woods Hole, some from the walk we took on Sunday and others on my peregrinations later in the week…

Martha's Vineyard ferry passes Nobska Beach in winter.Ferry crossing from Martha’s Vineyard back to Woods Hole, as seen off of a wintery Nobska Beach…

One of my favorite houses on Gosnold Road.A wonderful house out on Bar Neck Road where it meets Gosnold.  Love the Cape light on broad shingles…

One of my favorite houses on Church Street, all decked out for Christmas.

One of my favorite houses in Woods Hole, on Church Street, still all decked out for Christmas…Lonely bike on the edge of the Eel Pond in Woods Hole. A lonely bike waiting in the edge of the Eel Pond reminds me of Ireland.

I never thought I would finish this blog post, but I used my mother’s advice, applied steady pressure, and look at me now!

Things Are Coming Together

February 20th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Low tide in February on Cape Cod.

The winter has been unseasonably warm, with Quahog diggers out on the mud flats at low tide in the middle of February.  They scatter over the landscape, the afternoon light low on the horizon and it looks like a scene from the Breugel-era, all hand tools, muscle and community.  This warm weather is great for long walks, photographing and construction projects.  As you know from this blog, I am deeply embroiled in all three, so this continuing good weather is particularly appreciated.

Construction progress is good, and we are on schedule to re-open the main floor of the Woods Hole Inn in April and the new rooms in May.  The new rooms are really shaping up — tile went into the bathrooms last week, and the floors were sanded over the weekend so that the vintage tubs can travel up from New Bedford mid-week and find their new homes on shiny wooden floors.

Doors went in this week, decks are finished, and carpenters are working on the trim around the door frames.  The painters were there all last week, priming the walls.  They will be back next week for a finish coat.

On the third floor, we have been delayed by the insulation sub-contractor, who is supposed to blow this open-cell foam around the edges of the building sealing everything up like a styrofoam cup.  I guess he is busy which is great for him, not so great for us.  Fingers crossed on this one.

Here are some progress photos:

Doors ready for installation…

Marble bath under construction at the Woods Hole Inn.Marble tile shower completed…

Deck under construction at the Woods Hole Inn.Decks finished and waiting for their railings…

Open cell foam insulation on the top floor of the Woods Hole Inn, under construction.Foam blown into most places, but not complete yet…and no drywall until this is finished.

Rooms primed and ready for window trim.New inn rooms primed and ready for window trim…much of which was salvaged as we opened the place up in the fall.

So as I take my walks in this unseasonably warm winter, I am gratified by the pace of hard work happening at the Inn.  Next winter, these rooms will be full of people taking winter walks and enjoying these incredible sunsets:

Walking the Knob in Quissett at sunset.Walking the “Knob” in Quissett this week …

Penzance Point and Uncatena Island as the sun sets over the water on Cape Cod.and last light settling over Uncatena Island from Penzance Point last week.  I look forward to that!

A Walk in Beebe Woods

February 12th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Walking the Cape Cod woods in winter is a special treat, especially after a light dusting of snow. The jewel in Falmouth’s crown of conservation land is a 300+ acre property called Beebe Woods, which astounds the visitor with ponds, paths, ridges, hidden stone walls and wildlife.  I wandered there for several hours yesterday, seeing few other people and enjoying the way the new snow makes the woods come alive with color.

Despite the low cloud cover, everything was aglow — the rusty colored pine needles lining the paths, dark roots growing over lichen covered rocks, sand pocked with footprints from deer and coyotes, slippery patches of swamp-mud and the flat black surface of the icy ponds.  We spent two hours exploring and never crossed our own path — from Ter Heune Drive (near the hospital) clear across to Peterson Farm with its wide open meadows, from a high ridge path fit for mountain goats to the edge of Ice House pond near Sippewissett Road and the perimeter of the Punch Bowl, another incredible kettle hole pond.

This refuge, a sanctuary in the Walden Pond vernacular, is an incredible asset to the town of Falmouth and it’s many visitors.  Here, you can visit the high church of nature and commune on your own with a spirituality that soars through the high tree cover like a red-tailed hawk hunting voles (which you may well see on your journey).  Moving though this landscape in silence — listening to the crunch of boots on thin snow, scanning the hilltops for deer or fox — erases your everyday woes, De-fragging the hard-drive of your barnacle-crusted brain.

Tracing the old stone walls, green with lichen and frosted with snow, made me think of the early settlers who spent decades hand-digging rocks from the sandy soil and marking the boundaries of their primitive homesteads.  How must they have felt, looking at these hard-earned walls?

Here are a few things I saw along the way:

Peterson Farm, birdhouse, winterBird houses covered with lichen…

Lichen covered stone wall in snow, New England.Old stone walls nestled between decades of un-raked leaves and fallen limbs…

walking on Cape Cod in winterSandy soil paths, roots exposed when worn by thousands of walking visitors like me…

Falmouth Mass, walking in winter, snowThe icy black water of the Punch Bowl… no swimming today.

For a map and more information about this astounding resource, read more about the 300 Committee here.  Without the vision and generosity of a few local leaders, this land would have been developed into cul-de-sacs with matching mailboxes and over 500 cookie-cutter homes.   Forever insuring that this land is available for wildlife and the appreciation of nature, the 300 Committee is to be commended for all their efforts — my appreciative donation is in the mail.  And I encourage all visitors to the Woods Hole Inn to explore this unique spot in any season.   Ask us for the map at the front desk.

Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest 2012

January 24th, 2012 by Beth Colt

The Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest is coming up this weekend, on Saturday January 28th in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.

I blogged a lot about this last year so look here OR here for more photos and information about my experience at the 2011 version.

FAQ’s about Chilifest -

How do I get tickets?  This is hard but not impossible.  You could have mailed a request to WMVY but that is sold out now.  Here is what the MVY Radio website has to say about it today:

Tickets are on sale now at Shirley’s True Value Hardware in Vineyard Haven, Trader Fred’s in Edgartown and they go on sale at The Courtyard in Cataumet on Wednesday, January 25th at 6pm.  A limited number of tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event.

How much are they?  Tickets are $30. Limit of 4 tickets per person.

How do I get there?  Steamship Authority from Woods Hole.  See the schedule here.

Who is playing this year? This according to the MVYRadio website:

Under  the tent
12n-1pm Mexico Lindo
1pm-2pm Entrain
2pm-2:45pm Mexico Lindo
3pm Awards
4pm-6pm Entrain

Inside in the New Bar
12-4  Syndicate
4-6.30 DJ Alvzie

Will I have fun?  Oh yeah.

What about the chili?  Lots to pick from, all free once you are inside.  Well worth the trip.

Where can I spend the night in Falmouth?  Usually I would say the Woods Hole Inn but we are closed for renovations.  Try the Palmer House in Falmouth, the Holiday Inn in Falmouth or Inn on the Square in Falmouth if you decide driving post the Chilifest is not a great idea.

Good luck and tell me how it went!

Snow Day in Woods Hole

January 22nd, 2012 by Beth Colt

Snow on the beach near Penzance in Woods Hole MA

Even though it’s Sunday, I feel like today is a real snow day here in Woods Hole.  I mean who can pay bills or even watch football (OK, maybe by late in the day football is OK) when it looks like this outside?

My photo essay on the January 21, 2012 snow storm:

Woods Hole MADusk last night as I walked to the Captain Kidd for a lovely private party.

Captain Kidd in Woods Hole MAI appreciate that the Captain Kidd stays open in the winter, even if it’s only on the weekends…

Gardiner Road in Woods HoleA lone snowplow clears the MBL lot as dusk falls over Woods Hole the evening of the storm.

Woods Hole porch in winterThe next morning, the light was a bit flat but I found some interesting stuff anyway.

Light over the Eel Pond in Woods Hole, winter 2012I love the moment when the sky opens up just a tad and lets that amazing reflection through…

Landfall in Woods Hole…and the colorful buoys at the front of the Landfall Restaurant, closed now for the season, come alive in the snow.

WHOI research vessel in port Woods HoleA research vessel gleams on the ink black sea.

View of the Eel Pond, winter 2012The Eel Pond glistens, so quiet in the early morning air that you can hear the shush of the beach from here.

Bank of Woods Hole in snow.Ribbons and greenery, announcing our village’s name at the top of Water Street.

Woods Hole Inn in winterThe venerable  Woods Hole Inn, looking stately and a bit half-dressed while under-construction in the snow.

The Spenser Baird house on the corner of Gardiner Road, hydrangeas dormant and lights off.

A rustic cottage closed up and lonely looking out over Buzzards Bay …

and the house with sporty turquoise trim nestled in by the Eel Pond .

If you enjoyed this, I urge you to subscribe to my blog (see RSS Feed button at the top right of the page), and become a fan of the Woods Hole Inn on Facebook for daily pictures and updates from our little village at the edge of the world. If you feel there are other people who love Woods Hole who might also enjoy this, I urge you to mail them a link, or share the page with your friends on Facebook.

I really appreciate your help reaching a wider audience.

The Journey is Half the Fun

January 19th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Vintage restored bathtubs headed soon to the Woods Hole Inn.

Figuring out how to restore stuff from a creaky old house is complicated.  Who can bring these aging beauties back to life?  Where do you have to go to find old-world craftsmen?  Who cares about worn and antique stuff anymore?

I am headed down to New Bedford to the workshop of the “Tub Doctor” this week.  For $500, the doctor will re-porcelain your worn cast iron tub, and sandblast the exterior to ready it for paint of any color.  He is a colorful fellow, the Tub Doctor, and you will learn all about his life when you visit him.  He prefers black feet on the tub to chrome, he wishes that women were more faithful, and he is looking for investors in a new business idea that will double your money in less than three months.  I am resisting calling his eccentric conversation style over-sharing…. how about peppered with interesting and specific information.

Just finding the studio is intense.  Imagine a series of abandoned brick factory buildings, sprawling over acres of empty asphalt behind chain link and razor wire with an old wooden door that might be in a travel blog about Moldova or Croatia.

The workshop is set in the middle of the largely-abandoned mill compound, and this section is littered with debris, broken tile, odd concrete.  When they say New Bedford never recovered from the collapse of the Industrial Revolution, they are talking about places like this.

On the inside, vast chambers disappear as far as the eye can see and you can feel the spirit of the mill girls from the 1890′s, giggling and laughing at their sewing tables, even in today’s dank and empty silence.

Once you get into the  Tub Doctor’s lair the heat is on, a radio plays and the smell of cigarettes mixed with paint fumes makes you feel like you are back in the 21st century.  The Doctor is friendly and chatty, telling me about his baby, his son’s landlord and the price of the lunch he plans to eat later today.

