Water Logged

A short record of a long seafaring history

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he maritime dominance that gave Chatham its great wealth is easy to forget—well, other than when you pass some rich geezer with sun-weathered skin and a whale belt holding up his seersucker pants. The long history of Cape Cod’s seafaring adventures is recounted in the Atwood House, built in 1752 by sea captain Joseph Atwood and the only house in town preserved in its original form. Now the museum of the Chatham Historical Society, the house is a bounty of cool stuff, including a sofa from the ward room of the USS Constitution, a rare bottle of whale oil, paintings of Chatham ships in Asian ports (a reminder that the trade imbalance started way, way sooner than we like to think), and portraits of Chatham sea captains painted by Frederick Wight, for whom the art museum at UCLA is named. There’s also a Wampanoag dugout canoe and one of the 1857 lenses from Chatham’s twin lighthouse, which flashes when the museum is open.

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The keeper for more than a decade of the 19th century of the Chatham twin lighthouse, one of whose lenses is at the Atwood House Museum, was a woman, Angeline Nickerson, who kept the job in spite of opposition thanks to the intervention of President Zachary Taylor.

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