Archive for October, 2012

HISTORY OF THE REGATTA RESTAURANT

October 13, 2012

HISTORY OF THE REGATTA RESTAURANT
The Regatta is one of the oldest buildings in Cotuit, and one of the most historic. It is officially known as the Rowland Crocker House on the National Register of Historic Places. It was not only the site of Cotuit’s first store, but also the first library and first post office.
One of the Regatta’s most memorable attributes is the ancient sign over the bar advertising: WINE RUM BRANDY GIN.
Some say the structure was built in 1796, but the original deed has it built in 1809. The architecture of this building is full-blown Federal classical style, characterized by the symmetrical façade and centered entryway with a pedimented triangle above a semi-circular fan window over the front door. This style became popular during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).
It was originally built for Rowland Thacher Crocker, Esquire (1772-1846), the eldest son of Alvan Crocker, and grandson of Ebenezer Crocker, the wealthy landlord who gave him the land. The house was built when Rowland Crocker married in 1809 to well-connected Rebecca Jenkins Bacon of Barnstable.
In 1796 Rowland had opened “The Store” in Cotuit, but where was it located if was not built until 1809? Perhaps it began in the Alvan Crocker Jr. house, built that year on the west corner of Main Street, and moved in 1809.
The earliest library for Cotuit opened in Rowland Crocker’s store in 1796. Rowland became the librarian, paid $2 a month to keep track of the books, and collect fines for books “detained” past the four to six week loan. The collection of 25 volumes included religious and moral tracts, as well as British novels, histories, geographies, political tracts, poetry, and collections of letters. At various times Rowland’s father Alvan Crocker Jr. took care of the library, again suggesting the earlier location.
The original post office of the village was opened in the store in 1821, with Rowland Crocker as postmaster. The stage coach called here, bringing mail and passengers from Sandwich, the connection to Plymouth and Boston, and going on to Marstons Mills and Osterville.
The Rowland Crockers had no children, and after their deaths the place was bought by Rowland’s sister’s grandson Deacon James Childs, Jr. (1796-1867). Mr. Childs was a prominent builder, who built the nearby Cotuit Church (no longer standing) in 1849, of which he became Deacon, the leading layman. Born in Cotuit, he had gone to Nantucket to build its famous Three Brick Houses (1837-1839), and perhaps also the Jared Coffin House, now a popular hotel. He was also involved moving the reconstructed Nantucket Congregational Church in 1834.
In 1882 the house was bought by Joseph Bettencourt Folger (1823-1911), the first Portuguese resident of Cotuit. He had come as a whaler from the Azores some time before 1853. The story is that he and two companions were put ashore on the Cape by a Nantucket whaling captain, whose name he adopted. It is unclear how he came to Cotuit, but he was found in a bog house in Newtown, where the owner William Stevens put him to work. He earned enough to buy the bogs, and become a prosperous landowner and many times Master of the Mariners Masonic Lodge. He ran a tavern in the Crocker mansion, perhaps having rented it before his purchase. It remained in the Folger family until 1947, probably leased out for various commercial purposes.
After World War II it had many uses, as a private residence, a gift shop, an art gallery of Richard Sparre (1973-1977), and the office of interior decorator Dennis Pendolari. In 1983 it became the Regatta Restaurant, under the management of Brantz Mayer Bryan Jr. (1927-2009) and his wife Wendy Wile, who ran a popular restaurant on Falmouth Harbor. The owners added a kitchen wing onto the rear.
In 2006 Brantz sold the property for a million dollars to Weldon Fizell, who continued the restaurant until 2012. On Oct. 10 2012 the building and furnishings were sold at foreclosure auction for $555,000 to Peter Menounos, the owner of Santuit Inn, half a mile west, on the Mashpee town line.
Who knows what the next use of this two hundred year old building will be?
Published in the Barnstable Enterprise 11 Oct. 2012