We debate the cast iron tub feet and I defer to his taste about the chrome  — never looks good,  he tells me,  chrome paint just looks like chrome paint.  I like how the feet look like chess pieces, pawns clustered in a corner for safety.  Maybe the ghostly mill girls play with them after dark, I think to myself.

I pay him cheerily, genuinely happy to have stumbled upon this odd corner of the world.  I look forward to seeing him again when he delivers the final product to the Woods Hole Inn in a month or so. I drive out of the compound, back in the sharp winter sunshine, and smile.

You can find the old tubs plus the Tub Doctor yourself by calling New England Demo and Storage.   Leave a little extra time for the stories, because let’s face it … the journey is half the fun.

You Get What You Pay For

January 17th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Winds blew hard from the north last week, bringing the cold down from Canada.

The winds blew so hard on Friday that I had to lean into the railing of the Woods Hole drawbridge as I took this photograph looking out towards Martha’s Vineyard.  By the weekend, the bitter Canadian winter had settled over our little village and I worried about pipes freezing on the construction site, not to mention my cheeks as I took my afternoon walks.

But that did not slow the pace of renovations at the Woods Hole Inn.  Oh no, we have our eye on the proverbial prize as reservations are rolling in for summer and beyond (book now if you want to be sure and get in summer 2012) .

The place is swarming on the inside with people.  One of the things you learn quickly as you renovate an old property is that the stuff required to make it “new” again is pretty high tech, read expensive.  I walk around the site and I see dollar signs:  ruby-red foam insulation, diamond-encrusted lighting and platinum sprinkler pipes.   Even the pipe fittings glitter in the sun like precious jewels.

One notable change is that in past winters when the wind howled (over 50 MPH this weekend I heard), the old Woods Hole Inn groaned and creaked, shuddering with the big blasts and swaying like a salsa dancer in the smaller gusts.

But up on the top floor on Friday,  I was struck by the stillness of new windows, and the hush of firm framing.   All those new connections — the spider web of wood and joinery which will be hidden by plaster  — makes the building sturdier.  As sad as I was to see the old lathe walls in dumpsters, this new development reminds me that a renovation of this magnitude will help the building survive another 130 years, well beyond my lifetime.

Ruby red insulation…

low-voltage, recessed lighting …

light fixtures going in

sprinkler pipe coated with platinum ….

and all the trimmings for sprinkler installation…

The parts that people can actually see look good too, all closed up from the winter winds with nothing needed but a coat of paint:

Which leaves me with this parting thought:  You get what you pay for.

High School Dating…

December 29th, 2011 by Beth Colt

Construction blogging is like high school dating.  You flirt, you kiss for the first time, and then all of a sudden you have nothing to say to each other.  Yes, hard to imagine but I have run out of clever things to say about wood framing, Marvin windows and drywall.

In truth, quite a bit of drama unfurled at the Woods Hole Inn as we hurdled towards 2012.  But I can’t really go into it in any detail without hurting feelings or pissing people off.  There was the fight over an 8 foot hole in the roof (abated), the struggles with NStar (we gave up), the drama of the chimney flues (unnecessary) and the saga of crumbling masonry (ongoing).  There were highs and lows, and suffice it to say that so far, the highs have it. Could I really ask for more than that?

The sub trades came and went.  I met with the contractor and architect weekly.  The bills came monthly and I kept a difibrulator in the office in case of heart attack.  (Wow, stuff is expensive on Cape Cod! )  The bank visited to be sure we are actually spending the money they lend us for the building.  There are cautionary tales told, about borrowers who bough Ferrari’s instead (hmmm) and people over 90 days in default (oooh, that sounds uncomfortable).

But we plowed onward.  The wind blew yesterday, too hard for the roofers which was a disappointment as it was otherwise fortuitous :  clear, dry and not too cold.  We are gunning for the “rough framing, plumbing and electric inspection,”  the first big step toward completion.  After we pass that, then we can insulate, sprinkler and drywall.   It’s all downhill from there with finish carpentry, painting and decorating.  Sounds easy, huh.   And here is what you came for, the photos of progress and action as of late December 2012:

Construction at the Woods Hole Inn, December 2011

We struggled with Marvin Windows as their lead time is much longer than other companies, and they are pricey.  But they look really nice once installed.  If they last a nice long time in the salt spray, I will be happy.  Call me in fifteen years.

Woods Hole Inn windows installed, December 2011

And the views through those windows.   Wow…

View from the Woods Hole Inn as the ferry lands on a windy December day.By late afternoon yesterday the wind was howling and it was clear why the roofers decided to wait a day as this ferry was swept sideways trying to get into it’s slip.

Woods Hole Inn December 2011Taken from the street on Christmas Eve, here is the Woods Hole Inn in late afternoon light.

Thanks for following along and see you all this summer…

Tools of the Trades

December 11th, 2011 by Beth Colt

There are some weeks when being the innkeeper at the Woods Hole Inn does not feel like work, when I look out at the view over the water and just have to pinch myself.

This was one of those weeks.  The new exterior stairs were completed, and I now have an easy way to walk up and gander at this view whenever I feel like it.  If only I had the time…

The crew works relentlessly onward, and the plumbers and electricians are getting the rough work in pronto.  A mason comes next week to repair the chimney, and then the roof will be re-done, removing three old layers of roofing and putting a fresh new one down.  Hopefully that means the leaks will stop for a while, although with an old house like this one you never know.

