Our house has a story to tell...
A neighbor gave us an album of photos of our old Cape Codder, which she found at the Wellfleet flea market. On the first page someone used white ink to write in slanting script, Remembrances of Cape Cod, September, 1903. As I flip through one hundred years later, I'm curious to know more about the Wileys, people who cared enough about our home to take pictures of it from every angle.
The album does not provide many clues. There's a picture of Aunt May hurrying along through downtown Wellfleet with "Grandma." Both wear large hats and elegant satin gowns. Perhaps they are on their way to a social gathering? A horse and buggy stand in the background. On the next page, Ethel and Herb relax by the bay. Ethel smiles as she tries to keep the wind from blowing off her sunbonnet. There's local color... the Cahoon Hollow Lifesaving Station (now the Beachcomber) and the Highland Lighthouse... as well as photos of what natives called the "back shore," the ocean beaches that now make Wellfleet a favorite destination for tourists seeking respite from the summer heat.
The Wileys collected rainwater in a barrel, got drinking water at a pump near the back door, and used a two-seater outhouse. There are no trees in the yard, probably because all available wood was used as fuel. During the past century locust and pine have grown to cover the hillside. We now live in the woods, half a mile from Cape Cod Bay. In 1903, Wiley house must have had a water view!
The road, at least, has not changed. Would Aunt May have been pleased when my mother petitioned the town so Old King’s Highway would become a scenic road, dirt forever? Although we're separated by a century, I feel some kinship with these ancient Wellfleetians. We pace the same pine boards, bake bread in the same kitchen, enjoy the same summer breeze. When we open the door, we hear the ocean roar or smell low tide down on the flats. We eat cod and mackerel. On holidays we splurge on oysters. I know the Wileys loved them because I found piles of shells in the garden.
Staying at Wiley House, ie. Chez Sven, allows guests to make contact with the past. Sven found a Lady Liberty coin under the living room floor. The coin means the house existed at this spot on Old King’s Highway in 1798. Traces of rollers on the joists under the house indicate that it was moved here at some point. The windowpanes of the built-in cabinets date from the 18th century. The house was probably built around 1730, like the Atwood-Higgins House. Atwood-Higgins is considered to be among the oldest houses on Cape Cod.