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.
In 1807 Hezekiah Doane (1768-1834), a shipwright, purchased land on Main Street in Barnstable Village, building a family home. The house was built in the Federal period, likely with a side gable or hipped roof. Hezekiah and his small family lived here until his death in 1834. After successive ownership, the property was purchased in 1846 by sea captain Heman Foster (1812-1867). Foster renovated the house, raising the roof and adding the Greek Revival detailing with the pedimented roof and pilasters, and the gothic lancet window in the gable for some Gothic Revival flair.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
In 1739, recently married Daniel Davis (1713-1799) and Mehitable Lothrop Davis (1717-1764) inherited land in Barnstable Village from Mehitable’s father Thomas as their wedding present. The young couple broke ground on a new family home that year. Daniel Davis fought in the American Revolution and was was a selectman, assessor, town clerk, and treasurer for Barnstable and represented it at the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Council. Davis also held the position of Guardian of the Mashpee Indians, a position begun in 1746 when Massachusetts appointed white guardians to manage each Indian reservation in the province, the Mashpees protested. Daniel Davis died in the home in 1799. The house retains much of its original design from the multi-pane double-hung windows to the large, central chimney.