Every old home has its own personal history -August 2018

Clara Urbahn’s artist’s retreat

by: Leslie Linsley

photography by: Terry Pommett

Many early houses throughout the historic district of Nantucket were moved from other locations on the island to their present in-town sites. The history of these houses is always fascinating, many remaining in one family for several generations, others having been used as businesses as well as residences.

One such dwelling, the Thaddeus Hussey House, built in 1735, is one of the oldest houses on Union Street. While we know it was once located elsewhere on the island, there is no record of where it was first built.

Clara Urbahn with her fanciful creatures, Stella and Homer, which will be part of an exhibit next year at Robert Foster Fine Art on India Street.

The “lean-to” was a modest style, predominant among early dwellings on Nantucket. Most characteristic is a large central chimney and a sloping roof over a shed-like extension at the rear of the house. Also referred to as a “saltbox,” this style can be found throughout New England. At some point, as ownership changed, the roof was lifted and the house was transformed into one with two stories. This alteration may have occurred when the house was moved from its original location sometime between 1796 and 1809.

From a candlemaker’s house to restaurant to artist’s retreat

At that time, candlemaker Thaddeus Hussey and his family owned the house, where he also ran his business. After the Hussey family, there were several interim owners until the house was sold at public auction in 1909 for $875. At this point the property included a large homestead and garden.

A prominent New York City architect fell in love with and purchased the old house in 1921 and turned the dilapidated property into The Chopping Bowl, one of the first summer restaurants on Nantucket. Meals were often served outside in the gardens. A large hall was added to the northeast corner of the house to create space for art exhibits and dancing. At the time Nantucket was gaining recognition as an art colony.


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