I am in love with the artistry in the tools that are used, the colors and the shapes.  Here is a photo essay on what I see:

Saws with long cords that cast shadows in the afternoon sun….

Electrical wiring coiled like a snake with a blue metal hue…

Sawhorses occupying hallways with dignity….

Tool belts with worn buckles tossed to the floor during coffee breaks….

Saws with bright red handles, dressed up like a miniskirt on a pretty girl…

And most importantly, the men who use these tools deftly, with confidence, putting an elaborate jigsaw puzzle together board by board.  They consult the plans that are staple-gunned to a piece of plywood on the wall, but more importantly, they use their experience to make the building whole again.  I am so appreciative of the care with which these dedicated individuals work each day.  It is only because of their focus and determination that the Woods Hole Inn will all come back together again, better than before.

The Second Dormer

December 2nd, 2011 by Beth Colt

As the walls come down at the Woods Hole Inn, new bright lumber is installed next to the aged, dark timbers of 140 years ago — marrying the old with the new.  Vintage, restored.

This week, they ripped the second dormer off the top of the building.  I always knew these roofs would need to be re-built (as the structure was compromised years ago with the addition of shed roofs improperly installed) but I will admit that when I approved of that concept, I never imagined that the whole thing would come off and look open to the sky like this.  It is exciting to watch, and makes one think (briefly) of making it a solarium with a glass roof.  And from so high up over the harbor, you really feel like one of the seagulls circling the ferry for scraps.

The feeling of flying is augmented by the steady breeze off the water, and significantly more pleasant on warmer sunny days like this one.  The crew looks frequently at the weather forecast, because rain at this delicate juncture would be a disaster for the rooms below.  But, knock wood, very sunny all this week with hopes that this will be closed up tight in three days.

I went to visit my next door neighbor Joyce yesterday, to say hello and make sure she was alright with the proximity of all the banging and hammering.  She has run the shop next door “Under the Sun” for decades and she lives above it, making most of what she sells in her fabulous workshop filled with lamp shades in progress, metal wire for jewelry making, wool for felting, paints for water coloring and so much more!  She bought the property in the 1960s from the McLean family who also owned the Woods Hole Inn at that time.

She said she loved the radio and the sound of the crew singing along (we have one particularly loud crooner on site).  She said the sound of those hammers was music to her ears: “I have been waiting for this for thirty years!”   She is excited to see what it will all look like when it’s done.  Me too!

More photos of progress this week:

And so we continue!  To remain sane, I enjoy walks at dusk around Woods Hole with my family.  The photo at the top is a panorama shot on Penzance Point where stately houses line the harbor looking out toward Martha’s Vineyard.  Divine at dusk.

Found Objects

December 1st, 2011 by Beth Colt

Glowery day at the WH drawbridge in late November, 2011

I have been thinking quite a bit about the people who built the Woods Hole Inn back in the 1870′s.  They looked out over the same harbor, probably more big ships in it than now, but for sure ferry service plying Vineyard Sound in the same brisk and predictable fashion.  Like us, I imagine that they were happy with the way fall seems to never end on Cape Cod, enjoying the brisk wind that whistles up past the inn on sunny days and bemoaning the rain when it slowed them down.   Only about 140 years ago, these guys worked entirely with hand-tools — the grandparents of our grandparents.

So the renovation of the top two floors of the Woods Hole Inn moves relentlessly onward.  With each passing day, with every dormer rebuilt or ceiling gutted, we find clues about the people who came before us, the hardy souls who also lived here on the edge of the world.

Yesterday, a shingle was discovered.  Every chance this would have been tossed without a glance, but Bruce (one of the framing crew) noticed and nabbed it before it went to the dumpster.  Since we have no idea the exact year the building was built, this is a pretty huge clue — hard to imagine they would have re-shingled so soon, so I am going to guess August 11, 1887 is the completion date.

Shingle from restoration of the Woods Hole Inn.

I can’t wait to show this to my new friends at the Woods Hole Museum.  Other treasures emerged in the last few weeks.  One is a large piece of upholstered furniture, maybe the side of a chaise someone planned to repair?  I need to share this with Skinner to see if it has any “significance” then decide what the heck to do with it!

I particularly like this letter, part of it devoured by a nineteenth century mouse.  From what I can make out it is a super top secret, highly confidential sales pitch from a pencil vendor offering pencils at an excellent price — The Long Pencil Company of Chicago Illinois writing to Mr. Briggs (a former owner), dated September 11, 1894.  Long before email and Google Ad Words…

Another interesting scrap of newspaper was salvageable and dates from the Boston Globe in the late 1800′s:

And another interesting fragment — and we found many of these in the rafters along with the strong smell of fish as the wood was cut out:

I love that mackerel is a specialty and my clever friend Nick made me laugh by suggesting that “Stillman was easier to deal with than Griffin.”  I suspect the third floor of the inn may have been used by a wholesaler of salt-fish and he kept his labels in the attic.  He may even have stored or cured fish up there, as the smell was really strong when the beams were cut out.

And so the clues leave us with more questions than answers, but they are fascinating.  All of the building crew — from the plumber to the electrician to the framers — have gotten into the hunt.  I will let you know if we find more, and you can come next summer to see the highlights on display in the lobby of the Inn.  Here is the whole letter, in closing, in case you can make out more of it than I could.  Perhaps someone more accustomed to this old style of writing could write a translation into the comments?

