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Seven Great Things to Do Around Buzzards Bay

July 17th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Guest Post from blogger Megan Jensen

My favorite part of being an intern here at the Woods Hole Inn is the opportunity it gives me to explore Woods Hole and Cape Cod. So when I found out part of my job was to take weekly driving tours and write about what I saw and did, I was ecstatic!

Last week I took my first driving tour along the coast from Woods Hole to the Bourne Bridge. I started at the Inn early in the morning on a hot and sunny day, and drove up along the coast to the Bourne Bridge. It’s a fun and easy drive, with lots of great places to stop, for both locals and those coming from out of town.

Here is what I saw, did, ate…and highly recommend.

1. Visit the Knob

Just a few minutes drive from the Woods Hole Inn, the Knob offers a great short walk and beautiful views of the water and harbor. There is free parking available near the knob, on Quissett Harbor Road. The path is easy to find and the small conserved forest offers two trails, both ending up at the end of the “knob.” I recommend taking the right hand path, it will take you through the forest and along the water – offering great views, sunshine and an optional stop at a small beach. At the end of the path are benches where you can sit, relax and look out onto the water.Image

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2. Stop and grab breakfast or lunch at the West Falmouth Market

As you continue your drive along the coast stop at West Falmouth Market for food, drinks and anything else you might need. When I got there it was nearly noon and very busy. They have a fresh deli – where you can choose one of their signature sandwiches or you can make your own. You can also order pizza to go. They have all the picnic essentials – coals for the grill, paper plates, and a good selection of beer. When I stopped I also grabbed a tempting looking muffin – all their bakery items are homemade each morning!

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3. If it’s a beach day head for Monument Beach

Driving along the coast I passed by popular beaches with steep parking signs (20 -30$) and crowed shorelines. While Chapoquoit and Old Silver are great beaches, I recommend continuing north into Bourne and stopping at Monument Beach. When driving north it will be on your left, and can be easy to miss. Parking is free along the side of the road, and the beach is just across the railroad tracks. There is parking if you have a beach sticker, and there are also public restrooms and an outdoor shower. I loved swimming in the peaceful harbor, and the beach is great for all ages!

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4. If it’s not a beach day stop and explore the Little Bay Walking Trails

These walking trails are a great way to spend an afternoon. Found alongside Shore Road in Bourne (before you get to the beach) there is a small area to park your car and take a walk in the woods. There is a map located at the beginning of the trails.

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5. Grab dinner at the Lobster Trap

Only one mile north of Monument Beach this restaurant is a great place to eat after a day at the beach. Lots of parking and indoor and outdoor seating – this casual seafood restaurant has something for everyone. Next door to the restaurant is a fresh seafood shop where you also have the option of buying your own food and cooking it at home, or at the beach. I got a stuffed Quahog to go, and am in love. Being from the Midwest I’ve never tried this before and loved eating my meal off of a shell.

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6. Drive across the Bourne Bridge

The last destination on my drive was to drive across the Bourne Bridge. I’ve always thought it was fun to drive across bridges (maybe a Minnesota thing?) and this one is really great. The bridge is huge and the views of the Cape Cod Canal are awesome. I also love driving back onto the cape and seeing the “Cape Cod” bushes welcoming me!

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7. On the way home stop for ice cream at Somerset Creamery

This can be done at anytime during the drive. Located in Cataumet off of Route 28A, this is a good stop on your way out or back home. The ice cream is delicious and there are a ton of flavors to choose from. I opted for the waffle cone (they are homemade and have ingenious no-drip bottoms) with ginger flavored ice cream.

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This was a great drive and can take as little or long as you would like. I suggest following the coastal roads for a better view and more places to stop along the way. Route 28A is a quick alternative however, and each stop is easy to navigate to from the main road.

This is the route I took Woods Hole Inn to Bourne Bridge.

