I approached the house about an hour before sunset, and was disappointed that the light had already left the property. I hadn’t visited since the spring — mid-day when the lilacs were in full bloom — and I’d forgotten how the house is built in a slight valley. Deer greeted me and immediately ran off. I suspect they rarely get visitors this time of year — or anytime of the year as the National Park Service does very little to maintain or promote this site.
The first few times I visited the site I’d frankly imagined a pretty staid history for it. Its bones are that of any 19th Century Cape Cod Farm — and those places tended to be pretty hard scrapple. But its history reveals something more rambunctious, especially in the 20th Century.
The David Baker House/ Biddle Property became part of the National Seashore in 2011. It’s a group of four buildings set on ten acres surrounded by forest and not far from the beach at Bound Brook Island. Built by David Baker Jr. around 1820, the house has been owned by Baker’s descendent, Lorenzo Dow Baker, founder of the United Fruit Company and now Chiquita Brands International; Jack Hall, the de facto steward of Bound Brook Island for much of the 20th century; and Francis and Katherine Biddle during the later half of the 20th Century. Francis Biddle was U.S. Attorney General during World War II and primary U.S. judge during the post-war Nuremburg trials. I’m told that John Taylor Williams’ The Shores of Bohemia details the goings-on of the Biddle’s artistic friends and summer visitors. (I really need to get to that book!)
The building is a good example of a Cape Cod ‘house and a half’ — with an extension running along the front face of the building. I recently learned in Sharon Dunn’s An Island in Time: Exploring Bound Brook Island, Its Land & People, Its Past & Present that the houses on Bound Brook were characterized by five lights above the front door — and that you can identify some of the houses moved from the Island to Wellfleet Center by these five lights. The Baker House also has the marvelous carving of the sun and moon on each side of the door.
Lilacs blooming on 16 May 2022. Lilacs sometimes signify the past location of an outhouse.
Lilacs blooming in the ravine in front of the house, via the path from the road to the beach.
The interior of the house shows clear 20th c. adaptation.
The guest houses/studios on the north side of the site.
The historic marker at the official entrance of the property.
Field Guide: Walking & Painting on Cape Cod is a fundraiser to support Provincetown Commons’ artist studios, co-working facility, meeting spaces and exhibition gallery. Please donate at our website: https://www.provincetowncommons.org/fieldguide-walkingandpaintingcapecod