The Old Jail in Barnstable is a historic wooden jail, resembling a colonial domestic residence, which was built by order of the newly established Barnstable County, which separated from the Plymouth Colony on in 1685. It served as the Barnstable County jail from 1690 to 1820 and is the oldest extant wooden jail in the United States! By 1702, prisoners were being held in the jail while awaiting trial at the Court Sessions held in Barnstable. In 1716, the jail imprisoned Mehitable “Goody” Hallett, the lover of pirate Samuel Bellamy, later known as the Witch of Wellfleet, as well as the two survivors of Sam Bellamy’s flagship Whydah Gally which wrecked at Wellfleet, and the seven pirate survivors of his consort ship Mary Anne which wrecked ten miles south. The jail house is considered one of the most haunted in America, supposedly containing the spirits of these pirates and lost loves. The jail building was attached to a barn by the 19th century, when a new jail was constructed. This building was later removed from the barn and restored, and moved to the present site next to the old Customs House in 1968.
Barnstable County History
Barnstable Customs House – Coast Guard Heritage Museum // 1855
The former United States Customs House (now the Coast Guard Heritage Museum) in Barnstable is located at the eastern end of the village, and across the street from the Unitarian Church (featured previously). The building was constructed in 1855, likely under the supervision of Ammi B. Young, who was acting as the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. The Seventh Customs District was established by Congress in 1789, and encompassed Barnstable County except Falmouth, and it ranked fourth in revenue among the state’s customs districts. By 1850, 91,102 tons of materials had been reported through the district, so the need for a new customs house was clear. The Customs House is said to have been the first ‘fireproof’ building constructed on Cape Cod, in contrast to the traditional wood-frame and shingled dwellings found there. This district merged with Boston in 1913, and the building became a local Post Office until 1958. It was converted to a museum and named after Donald G. Trayser. It was renamed the Coast Guard Heritage Museum in 2005.
Reverend Joseph Green House // c.1725
In 1725, the second or eastern parish of Barnstable separated from the first (or west) and the congregation had a 25 year old pastor to lead them in Reverend Joseph Green. Joseph Green(e)(1701-1770) attended Harvard and trained in theology, graduating and accepting the call to lead a new congregation in Barnstable Village on Cape Cod. Green would must have had this house built around the time of his arrival, which was a modest, full-cape Georgian home. Reverend Green remained in his position until his death in 1770.
Hinckley-Crocker House // c.1827
In 1827, Isaiah Hinckley (1786-1880), a boatbuilder, purchased a pre-Revolutionary home built by Dr. Abner Hersey on Main Street in Barnstable Village. Hinckley, being a skilled tradesman, completely re-designed the house, creating the stunning Federal style manse we see today. It is likely that Hinckley used an architectural pattern book, like one of the many by Asher Benjamin, which provided plans and drawings for carpenters and other tradesmen to be able to build stunning homes and churches all over the country. In 1861, this estate passed to Captain Elijah Crocker, a sea captain who commanded the ship Akbar.
Unitarian Church of Barnstable // 1907
Early in the 17th century, the Rev. John Lothrop and his followers left England for these shores seeking religious independence. They settled first in Scituate and a few years later came to Barnstable, arriving in 1639. They constructed their first meetinghouse in 1646 on Coggins Pond, about a mile west of this church. Lothrop’s second dwelling in Barnstable is the current Public Library in town (featured previously). In the early 19th century there was considerable theological debate in the “churches of the standing order” in New England. Many churches actually split over this debate, the traditionalists becoming Congregationalists and the liberals becoming Unitarians. The Eastern Parish in town was thus occupied by the Unitarians. In 1836 the original meeting house was removed and a new, larger one was constructed. It was destroyed by fire in 1905, and planning began for a new church. The present edifice was dedicated in 1907, and was designed by architect Guy Lowell, the architect of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the New York County Courthouse. His traditional, Classical designs were featured in publications all over the country. This church in the Classical Revival style is one of the finest on Cape Cod.
Phinney-Pineo House // 1834
In 1832, Sylvanus B. Phinney purchased land on Main Street in Barnstable Village, building a home two years later. He never lived in the home and rented it to friends. The house was purchased in 1850 by 25-year-old Peter Pineo after he graduated from Harvard Medical College. During the Civil War, he worked with Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, and after the Civil War, in Hyannis, Pineo started a hospital for sick and disabled seamen. The home transferred hands many times throughout the remainder of the 19th and 20th centuries, with slight changes in almost its 200 year history. It has been owned by the Barnstable Historical Society since 2012.
