“Century House is the oldest continuously operating guesthouse on Nantucket!”
– Historian, Edouard A. Stackpole
Century House dates back to the Cliff Road land purchase in 1833. According to research performed by the late Edouard A. Stackpole, renowned Nantucket historian and former director of the Peter Foulger Museum, Century House was built by Captain Robert Calder.Capt. Calder, a member of an old Nantucket family of Scottish roots, made several long successful ocean voyages before being rewarded with the captaincy of the whale ship Alto.
In 1836, he set sail for the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, returning in 1838. He made a second voyage in the Alto from 1838 to 1840, again to hunt whales in the same area as the tragic tsunami disaster. This gives you some idea of the breath of the search for whales to areas that are today still inaccessible to modern travel. Upon his return he moved his storehouse (the current cottage beside the Century House) up from the harbor front and completed the construction of the house in the early 1840’s. It is thought that Capt. Calder chose this site because of the privacy, the ocean breezes, the views, and the genuine serenity the location provided in the 1840’s and still exhibits today.
Century House became a rooming/boarding house in the early 1870’s, a boarding house for islanders during the winter months and as a guest house during the summer months when the increasing number of visitors to the faraway isle made such an establishment necessary. It is one of the oldest guest homes on Nantucket Island. According to Mr. Stackpole “Century House is the oldest continuously operating guest house on Nantucket today.”
Family operated guesthouses continued to be the place to stay when visiting Nantucket especially after the depression of the 1930’s when the large resort hotels like the Sea Cliff Inn on Cliff Road were shut down and actually dismantled and remade into some of the cliff mansions you can see today. These guesthouses prospered after the Second World War, in fact Mr. Trew the innkeeper during this period explained to us that he had a full house of soldiers from that war in residence, the house stayed pretty much the same up to the 1980’s when the B&B era came into being along with private baths, air conditioning and later on wireless internet and Wi-Fi.
Century House’s unrivaled timeless character, elegance and old-world charm befitting a historic whaling captains home, beckons the vacation travelers to step away from the hustle and bustle; located on the prestigious Cliff Road, tucked away, yet within walking distance to town and beaches its a perfect place to get away. Innkeepers JeanE Heron and Gerry Connick came to Century House in 1984, as successful drop outs of corporate America, Gerry a capital equipment manufacturing executive and JeanE a medical systems sales director. The only background they had in the hospitality business was that they both stayed in many five star hotels and dined in the best restaurants, but they loved the freedoms the Century House and the Island of Nantucket presented. They integrated the old historic guesthouse into the B&B era by redecorating Century House to the tastes they were brought up with, they both had spent their childhood in large old homes, and one of their first guidelines became “what do you think Mother and her friends would think? What would Aunt (not A’nt) Marguerite say?” Gerry created a breakfast menu which includes his special granola, yogurt, island berries, fruit, breads; bagels english muffins, homemade coffee cake, pastry juices, jams, jellies, teas, and the best perked coffee. In fact, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cappuccino, and espresso are available throughout the day, “cookies and cream” or afternoon snacks rolls into cocktail hour and out on to the veranda and patios to watch the sunset and prepare for dinner at one of the close by restaurants.
During this period the executive producers of Paramount Pictures hit TV show “Wings” chose Century House bed and breakfast guest house inn as their Nantucket home when first visiting the island in 1989 to scout locations. In the subsequent years the inn became a star, often appearing on the show in cameo performances and was popular enough that in 1994 the innkeepers were invited to do a walk-on.
Century House, under the direction of JeanE (a senior docent at Palm Beach’s Norton Art Museum) and Gerry’s enthusiastic support, has operated an artist in residence program and for the past years the guests have been encouraged to meet and socialize with any of the artists who might be staying at the Inn. The work of many artists who have been in residence are included in the many pieces in the extensive Century House private collection. Paintings are continually rotated between the common areas and guest rooms, all for the enjoyment of guests of the Century House. Century House completed a major renovation to its exterior as well as to each room.
Historical Reformation of Guest Rooms
The house as it stands today and its rooms developed over a period of a century. It was conceived in the 1830’s as a family home for a whaling captain. The location on the North Shore was chosen no doubt because of the year-round sea breezes. The placement of the rooms in the building make full use of both the light and winds experienced on the north west hill (and highest point of Nantucket Island) as it can be seen that the rooms had two exposures in different directions to the light and open air.
The colors and decoration of the rooms are drawn form the island flora and fauna combined with the minimalistic tendencies of late Quaker and middle Federalist style and living habits. Rooms were also named to reflect the natural Nantucket flora. The more formal layouts being on the main and second floors with the higher levels recalling a tighter focus in size.
Through out its history, since the opening to guests in the 19th century, to its present status in the 21st century, the enjoyment of the freedoms of Nantucket Island has been the Century House’s first consideration. Read below a guest’s interpretation of our inn.
Cranberries, cobblestones and clam chowder
Endless empty beaches
Names like Sacachacha, ‘Sconset and Sankaty
Take – your- breath – away houses
Undulating sand dunes at Surfside
Riding the bike trail down to Madaket
Yachts with billowing sails rounding Brant Point Lighthouse
Hearing the sound of the fog horn
Orange glow of Halloween jack o’lanterns
Unparalleled view from the Congregational Church tower
Sid Willis paintings and sudden sea mist
Experiencing serenity of Smith’s Point
Exquisite, elegant light ship baskets
Nestling in front of the fire and chatting with new found friends
Jean and Gerry our warm genial hosts
Omnipresent smell of pine whilst out cycling
Yellow, red and russet of autumn in Nantucket
credit: Artist D Handy