Letter from pencil company 1894.

The Roof Comes Off…

November 21st, 2011 by Beth Colt

Work continues at the Inn at a breakneck pace, as both my contractor and I are eager to get the place sealed up before the real cold socks in.  The Marvin custom windows take longer than you might think  — now they are saying early December.  Ergh.  But everything else seems to be going well, knock wood.  The weather has obliged, it is still a balmy 50 degrees in the daytime here.  Days are getting shorter and work starts early and finishes at dusk.

The views from the upper floors continue to astound me.  Last week the floors were still open allowing a two story view of the place:

Then in an instant (it seemed) down went the third floor, plus new stairs were installed.  I wasn’t keen on balancing the rafters like the boys, but now I can walk up there.  The structural engineer came by and liked the solid feeling that comes from all this re-enforcement.  “Stiff” he called it, while bouncing a bit on the new plywood.  I guess that’s good.

Today was a bit of a shocker as I arrived mid-morning to the roof open to the sky.   The front dormers had shed roofs added incorrectly decades ago.  No wonder the windows eventually blew out — the structure was totally compromised by hacking the roof rafters.  It had to be completely rebuilt to come up to code.  I guess the good news is that despite the expense, this part of the building will be like new.   OK, not just like new.  Actually ALL new.

It was a bit glower-y and at one point it started to sprinkle, but thankfully the weather report was accurate and there was no real rain.  By late in the afternoon, thanks to a hard-working framing crew, the roof was starting to come back together.  I love the way these guys work in concert, moving around and cooperating with so much grace.  I guess they study the architectural drawings the night before so that there is no time wasted on site.  They have a plan.  Best of all, they seem to always be smiling.  There is a joy in the work, singing and laughing.  I can feel it in the finished product.

And while our crew scurried around on our  little ant-hill, the ferries came and went carrying people to the Vineyard, many of whom didn’t notice that say, the roof is gone from that building over there.  Across the street at the coffee shop, they were serving lattes to customers who heard a bang but had no idea that a room up there was totally exposed to the harbor.   In the laboratories of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (aka “WHOI”) right next door, same thing.  Even my husband, back at his desk, totally unaware.  We are all in our own little worlds… Micro-climates…  Fishbowls…

This blog is about me sharing my small fishbowl with you:)  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your weekend be filled with the joy of a new roof successfully installed on a New England fall day.

Devil in the Details

November 2nd, 2011 by Beth Colt

What does “vintage” mean to you? And how do you renovate an old building without losing it’s soul?

The devil is in the details.

My goal in this renovation of the Woods Hole Inn is to dance on the fine line of “new-ish” — by which I mean modern, comfortable, functioning — without losing the soul.  As they tear out the horsehair plaster, am I robbing the building of something precious and irreplaceable?  Modernity (i.e. new bathrooms, electrical outlets that work without burning the place down and other small details like that) can not be achieved without some demolition.  But how much is enough?  And will next year’s guests appreciate it?

Honoring the small design details is important to me; check out this bulls eye door trim which I am fighting to keep upstairs.  Even an exact copy of this will never look the same as this original with it’s 20 coats of paint, each one a badge of honor in a long and useful life.

cape cod vacations, restoring old homes

Or how about this incredible floor in the front living room of the Inn.  People come into the inn, regularly, and ask me how I got this “effect”   …Ummm, let’s see.  Start with original growth hardwood, cut up on the hill right here and planed in a sawmill.  Paint it four or five times over the course of a century, walk on it a lot preferably with muddy quahog boots.  When you celebrate it’s 100th birthday, ask someone to sand it down but (this part is very important!) fire him about half way through the job.  Then, wait another 25 years, put one layer of polyurethane down, pour yourself a gin and tonic and enjoy.

These are the “vintage” parts of the inn that people come and admire. But not everything that I fight to save strikes a chord with guests.  Let me share a brief example with you.

I am a fan of old mirrors like the one in Room One (see below).   I very deliberately renovated around this, admiring the flowering mercury glass effect that is working it’s way up from the bottom.  For me, it is like a tangible reminder of many hot, sticky summer days where you throw yourself in the salt water for relief then come home for a nice cool shower before a dock-side dinner of ice-cold oysters, lobster claw drenched in salty butter, hot summer corn and hand-churned vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. This look only comes with years of exposure to salty ocean air.  It feels earned, like a stylish survivor.  When I look at myself in this aging mirror, I feel a bit like Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons, like I have a period costume on and my day will surely be filled with love letters.

vintage restored

Look closely on the bottom of the mirror to see the mark of the ocean air on this vintage mirror cabinet.

But some guests disagree.  One recently wrote a review on TripAdvisor specifically calling this detail out as something that she did NOT value.  She is not the first!  Others have mentioned to me that they specifically did not like this feeling of age on this particular mirror.  And when I look at it in that light I think, what am I crazy!  Rip it out!  Who cares about my own likes and dislikes if it keeps guests happy.

And it doesn’t stop there.  The judgement calls, they come up every day.  Should we leave the old brick fireplace exposed or cover it up?  Can the wide-board floors be repaired, new wood inserted where the walls once were so that you will see the old layout, the bones of the building preserved?  Or will that look like we simply cut corners?  If the window trim can be saved, should it be at the expense of less insulation in the walls?  What is more “green” – saving the trim or making sure the building is more heat efficient?  Wow!  These are hard questions!!

