A Look At A 19th Century Sea Captain’s Home

While traveling through Cape Cod Massachusetts, I came across a unique house with a unique name.  I had to stop and see what this historic structure was all about.

The house and barn belonged to Captain Edward Penniman who was born in 1831 in Eastham Massachusetts.

Photo of Captain Edward Penniman in the living room of his Cape Cod Home - From the National Park Service

Photo of Captain Edward Penniman in the living room of his Cape Cod Home – From the National Park Service

He was one of the most successful whaling captains in New England who returned home after several long whaling voyages and built this home for his family in 1868.

Captain Penniman House and Barn – Cape Cod Massachusetts

You’ll notice a unique curved entrance to the yard.  This is actually made from a whale’s jawbone   Standing next to these really makes you understand the size and power of a whale.

Entranceway made from a whale’s jaw bone – Captain Penniman’s House

The roof of the house contains a unique cupola also known as a widow’s walk.  Although this was a popular decorative feature in 19 century coastal houses, many say that the “widow’s walk” was used by a captain’s wife to keep a look out for his ship while he was at sea. Some also say it was used by successful captains to keep an eye on their fleet.

Cupola on top of Penniman House – Cape Cod Massachusetts

The house was built to showcase the great success and wealth of the captain.  Without even going inside, this is evident by the unique columns and glasswork on the exterior.

Detailed scrollwork on columns at Captain Penniman’s House

While building the house, the Captain maintained such detailed records that we even know things like the amount he paid for nails used during construction: $24.99 for 238 pounds of nails.  I wish my records were as detailed as this.

Front door to Captain Edward Penniman’s Cape Cod Home

The roof even contained a water collection system with tanks in the attic making this one of the first houses in Eastham to have indoor plumbing.

Captain Penniman’s House – Eastham Massachusetts

The property contains a unique fence with oval cutouts. It’s amazing that this is the original fence and can even been seen in old photographs.

Penniman House with Unique Fence

Historic Photo of Captain Penniman's home - From The National Park Service

Historic Photo of Captain Penniman’s home – From The National Park Service

The house remained in the family until 1963 when it was sold to the National Park Service.  It’s now preserved for all to see and contains a museum inside that outlines many of the Captains voyages.

I couldn’t get inside the house that day, but if you’re ever in Cape Cod, I would recommend taking a tour of this house. There’s even an online lesson about the history of whaling in New England, Captain Penniman, and his house.

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