A Cape Cod Summer

July 11th, 2012 by Beth Colt

from Guest Blogger  Megan Jensen

Loving my summer in Woods Hole...

Every summer prior to this one has been a Midwest summer – long days filled with senseless humidity, mosquitos, lakeside bar-b-cues, and countless county fairs.

When I loaded up my car three weeks ago and drove across the country from Minneapolis to Cape Cod I had no idea what to expect of the summer to come.

I’ve traveled all across the US, and having just returned from a year abroad in Denmark, I was excited to once again pack up my bags and explore somewhere new.

Being on the east coast and particularly the Cape has been very different, surprising and refreshing from what I grew up with.

When I had heard about this internship from former intern Caroline Matthews, who I met while studying PR and Design abroad in Copenhagen, I knew very little about Cape Cod. I imagined Woods Hole — which sounded like a storybook village — would be a quiet, sleepy town.

However, when I got to the Cape I knew I had made the right choice. Far from sleepy, Woods Hole is a busy place with plenty to do. Filled with restaurants, an active harbor and a friendly local community – Woods Hole knows how to keep you busy.

Most mornings I wake up early to the sounds of the ships in the harbor. Walk outside my front door and the ocean is there, the smell of the sea and a beautiful view of the water.

I’ve come to love Woods Hole and feel at home here – I can’t walk down Main Street or go out for dinner without running into someone I know.

I don’t miss being landlocked at all, and the beaches here are perfect for swimming day and night. When I’m not working, one of my favorite things is to hop on one of the inn’s beach cruisers and bike to nearby Nobska or Stoney beach or take a small cruise on the Shining Sea Bike Path.

I’m looking forward to what the rest of the summer will bring and hope to share some of my experiences, discoveries and “Midwest” take on the Cape with you.

Cape Cod getaways start in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Loving life and lobster barley-pops on the Fourth of July in Woods Hole.

Glamour and answering the phone are all in a days work for Megan Jensen, the Woods Hole Inn's summer intern.

All in a day’s work for Girl Friday Megan Jensen, behind the scenes at the Woods Hole Inn.

Woods Hole's Great Harbor, across the street from the Woods Hole Inn.

Fabulous Fourth of July

July 9th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Greatest parade on Cape Cod.

Fourth of July in Woods Hole is like marine biology Halloween — students from all the local laboratories pour into the streets dressed in patriotic costumes with a science theme.  This is your chance to see PhD graduate students clad in balloons, clustered like sporozites or bearded like “G-nomes.”

I love this parade with all it’s quirky glory.  Where else would you see blow-up Santa’s with “Year Round Jobs Wanted” signs walking next to the buxom “Brazen Belles,” a local burlesque show.

Lively entertainment in Woods Hole on Cape Cod.

Or the Ward family in an Italian surrey celebrating 55-years in Woods Hole?

Cape Cod family at the Fourth of July parade.

Even the sidelines are a visual treat, with freckle-faced little boys sucking bright red lobster barley pops and grandmothers sporting red, white and blue t-shirts and vigorously waving their flags?

Here are the photos that tell the whole tale, from the dancing lobsters to the vintage American flags.  All I missed was the water balloon fight at the end, where as I heard it told, a near-riot broke out and a local police officer called for backup after the science students continued peppering him with balloons and laughter.

Exploring the SEA

June 18th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Corwith Cramer open for tours in Woods Hole.

Yesterday, the Sea Education Association (SEA) opened the hatches to their primary Atlantic sailing vessel, the sturdy clipper ship Corwith Cramer, for an afternoon of guided visits.  Students and teachers were on board explaining the ship, their scientific mission, and the logistics of day-to-day life on a floating school.

SEA runs semester and summer learning excursions for high school and college age kids.  The group we met yesterday had spent five weeks in Woods Hole training and preparing, then the last six weeks sailing up the East Coast from St. Croix aboard this very ship.

Home port for the "Corwith Cramer" is Woods Hole.

