The Captain Edward Penniman House

Captain Penniman House
Captain Penniman House
Captain Penniman House

Edward Penniman was a native of Eastham, Massachusetts. He was born in 1831 and at the age of eleven he began his sailing career. His ship’s voyage sailed to the treacherous waters of the Grand Banks. To this day the Grand Banks area is known as a plentiful fishing grounds. It is located off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland. For several years he sailed just the New England waters, however, at that time, the best chance to earn wealth was in the whaling industry and New Bedford, Massachusetts with its deep water port and railroad system was the center of New England’s largest whaling fleet. At the age of twenty-one in 1852, Edward Penniman went to New Bedford to sign on to his first whaling expedition. Several years later, after becoming a captain, he chose New Bedford as his home port.

Whale Bone Gate
Whale Bone Gate

By the late 1800’s the whale population in the Atlantic had been exhausted and whalers were forced to sail further from home in search of their quarry. Captain Penniman became one of the region’s most successful whaling masters. The voyages frequently took three to four years. It was not uncommon for the captains to take their wives and children along for the voyage. Captain Penniman wife and children accompanied him on several of these voyages. His wife was named Betsy Augusta but he affectionately called her “Gustie”. Gusty was not just a passenger, she assisted with navigation and other shipboard matters.  Eugene, their Penniman’s oldest son grew up to become the second generation whaling captain in the family.

Penniman House Door
Penniman House Door

After his fourth voyage in 1868, Captain Penniman went back to Eastham and built a second Empire style home that sits on Fort Hill. It is a two and a half story house with a central hallway. Perhaps its most striking feature is an octagonal cupola that has arched windows on all sides. The exterior is clapboards and is decorated with elegant millwork trim. It is interesting to imagine how spectacular this house must have been in rural Eastham, at the time of its construction. Most of the homes in the area were simple Cape Cod cottages with shingled siding and they were never painted. This house yellow clapboards, with white trim, black window sashes, green wooden blinds and it had brown and red roof shingles. The house had an elaborate white wooden fence and the entrance gate that is still standing is made from a whale’s jawbone.

Window Pediment
Window Pediment

The design and colors were grand but it also had “state of the art” technology within its wall. It was the first house in Eastham to have indoor plumbing. The roof had a water collection system that lead to a large tank in the attic. It used a gravity flow system that piped water from the tank to the bathroom and kitchen. There is also a large barn that echos the design of the house.

Captain Penniman House
Captain Penniman House

The charming Penniman House is located at the intersection of Fort Hill Road and Governor Prence Road in Eastham. It is within the “Cape Cod National Seashore”. It is about an hour and a half drive from the Palmer House Inn. It is open to the public during the summer season. For more information call 508-487-1256.


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own romantic charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures exploring Cape Cod’s finest history, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Cape Cod Activities: Candle Building

Cape Cod Activities: Candle House

 Cape Cod Activities: The Historic Candle House in Woods Hole

Cape Cod Activities: Candle House Ship Sign
Candle House Ship Sign

The Candle House, built in 1829, is a great historic stop, even if it’s just to admire the stonework from the outside. The Candle House is all that remains of mid-nineteenth-century whaling in Woods Hole. It was part of a series of structures where whale oil was rendered. Today the Candle House is used by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) for offices and is frequently used to display some of the exhibits for the annual Model Boat Show (another great Cape Cod activity).

Whaling in Woods Hole

Woods Hole in the 1700 and 1800’s was a quiet and relatively unsettled spot on the South Western corner of Cape Cod.

“These quiet, rural conditions, devoid of adventure, persisted until about 1815, when Woods Hole became an important whaling station from which ships operated on the high seas. The whaling industry in the United States became a very profitable business, and Woods Hole was a part of it. In 1854, the total receipts for the American whaling fleet amounted to $10.8 million, the largest part of this amount resulted from whaling carried out by Massachusetts captains. Woods Hole participated in these activities and prospered. It is known that between 1815 and 1860, not less than nine whaling ships were making port at the Bar Neck wharf, which was located where the U. S. Navy building of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution now stands. The place was busy processing oil and whalebone and outfitting ships. A bake house for making sea biscuits for long voyages stood next to the present “Old Stone Building” built in 1829 as a candle factory. This conspicuous old landmark on Water Street of Woods Hole, identified by an appropriate bronze plaque, has since served as a warehouse and more recently as executive and administrative offices for the MBL.” – www.nefsc.noaa.gov/history/stories/whistory.html

The Candle House and Spermaceti Production

Cape Cod Activities: Candle House
Candle House

Spermaceti is a wax that is found in the head cavities of the sperm whale. After killing the whale, the whalers would sever the head, pull it on deck and cut a hole in order to bail out the matter. The primary source of the oil is from the spermaceti organ. This matter was boiled and strained of impurities to prevent the oil from going rancid. A large whale could yield as much as 500 gallons (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spermaceti). The raw spermaceti would then be stored in casks and brought back to Woods Hole for processed on land in buildings like the Candle House.

At the Candle House the casks were allowed to chill during the winter. The spermaceti would congeal into a spongy and viscous mass. This mass could then be placed into wool sacks and pressed. The resulting liquid was bottled and sold as the mos valuable spermaceti product – “Winter-Strained Sperm Oil,” an oil that remained liquid in freezing temperatures. In the warmer seasons, the left over spermaceti was allowed to partially melt, and the liquid was strained off to leave a fully solid wax. This was bleached and sold as “Spermaceti Wax.”

Whaling on the Atlantic

“American sperm whaling soon spread from the east coast of the American colonies to the Gulf Stream, the Grand Banks, West Africa (1763), the Azores (1765) and the South Atlantic (1770s). From 1770 to 1775 Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island ports produced 45,000 barrels of sperm oil annually, compared to 8,500 of whale oil.  In the same decade the British began sperm whaling, employing American ships and personnel. By the following decade the French had entered the trade, also employing American expertise. Sperm whaling increased until the mid-19th century, as spermaceti oil was important in public lighting (for example, in lighthouses, where it was used in the United States until 1862, when it was replaced by lard oil, which was quickly replaced by petroleum) and for lubricating the machines (such as those used in cotton mills) of the Industrial Revolution. Sperm whaling declined in the second half of the 19th century, as petroleum and other products began to replace spermaceti.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sperm_whaling

 Other Great Cape Cod Activities to Look into While in Woods Hole Include:


Cape Cod's Emily Dickinson Room Five
Cape Cod’s Emily Dickinson Room Five

The Palmer House Inn is located just a couple of miles from the village of Woods Hole. While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room or the Emily Dickinson room. Both rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your sea-going adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes
http://www.whoi.edu/page/live.do?pid=20255&tid=441&cid=37870&ct=61&article=20986
http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=9299
http://www.woodsholemuseum.org/woodspages/archive/CandleHouse.pdf
http://mysite.du.edu/~ttyler/ploughboy/starbuck.htm#sectiond