There is a fine line between vintage and just old.  I was grappling with this today as I walked home and I passed these two guys outside the Marine Biological Labs (“MBL”) scrubbing rust out of 1970′s era radiators.  Another fellow stepped outside just as I walked by and said with disdain, “They gave it away.”  And one of the seated guys said incredulously, “Gave it away! Why would anyone do that?”  I don’t even know what “it” is, but I feel their pain.

"Why would anyone do that?"

Woods Hole is a thrifty, Yankee place where scrubbing out rusty radiators is preferable to buying new, where lathe is left in walls and mirrors with water-damage are cherished, where even in cutting edge scientific institutions it is not abnormal to see two guys huddled in the lea of a November north wind cursing the fool who didn’t see the value in an old piece of metal.

I strive to bring this spirit to the restoration of the Inn without losing the modern vibe.  The push pull of old vs new, the constant barrage of questions about what to keep and what to toss, the thrill of the new space and the sorrow as they cart off the old is at the core of why I love my job.  I just don’t want to hear “Why would anyone do that?” come April.

So….What do YOU think I should do about the mirror in Room One?

Peeling an Onion

October 24th, 2011 by Beth Colt

Old lathe revealed as the plaster comes down to make way for a new interior layout at the Woods Hole Inn.

Week three of construction started today.  Our crew is still demolishing the interiors, literally peeling back the onion-like layers of time to reveal the bones of the house.  Our structural engineer Mark comes every so often to make sure the place is still standing.  Today he told me that the wood was in excellent condition, first cut hardwood like you can no longer buy.  Who ever built this did it the right way, he told me.  Seems a bit unseemly, but I will admit that I beamed with pride.  Like the mother of a newborn, projects feel like babies and no matter how ugly they may look, we love them.

I like to come stand in the barn-like space, gaping up two stories, ceiling and floor boards stripped away.  It looks like a SoHo loft, or the Parisian atelier of a famous designer.  Can’t we keep it just like this? I think.  And then I remember that there are not too many fashion designers looking for rental space in Woods Hole.  OK, I will stick with the plan and transform it into the weekend getaway FOR fashion designers…  Yes, yes, that is it.

Atelier or future inn?

The guys arrive at 7 am and they work with crowbars, sledgehammers, saws.  Masks are a must as the plaster dust swirls in the ocean breeze from open windows and wheelbarrows of debris head toward a revolving dumpster.  There is a majesty to the work, a pace respected to the minute.  Breaks are observed, meals shared, and “Lady on deck” shouted when I come close.  I secretly wonder what they are saying when I am not there, although they may not be able to hear each other much over the blasting radio and the thud of metal on horsehair plaster.  Underneath is the lathe, thin boards that were used before drywall to adhere the plaster to.  They are so beautiful, my heart aches as they are carted away.

Being in there now — views of the ocean everywhere you peek — feels like flying inside the bones of a huge feather-less bird.  There is a lightness — an airy feeling with the windows open, the roof space soaring two stories above you — that creates the sensation of flying.  Maybe it’s just me, as the project flies along, feeling suspended in time, searching for my place in the process.

I pace the dusty boards — this will be the bedroom, here is where the new window goes, oh you can see the ocean from here! — scheming and referencing the floorplans when I get confused.  I am desperate to make sure that when the dust settles, some of the majesty of the building itself, it’s strong bones and lithe walls, will still be evident.  Check back in to see future progress!

If These Walls Could Talk…

October 14th, 2011 by Beth Colt

These boots were made for walking...

This week, construction began on the new rooms at the Woods Hole Inn.  With a crew of five demolition experts, the walls came down on the top floor revealing the majesty of a high-ceilinged space with amazing light and great views…when you can see through the construction dust that is.

Franko and the boys arrived Tuesday with crowbars and mallets to pound it out.  Electricians stripped back the wires and a plumber came in to unhook the old claw foot tub.  We pulled as much moulding as we could so we can re-use it as we put the place back together again.

I snuck in the day before they arrived and took some “before” photos.  Inn guests happily ensconced in the lap of luxury two stories below would be shocked by the state of affairs up here.  The windows were blown out and boarded up after various storms years ago.  There was a rabbit warren of tiny rooms, accessed by a barn-like stairway.  One bath for maybe 10 cubby-sized spaces, some only big enough for a bed roll.

I have met a few people who lived up here summers in the 70s and earlier, but I don’t think it has been habitable for maybe thirty years now.   One former waitress at the Landfall told me she paid $25 per week.  Another former resident bragged that a lot of pot was smoked up here, back in the sixties when Woods Hole was a real hippie hang out.

The Woods Hole Inn was more flophouse than eco-destination at that point.  Summer college kids slummed it with the former chauffeurs of Penzance Point estates and other retired alcoholics.  One man told me his mother advised he run past the building, as there were often “unsavory characters” on the front stoop.

Here are a few photos of what it looked like just before the demo crew showed up:

Long narrow corridors painted brown!

Frescoes of peeling wallpaper.

Air conditioners marked "leaks" and an American Flag.

It’s was really hard to photograph because the rooms were small and dark.  We had already done some minor demo three years ago while renovating other parts of the building.  On top of that, it appears that the piles of old air conditioners were mating with the dusty artificial Christmas trees, or something like that.   That the debris was replicating in the dark is the only explanation I can come up for why the junk seemed to grow larger each time I ventured up.

