Fosdick-Calder Double House // c.1745

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.

United Methodist Church of Nantucket // 1823

The United Methodist Church of Nantucket stands prominently at the top of Main Street on land was obtained from Peleg Mitchell in 1822. Construction on the site began in 1823 with the massive structure originally built with a pyramidal hip roof of enormous timbers brought to the island on whaling vessels. In 1840, the roofline was amended with the present gable roof, constructed over the original hip roof. The church is a highly significant example of Greek Revival architecture on the island and a more rare example of the temple-front form seen there. Deferred maintenance threatened the building to the point that in 1995, the building was listed as one of the most endangered buildings in Massachusetts. A restoration was undertaken funded by private contributions and the Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund, preserving the building for another 200 years.

George C. Gardner House // c.1834

On Nantucket, even the little houses can pack an architectural punch! This is the George C. Gardner House. The house on Main Street was built in 1834 for sea captain George Gardner, a descendant of Richard Gardner, an early white settler on the island (who’s house stands nextdoor). The house exhibits a five bay facade with Ionic columned portico and balustrade at the roof and widow’s walk. By the end of the 20th century, the house was sitting, decaying after years of deferred maintenance caused by a bitter divorce dispute between the owners. From this, locals told stories about the house being haunted, including stories of a Chinese servant of the Gardner family who was hanged after becoming infatuated with one of George Gardner’s daughters. The body is rumored to have been buried on the grounds of the house. There is not much to substantiate these stories of local lore, but they are always interesting to hear. A truth is that the home was purchased in the early 2000s for millions and restored faithfully before being sold for shy of $10 Million. Now that is really scary!

Gorham Hussey House // c.1820

This Colonialized Federal period house sits just down Vestal Street from the Maria Mitchell Association campus on the ever-charming island of Nantucket. The home was built around 1820 for Gorham Hussey (1797-1879), who would have been around 23 at the time. He married Lydia Macy in 1820 and the couple had twin daughters that same year, likely right after this house was completed (talk about a busy year)! The home was later owned by photographer John W. McCalley, who photographed this and other houses in the area. The home retains a high-style Colonial Revival fanlight over the door, likely added in the first three decades of the 20th century as colonial homes were romanticized.

Maria Mitchell House and Observatory // 1790 & 1908

Although Hezekiah Swain built this house in 1790, the property is better known as the home of Maria Mitchell and is to this day, preserved to interpret her amazing legacy. Maria Mitchell’s father William bought the house in 1818, and Maria was born there later that year. Maria grew up on Nantucket and she became the first female astronomer in America. After she discovered a comet in 1847 (which was named Miss Mitchell’s Comet), her international recognition led to many awards and that acclaim enabled her to continue her work. She accepted a position as professor of astronomy at Vassar College by its founder, Matthew Vassar, in 1865 and became the first female professor of astronomy She established the Association for the Advancement of Women and became the first female member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. She was also very involved in the anti-slavery movement in New England. After Maria Mitchell died in 1889, the Maria Mitchell Association, was established in Nantucket to preserve the sciences on the island and Mitchell’s work. On July 15, 1908, the Observatory on Vestal Street near the Science Library and Mitchell House was dedicated. The Observatory, built by the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association, stimulated local interest in science. The success of the Observatory’s programs prompted the construction of an astronomical study in 1922, joining the existing facility with the Maria Mitchell Birthplace. The museum operates in Summers to this day, and continues Maria’s rich legacy in the sciences.

Lydia S. Hinchman House // c.1819

This late Federal style house on Nantucket was built in the early nineteenth century for Thomas Coffin, who himself acquired the land in 1818, which would date the home to around 1819. The Federal house exhibits a raised basement with a five bay facade with central entrance. The door is surrounded by sidelights and transom with Classical enframement. Like many houses on Nantucket, the house is clad with cedar shingles. After ownership by Thomas Coffin, the property passed through numerous hands until 1929, when the house was purchased by Lydia S. Hinchman (1845-1938). Lydia deeded the property to her son requesting that it go to the Maria Mitchell Association upon his death (Lydia was a first cousin of Maria Mitchell). He died in 1944, and the property transferred soon after to the Maria Mitchell Association which was founded in 1902 to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell.

Old Gaol – Old Nantucket Jail // 1805

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.

Folger House // 1807

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.

Robb-Kagan House // 1939

Colonial-inspired homes on Nantucket never will go away, and that is because the entire island is a local historic district! New construction, demolitions, and alterations to existing structures all need to be reviewed and approved on Nantucket, no easy task! This home was built in the inter-war period (before the historic district), when New Englanders still harkened back to the classics, Colonial homes. The house was built in 1939 for Annie Robb, and it was later purchased by artist couple Vladimir Kagan and Erica Wilson. Vladimir had a really interesting life. A cabinetmaker’s son, Mr. Kagan came to the United States at 11 after fleeing Nazi Germany with his family. He trained at his father’s New York workshop and by the 1940s was producing his own designs. One of his first orders was a set of tables and chairs for a delegate lounge at the fledgling United Nations! Meanwhile, across the English Channel, a young woman named Erica Wilson came into the world in 1928 in the town of Tidworth, England. Her father was in the military and the family moved to Bermuda soon after Erica’s birth. A drawing prodigy, Wilson “translated her drawing techniques into needlework,” Illya said. Needlework became her artistic focus and she graduated from the Royal School of Needlework in London. The duo lived in this home as a summer respite, where they could hone their artistry and skills. Their son, Ilya Kagan (also an artist, of course) also stayed in the home and still resides on the island. Love it!

Andrew Hunt House // 1878

When one thinks of architecture on Nantucket, many would think of old Colonial-era capes and stately Federal and Greek Revival whaling captains mansions. There are Victorian-era houses on Nantucket, but building on the island tapered off by the mid 1800s after the mid-1700s to the late 1830s when Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world. In December of 1877, Nantucket coal dealer Andrew Hunt purchased a vacant lot on Broad Street to erect a new home for his family. Mr. Hunt hired local builder Charles H. Robinson to design and construct the Second Empire cottage, which today, remains one of the best-preserved and high-style Mansard residences on the island.