This 2 ½-story, five-bay house was built for Benjamin Fosdick (1713-1801) and his family on Nantucket. After Benjamin died in 1801, the house was inherited by two of his surviving sons and they divided the house into two, creating a double-house for them and their own families. The symmetrical home was divided down the middle at the central chimney, and two front doors provided access to the two dwellings. The right section was once the home of Capt. William Calder, who escaped shipwreck at Cape Horn on his first voyage at age 13. He later was captured by the British during the War of 1812, and escaped from Dartmoor Prison in England, making his way back to Nantucket. The double house has retained much of its original design since 1801 until the 1960s when the projecting entrance porch was added.
Nantucket built its first jail in 1696 on Vestal Street, which was at the time, far from a lot of the houses and businesses on the island. In 1805, taxpayers decided to spend $2,090 (roughly the cost of building a whaleship at the time) to build a new, sturdier jail nearby the original structure. Opened in 1805 and dubbed the “New Gaol,” the wooden structure represents colonial-era architecture with exceptional reinforcements, as to keep the prisoners inside those small four walls. The Gaol was constructed using massive oak timbers with iron bolts running the length of the walls, iron rods across the windows and heavy wooden doors reinforced with iron. The small structure saw a new neighbor when in 1855, the House of Corrections was moved from the Quaise Asylum and situated next to the Old Gaol. The House of Corrections was used for debtors, habitual drunkards, mentally ill, and juvenile prisoners—also used as a workhouse where debtors could ply their trades to pay their bills. It was no longer needed by 1933 and dismantled in 1954. Like with the old House of Corrections, the old jail saw its last prisoner in 1933, and sat underutilized (but surviving) until it was acquired by the Nantucket Historical Association in the 1940s and restored in 2013.
There is so much to love about this house! The lot here was purchased by Paul Macy and Gideon Folger in 1807, and they had this house built on the site that year. Paul Macy and, Gideon Folger were two major shareholders in the ill fated whaling schooner “Essex”. In 1820, while at sea in the southern Pacific Ocean under the command of Captain George Pollard Jr., the ship was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Thousands of miles from the coast of South America with little food and water, the 20-man crew was forced to make for land in the ship’s surviving whaleboats. The men suffered severe dehydration, starvation, and exposure on the open ocean, and the survivors eventually resorted to eating the bodies of the crewmen who had died. When that proved insufficient, members of the crew drew lots to determine whom they would sacrifice so that the others could live. Seven crew members were cannibalized before the last of the eight survivors were rescued, more than three months after the sinking of the Essex. This ordeal was inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel Moby-Dick. The Folger House was owned for some time by Walter Folger, a lawyer who served in the state senate.
Another of Nantucket’s old Colonial homes is the Abel Gardner House, which was built in 1733 by its namesake. The saltbox Georgian house was constructed on a large plot of land which was farmed for some time by the Gardner family. Decades later, a portion of the estate was subdivided for the erection of a home for Abel’s grandson, Grindell. The Abel Gardner House was eventually owned by Caleb Gardner and became known as Wisteria Lodge for the climbing wisteria vines up the facade and on arbors. I can only imagine how glorious this colonial would be covered in purple!
Dr. John Shackford Grouard (1867-1927) was a physician and surgeon born in Allegheny County, Penn. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, and earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1889. In 1891, he moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he established his own general medicine and surgical practice. Years after establishing his practice, he built this beautiful Shingle/Queen Anne style cottage that is dominated by a massive gambrel roof and is located adjacent to the Nantucket Hotel. He served as the Town Physician and medical examiner, on the Nantucket School Board, and as president of both the Nantucket Civic League and Citizen’s Gas, Electric, and Power Company. Dr. Grouard also co-founded the Nantucket Cottage Hospital in 1911, but more on that later. Dr. John Shackford Grouard died in Boston in 1927, one week after surgery for a gallbladder inflammation.
In 1888, Charles F. Folger of Philadelphia purchased the former Elijah Alley house on Easton Street, just north of the main village of Nantucket. Folger hired carpenter Edwin R. Smith to design and build a new grand hotel for summer residents of Nantucket. Originally named the Point Breeze Hotel, the grand resort opened in the summer of 1891. The Queen Anne style hotel contained forty sleeping apartments in the upper floors and was dominated by a corner tower with billiards rooms and a bowling alley in the raised brick basement. Business was booming, and by the early 20th century, Folger expanded the hotel adding the east wing in the Colonial Revival style. In 1925, a fire destroyed the original Point Breeze Hotel, leaving just the East Wing. By this time, the days of the grand, wooden hotels was coming to a close. The Nantucket Institution for Savings acquired the hotel during the Great Depression, until 1936 when Gordon Folger Jr., grandson of the Point Breeze’s original proprietor, purchased the hotel and renamed it after himself, as the Gordon Folger Hotel. By the end of the 20th century, the building sat underutilized, the early 2000s when Little Gem Resorts purchased the hotel, seeking to restore this historic property back to her former glory. The original 1891 hotel was rebuilt in 2012, even down to its iconic corner tower, and the hotel was renamed The Nantucket. The hotel is open year-round and is lavish inside and out, providing you with a sense of home even when on vacation in the middle of the Atlantic!