Doctors of Cotuit


Cotuit has had many prominent physicians, but before 1895 it was served by the doctors in Marstons Mills.

The first resident physician was Dr. Solomon Foot Haskins (1858-1928) who practiced in Cotuit a few years before he built a house at 134 Ocean View in 1895. After graduating from Dartmouth Medical School in 1879 he did a year in medicine at Michigan under Prof. E. S. Dunster, and practiced in Truro, Yarmouth, Hudson and Orange. After his death the village was served from Marstons Mills by Dr. James Higgins, whose son Dr. Donald E. Higgins (1904-82) took over his father’s practice, moving to Cotuit in 1936, in an office at 975 Main St. until 1969, except for during the World War II years.

In 1882, the James Coleman house at 786 Main St. Cotuit, was bought by Dr. Algernon Coolidge (1830-1912), surgeon at Mass. General Hospital who had served as a doctor in Civil War hospitals in Newport and Washington DC. Dr. Coolidge was son of a Boston China trade merchant who married a granddaughter of President Jefferson. He and his wife had probably been coming to Cotuit earlier, to visit his wife’s sister Mrs. George Gardner Lowell. Their great contribution to the village was the founding of the Cotuit Library in 1885.

Their son Dr. Algernon Jr. (1860-1939) inherited the house in 1915. He became the leading laryngologist at Harvard, the first doctor in America to use the bronchoscope to removed blockage of the throat. His book on tonsils is a classic textbook. One summer, it is believed that he saved the life of a person by performing emergency appendectomy on a kitchen table in Cotuit.

Cotuit’s most famous doctor was James Jackson Putnam (1846-1919), after whom Putnam Av. is named. In 1896 he bought the Capt. Andrew Lovell house at 86 Putnam Av., which stayed in the family until 1977. He was a famous neurologist, and first psychiatrist in America, who brought Freud and Jung to this country, though not to Cotuit. Dr. Putnam’s daughter Dr. Marion C. Putnam, one of the first child psychologists, summered here. The house was inherited by another daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Dr. Munro McIver, author of the text on “Acute Intestinal Obstruction”.

Dr. Putnam was followed in Cotuit by several important psychiatrists. “ The Wings” on The Narrows at 781 Old Post Rd. was for 45 years the summer home of Dr. Stanley Cobb (1887-1908). It was there his observations of birds led him to make an early environmental warning about pesticides. The biography of this pioneer neuroscientist and psychiatrist was written by his son-in-law, Dr. Benjamin White, a lifelong summer resident of Cotuit.

The secluded woods of lower Cotuit have been the favorite summer retreat of several noted psychiatrists. Dr. Sidney Isaac Schwab (1871-1947), neuroscientist and psychiatrist from St. Louis rented the Fremont Smith house at 110 Vineyard Rd. after World War I in which he did pioneer work with shell-shocked soldiers.

Following Dr. Schwab to Cotuit was William Herman (1891-1935), a Jungian neurologist who built a summer home in 1928 next to Dr. Schwab at 90 Vineyard Rd. The house was inherited by his daughter Marybelle, wife of Dr. William D. Cochran, pediatrician at Harvard Medical School, who retired here in 1993.

Erik Erikson (1902-94), psychoanalyst, famous for his theories of human development and
Pulitzer Prize-winning study of Gandhi summered at 45 Vineyard Rd. in 1962 and retired in 1970 until his death.

The Salem physician Dr. Edward Lawrence Peirson (1862-1935) bought the Henry Hodges house at 621 Main St. in 1904 and summered here with his children, including his son, the urologist Edward Jr. (1899-1956).

Dr. James B. Dunning (1874-1959), founder of Columbia Dentistry School, and his wife built “Westward” as a summer home at 1392 Main St. in 1910.

Cotuit’s most famous doctor was Helen Taussig (1898-1986) who spent most summers here, retiring and dying at her home at Rushy Marsh. She won the prestigious Lasker award for her discovery of surgery to correct “the blue baby” syndrome.

Cousins of the Coolidges spent the summers of their whole lives in Cotuit: psychologist Dr. Alice Lowell (1906-82), her allergist brother Dr. Francis C. Lowell (1909-79) and their nephew Dr. James Barzun, internist and cardiologist, married to the psychiatrist Dr. Kathleen Barzun.

Two pathologists have made Cotuit their homes. In 1955 Dr. Raymond Goodale (1898-1989) moved and remodeled part of President A. Lawrence Lowell’s house at 880 Main St. and lived there until his death. Dr. Stephanie G. Wall (born 1937) retired in 994 Main St. in 1994 and became active in promoting peace and justice causes on Cape Cod.

Dr. Turner McLardy, Scottish psychiatrist, retired to the Cephas Ames house at 1036 Main St., but continued to serve at the County hospital in Pocasset. Captured in North Africa by the Germans, he was held prisoner in Germany during World War II.

Dr. Keith Rapp (born 1925), spent his life in Cotuit, practicing as anesthesiologist at Cape Cod Hospital.

Two orthodontists summer in Cotuit, with daughters who are also doctors. Dr. Carl J. Perlmutter of Newton bought the Savery house at 129 School St., has a daughter Julia Perlmutter (b. 1970), a psychiatrist and neurologist. Dr. Michael R. Coppe of Lexington has summered at the Green Schoolhouse at 1257 Main St., where his daughter Carolyn, grew up in summers, now also a dentist in practice with her father.

Published in Barnstable Enterprise 14 Oct. 2011, with additions.


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One Response to “Doctors of Cotuit”

  1. Jess Says:

    Hi Jim,

    I always enjoy reading your articles and I am so impressed with all the research that goes into each and every story.
    I do have a correction for your “Doctors of Cotuit” article. My father began as a General Practitioner and then became a Radiologist. I’m sure he can give you more detailed information and I know he has lots of stories about treating the locals!

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