But after three days with a sledgehammer, you could see the old lathe and look through walls to the windows beyond, Cape light streaming in and promising a better future.  Franko told me they had found some really old work boots (see above) and other debris — fell down from the ceilings he said.  A couple of really vintage brandy bottles, a pair of cotton spats with little hooks for covering the calves when riding (?), a tiny wooden sailboat-toy painted a matte blue,  a dusty old stuffed kitty long forgotten by it’s childish master.

Lathe walls revealed when the plaster comes off.

This window has been boarded up for over a decade.

Cape light turns ghostly with the walls all down...

I am working on an exhibit of artifacts to trace the history of the inn.  Any input from people who know more than I do would be greatly appreciated.  The final will be on display in the lobby next summer so come take a look.  And come back to this blog for more posts about our progress.  The expected completion is spring 2012 when the Inn will re-open with 14 new rooms and suites.  See you then!

Miniature Tugboats

September 28th, 2011 by Beth Colt

Late September is often cool and crisp, punctuated by the smell of woodsmoke as people start using their fireplaces to take the chill off rather than fire up the gas-burning boiler.   Grass mowing ends as the cool air ends the growing season and the tomato crop withers on the vine.

Not this year.

It has been hot, like middle-of-summer hot here for a week now.  Research vessels in to prep for peregrinations to southern climes are lingering to enjoy the fine weather.  Even the hard-working scientists are off early to go fishing or ride the bikepath.  I know the locals are into it because I see people sneeking off from work in their bathing suits, and heads bobbing way out in Buzzards Bay on long-distance swims.  In this calm, warm weather, why not?

I got out in my boat over the weekend, trudging across to Great Harbor with my oars, launching my tiny rowboat from the beach on Penzance and rowing out to my slightly bigger boat to go explore the Elizabeth Islands.  I brought a sweatshirt because you never know on the water but, wow, was that unnecessary!  It was so hot I was yearning to jump in by the time I had the engine fired up.

Woods Hole Great Harbor is filled with the most wonderful and eccentric boats.  I love this one, a tiny tug boat all made of well-polished wood from another era.  Not too practical, but adorable.

Clearly, I am a little obsessed with this vessel as I look through my photo-files for other shots of the harbor and find only more of the “Amycita.”  I don’t see her off the mooring often, but I do look forward to meeting her owners. Imagine a cruise over to Oak Bluffs (a great destination on Martha’s Vineyard)  in this stylish vessel!

And this is NOT the only miniature tug in our little harbor.  My friend Kimberly is lucky enough to have this wonderful boat, small as the smallest skiff but ooh, what style.  She was seen leaving work early yesterday madly texting to friends about a sunset tug cruise.  These are the perks of living so close to the water:)

So I guess this is what you would call Indian Summer.  Since my visit to Plimouth Plantation, I may need to re-name that Native People’s Summer.  Whatever you call it, it is something to be relished — summer weather long after is it expected to be gone is like a gift from the Gods (the Wampanoags called him/her “Moshop”).   Something to inspire us and help us prepare for the long winter ahead.

Off to swim!

Time Machine

September 13th, 2011 by Beth Colt

Plimouth Plantation.

In fall, the early settlers of the real Plimouth settlement would have been busy preparing for winter, digging root vegetables into cellars, salting fish caught in the remaining long days and checking the seams on their thatched roofs before the winter storms.   Today, a visit to the Plimouth Plantation (a recreated village replete with role playing settlers and native guides) is like a jaunt into another time, when a handful of brave souls clung to a stern version of Protestantism on the edge of a clear blue bay.

Wandering the paths of the faux settlement, you meet men and women who “live” there and who talk directly to you, answering questions simple and complex about their journey to the new world, their motivations and daily life.  The pastor told us all about the hardships, 12 years spent in Holland gathering funds followed by an epic sail across the Atlantic where nearly half the pilgrims died. He told us how they grew corn to trade with “Indians” who came from a northern place called “Maine.”   These native people, he explained, lived in a place with a short growing season and counted on trade of furs for corn to make it through the winter.  The furs were valuable back in England, so the Pilgrims traded them for olive oil, salt, gunpowder and many other staples that they did not have in the new world.

We explored the little clapboard houses inside and out.  I was especially taken with a lovely garden, filled with rhubarb and chard and the old fashioned split rail fencing that kept a big black cow grazing in a meadow nearby. It is hard to imagine the isolation of this little community perched on the edge of such a vast wilderness, so separate from their own culture.  Many could not handle it and returned to England, we were told.  Others were seditious and banished from the community.  With so few people, it is no wonder petty issues had the possibility to become major problems.

The occupant of this little house was a feisty lass who told us about pub life in England and all the sacrifice she had made to come to the new world.  Her authentic dirt floor, open hearth and simple wooden furniture made for a setting that Vermeer would have painted, and I was pleased how the iPhone captured the limited light from a small window:

Up at the top of the hill is a meeting hall, a church I guess, with a gorgeous view out over Plymouth Bay and the lighthouse in the distance.  Built with cannon on the top, it is a fitting metaphor for the fire and brimstone church style of the rigid Pilgrims. This young woman told us she had just been married and was hoping to have children soon, if the Lord saw fit:

Around the bend, Native Peoples dressed in period garb work and play in a series of tents.  The “winter house” of the Wampanoag looks like this:

Inside, a Wampanoag descendant sat on furs, weaving a colorful ribbon.  The Native Peoples do not role play; rather they describe native lifestyles and culture when asked.   There is a sign on the way in reminding visitors to be respectful.  Some of the suggestions were so obvious as to be insulting (don’t “war whoop” or call someone “chief” or “squaw” — I mean please, who would do that?)  But others are more subtle, for example, don’t ask what percentage native the people you see here are.  OK, that’s fair.