Phinney-Bacon House // c.1807
This large, Federal period home in Barnstable Village was built around 1807 by Deacon Timothy Phinney (1746-1838), a merchant and member of the Whig Party as a State Senator and supporter of the Revolution. He lived into his nineties and fathered twelve children. The Phinney House was purchased by Daniel Carpenter Bacon, a prominent merchant who was born in Barnstable and went off to Boston in 1802 at 14 years old, to sail as a mate on William Sturgis’s ship Atahualpa. He was first mate on the Xenophon, and became its Captain in 1807. He later sailed on Theodore Lyman’s ship and distinguished himself in trade with China and in the Pacific Northwest fur trade, making his fortune. He retired from the seas and sold this house to his brother, Ebenezer Bacon, in 1837. Ebenezer worked locally as the second president of the Barnstable Savings Bank and as trustee of the Barnstable Academy. Upon his death, his widow Phoebe (1797-1882) inherited the house and lived there until her death with her three unmarried daughters. She left the house in her will to their three unmarried daughters, Louisa, Emily and Sarah, stating she knew the other seven children “would understand”. The home has been very well-preserved and is an excellent example of a Federal style mansion on the Cape.
Sturgis Library // 1644
The original section of this building was the second dwelling house of Rev. John Lothrop (1584-1653), one of the first European settlers who settled in present-day Barnstable in 1639. The oldest part of this structure, built in 1644 (yes you read that correctly), is possibly the oldest extant house in the Town of Barnstable. The home was constructed as 21 feet long and 29 feet deep with a chimney on the west side of the house. Perhaps John Lothrop’s principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called “Freedom of Religion”). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of Lothrop. His descendants today include six former presidents, Louis Comfort Tiffany (of the stained glass fame), J. P. Morgan, Clint Eastwood, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and many more recognizable names! The house was eventually owned by Isaac Chipman in the 19th century, and he modified the house close to its current conditions, adding on numerous times.
Captain William Sturgis, a mariner, businessman and politician, who was born in the house, purchased the property in 1862 from the heirs of Isaac Chipman. Sturgis left $15,000 along with this property in a trust to be gifted to the people of Barnstable for a public library. The library opened in 1867 in his honor, with 1,300 books. As the old Lothrop House is incorporated in the building, it makes the Sturgis Library the oldest building housing a public library in the USA. A great claim to fame for this town!
Ebenezer Lothrop House // c.1771
Ebenezer Lothrop (1743-1815) purchased land on the Old Kings Highway in Barnstable for 63 pounds, 6 shillings , 8 pence from Sturgis Gorham in 1771, building a home soon after. The old house was likely built as a one-story half cape with a door on the side with two windows to its left. When the house was moved in the 1820s by Ebenezer’s heirs, it is possible the second floor was added, which was followed later by the rear wings and wrap-around porch. The home is very well preserved and is excellently located on a raised lawn.
Barnstable Olde County Courthouse // 1763
This historic building was constructed in 1763 as the Barnstable County Courthouse replacing an even earlier courthouse building that was outgrown in the village. The building served primarily as a courtroom with jury deliberations carried out in one of the nearby taverns. Additionally, large town meetings were sometimes held in this building until it too was outgrown. This courthouse was the site of a mass protest on Sept. 27, 1774, after Britain revoked Massachusetts Bay’s 1691 charter — one of a series of Coercive Acts intended to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party the previous year. As a result of the protest, all Barnstable county officials agreed to ignore Parliament’s new rules, effectively freeing Cape Cod of British control. The significance of this building cannot be understated as the building is one of only two remaining Massachusetts colonial-era courthouses where such protests occurred. The county dedicated its new courthouse in the 1830s, consolidating all court functions in a large, granite structure closer to the present center of Barnstable Village (featured previously). This building was acquired by the Third Barnstable Baptist Church, who renovated the building at the time and again in 1905. After the church was disbanded in 1972, the building was purchased by Tales of Cape Cod, a nonprofit volunteer group committed to preserving the Cape’s history. What a building to be based out of!