The ship is a floating laboratory, replete with a science library, and lots of gear for water collection, monitoring and analysis.  Students had vacated the hold that morning, and will spend the next two weeks preparing research papers on the data collected in the cruise.

Since getting out on the water is one of the great perks of the marine scientist, you can imagine that there is a long list to berth/study on the Corwith Cramer, and I got the sense that the students were very serious in their pursuit of science.

Corwith Cramer below deck in Woods Hole.

Being in the hospitality business, I was curious about the sleeping arrangements…Let’s just say this is not a pillow top mattress!  But students said the narrow berths were very comfortable, especially when exhausted by a long day at sea.

Corwith Cramer, an SEA vessel, docked in Woods Hole.

Every young Jacques Cousteau dreams of life on the water, and these students get to live it, literally learning the ropes needed to hoist the full sails of the ship.  Students told us that while there is a motor, most of the journey is under sail, including maneuvers to collect water samples that involve jibing and going in irons.  Tricky stuff even for experienced sailors!

"Steer a course for others to follow"

It was a great afternoon on an incredible clear summer’s day, but I especially loved the school motto, emblazoned in brass on the helm:  “Steer a course for others to follow.”  Words to live by.

Landfall Restaurant and the rest of Woods Hole seen from the deck of the Corwith Cramer, Cape Cod summer.

It Takes a Village

June 17th, 2012 by Beth Colt

Puffy clouds on a cool June day in Woods Hole.

They say it takes a village.  And in the lovely town of Falmouth, Mass (where there are eight villages that make up the municipality), I would say it takes NINE.

Nine Bed & Breakfast’s that is.  All members of the Falmouth B&B Association.  Together we offer over 70 rooms with many styles and locations.  Want the beach?  Try Baileys, Inn on the Sound, or the Beach Rose.  Love being in the middle of town?  Well there are four great spots clustered around the Falmouth Green, walking distance to the shops, restaurants AND the beach.  Want a convenient way to take the Martha’s Vineyard ferry?  Try your options in Woods Hole… and the list goes on.

This august group came together last winter and decided to re-do our association’s website (check it out here!) AND add some video as part of the “Better Way to Stay” campaign.  Since I have some film experience, I was elected to usher the filmmakers around town.  And be the craft services team, and the first AD, and the production coordinator, and the still photographer… See unlike my former days in Hollywood, where a crew might be about 200 people, this was a lean, mean operation.

Our “guests” were wonderful local actors and all-around great people like Davidson Calfee,  Maura Aldrich, Jenn Perault, and Jared and Jennifer.  We were so grateful they donated their time to make this shoot a success.

Here are a few “behind the scenes” shots of the “making of” the Falmouth Better Way to Stay video!  And if you want to see more  of the “Better Way to Stay” campaign, look here.  Stay tuned as we wait for the final edited version that we hope you will help us share with the world.

Falmouth, and it’s nine bed and breakfasts, are FOR SURE, the smarter way to visit Cape Cod.

Jennifer of the Pink Polka Dot in Falmouth helps out by modeling for the Better Way to Stay campaign.Luke Stafford of Mondo Media is behind the camera, while Jared and Jennifer (owner of the “Pink Polka Dot” a Falmouth gift and wedding boutique) serve as our breakfast models at the newly renovated Captain’s Manor Inn.

Part of the Better Way to Stay PAII campaignMaura Aldrich and Davidson Calfee playing guests at the Palmer House, an original Queen Anne property with 17 rooms on the Falmouth Green.

Davidson Calfee and Jennifer Perrault framed in the window.Luke works deftly to get this romantic silhouette shot on the porch of Bailey’s by the Sea, a wonderful B&B right on the beach in Falmouth Heights.  Davidson Calfee and Jenn Perrault oblige with faux martini’s and a toast to the sunset.

Thanks to all who made this day happen.  Stay posted for the results.

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?

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