House for Sale: Barnstable, MA
With good reason, we felt a bit apprehensive as we approached the side-door entrance on the covered porch, after walking up from the circular driveway, with its dramatic flagpole in the middle.
Already we were impressed by the almost full acre of well-cared-for lawns and perennial gardens; the crabapple trees and Norway maples; and the assorted ash, cedar, and hickory nut trees, as well as the cedar lampposts and the property’s several benches for peaceful viewing.
We were about to enter–that is, if we dared–what’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Isaac Davis House, one of many historic homes along Old King’s Highway (Route 6A) in Barnstable, Massachusetts, the second-oldest English village on Cape Cod, established in 1639. (Neighboring Yarmouth, we should note, also claims “second oldest” status. The oldest? Sandwich, settled in 1637.)
From an earlier telephone conversation with the owners, we knew that although this house was built by Isaac Davis, the town tax collector, in the early to mid-19th century, with later additions, there are foundation stones in the cellar that date back to the original fort house of 1643 … long before George Washington, for instance, was even born.
Anyway, the reason we were apprehensive was that we felt that if we opened that door, we’d be torn to shreds by a pack of vicious dogs. That’s what it sounded like.
“Don’t worry. They’re all in cages,” said a friendly voice from the fenced-in brick patio beyond the porch. It was our host, Clyde Claus, a retired banker, who, with his wife of 53 years, Eleanor (Ellie), purchased this historic old Federal in 1997. They’ve thoroughly renovated it and now have it on the market for $850,000. (Theirs is the usual reason: “Time to downsize.”)
Sure enough, when Clyde opened the door for us, there were four fairly big dogs–Hungarian Vizslas, he told us–in individual cages, barking their heads off. Amidst the din, Clyde introduced us to Eleanor, who was in their beautiful kitchen–cherry cabinets, granite counters, fancy stainless-steel appliances. Then he escorted us past two parlors, both with fireplaces, into the second of two living rooms, with its plush furniture covered with fabrics in colors replicating those used in New England in 1792. (Same, incidentally, throughout the house with the wallpaper, custom wooden Venetian blinds, and curtains.)
As we settled ourselves into an incredibly comfortable stuffed chair, Eleanor offered us coffee and fresh croissants with almonds. Next thing we knew, those four big dogs–Tago, his younger brother Igor, and the twins Phoebe and Bomber–came bounding in, but at least now, thank goodness, they were friendly. As we conversed, they obediently lay down, content to simply stare at our fast-disappearing croissant.
Over the next half-hour, we learned that both Clyde and Eleanor were originally from New Jersey–although Clyde has Cape Cod ancestors–but lived for years in California, where Eleanor was the CEO of a large hospital in Oakland. They have no children but make up for that with myriad interests.