We learned that Wampanoags spoke an Algonquin language that had common roots for all Native Peoples on the eastern seaboard.  That they had a varied diet of meat in winter, fish in summer plus corn and many other vegetables both cultivated and gathered.  That they made canoes from hollowed out tree trunks and larger vessels with pontoons that they used to catch whales off the tip of Cape Cod.  Once captured, they would plug the blowhole of the whale and the whale would swell with air so they could drag it inland.

We learned that they lived in a simpler structure in summer, usually close to water they could fish but come winter they moved inland 10 miles or so to larger structures covered with bark.  Around the outside of the tent were beds made of saplings lashed together and covered with many layers of fur.  Whole families lived together this way, with a cook fire in the middle and a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.

Fall is the perfect time to step back in time and spend a few hours in the 17th century.  Plimouth Plantation is about a forty minute drive from Woods Hole, and offers fun for the whole family.

All About Irene

August 30th, 2011 by Beth Colt

View from the second floor of the Inn, looking toward Juniper Point in the rainiest part of the storm.

Sunday is already a bit of a blur for me.  Mix exhaustion with adrenaline and too much caffeine and you get a solid forget-me drug.  I know I made it to the Inn to help with breakfast and there was a large crowd there enjoying the meal after several successful weddings (yes, we had guests with us attending THREE different Woods Hole affairs).

It was rainy, grey, still so very hot the air thick like in a movie but everything seemed normal — hot coffee flowing, baked goods fresh from the oven, halogen cutting the flat grey from outside.    Then the electricity flickered and died.  Wow, everyone could use a little makeup in the light of those camping lanterns.

By late morning, the wind was really howling, screaming into Woods Hole’s Great Harbor and the tide was high, lapping at the tops of the docks.  The Martha’s Vineyard ferries were bobbing visibly on the piers outside our windows.  Salt spray was washing over the building, covering the plants whipping in the 40-50 MPH winds.

Inside, many went back to bed, lulled to sleep by the roar of the winds and the dark light.  A group from one of the weddings gathered to watch a ten-month old baby crawl across the king size bed.  Little Susannah was adorable but I bet if the TV had been on with weather news, that would never have happened.  Someone broke out the Jenga and played a few distracted rounds before moving back to the hot tea and cookies.  Even the Sunday New York Times held little appeal — it was yesterday’s news and we were in the middle of the story of the week.  There really was nothing to do but wait it out.

By mid afternoon, it seemed to be tapering a bit.  It never hit the intensity of my memory of Hurricane Bob where the scream of the wind put your teeth on edge and the curvature of the glass windows threatened to bring the storm inside.  It didn’t rain a lot, which is a blessing as I watched roof tile whip past me to the street half the morning.  For us, several hundred miles from the eye, Irene was downgraded to a “tropical storm” and she was an entertaining but well-behaved actress, like a burlesque dancer from the roaring 1920′s (Irene) compared to a stripper on the “Sopranos.” (a stripper named Bob?  I guess on the Sopranos…)

I wandered out in the car.   The surf on Nobska Beach was intense, really churning in a way that we never see in Vineyard Sound (protected from the prevailing winds by Martha’s Vineyard.)  There was this bright yellow foam whipping off the top of the waves and oozing over the road in strips.  I heard that Surf Drive was impassable, covered with drifts of sand and seawater.  When I ventured from the car I felt small and vulnerable, the sound of the wind an overwhelming roar, and I struggled to keep my balance.

Crazy people frolic in the dangerous surf of Irene.

On the way home, I saw a power line bucking and sparking by the Sands of Time.  I later heard that when NStar tried to put our grid back online there was an explosion in a local house, burning it to the ground.  Terrible.  I hurried home, made a light dinner and collapsed.

Then it was just over.  A gorgeous day today, sunny and cool, the taste of fall in the air.  Except for the downed branches and the unusual smell of fresh green crushed leaves, you would never know there had been a storm.  The ducks were out on their favorite little dock, the only difference that a summer’s worth of duck poop was miraculously gone, fresh scrubbed, as if it was made new by some magic cobblers in the night.    I marveled at the small brown birds – so resilient! Where did they hide in all that wind?

Up way too early, I conquered the Inn’s generator system, managing to make warmish showers, hot coffee and freshly baked croissants with one plug and five gallons of gas.  I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with myself as mechanical tasks are amongst my most dreaded, and generally least successful.  Charlene took the sheets into Falmouth (can you say laundromat?) and Amanda and I cleaned rooms with brooms, dustpans and rags.  By three pm, we were still without power but miraculously ready to check in new guests.  We even managed a new batch of cookies.

When NStar showed up on the pole right outside the front door of the Inn I knew we were close.  Power was restored about 5.30 pm, my trusty generator put away for another day.  Irene was relatively sweet to us.  We we ready for worse, but so lucky we only got her simple side.  Our hearts go out to others out there not so lucky. We know first hand how scary it can be.  Now I hear there is a new tropical depression brewing out there…so we take our experience from this one and we wait for another battle.   Next time, less florescent camping lanterns and more battery operated candles!  I am gonna need that forgiving faux flicker to weather the next one.

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