Preserving the Mod in Cape Cod

Nathaniel Swift House photo, Library of Congress

When I think of Cape Cod, a cute little symmetrical home comes to mind.

With it’s rectangular shape and single gable roof, it is a simple, yet effective design intended to withstand the cold Northeastern winters as well as sand and surf.  I was completely floored to learn that the Cape Cod area has a wide variety of modernist structures built generally between the late 1940′s and mid 1960′s.  Turns out many famous architects built their own summer cottages here as well, for example Walter Gropius  and Marcel Breuer designed homes for their families on Cape Cod.

Like many mid-century modern homes, these are in various states of deterioration and a group called the Cape Cod Modern House Trust is working to not only restore these houses, but collect information and document the history of the modern homes on the Cape, something which has never been done.

The /Gips House Vincent Dewitt for The Boston Globe

Kugel/Gips House by Vincent Dewitt for The Boston Globe

The underlying reason for some of this deterioration is an unusual one: Many of these homes have been sitting vacant, owned by the National Seashore. This is not due to lack of interested buyers, but from a government acquisition of the properties to create a state park on the Cape.  This buy-out took place in 1961 but allowed the occupants an option to stay in the house for another 25 years and in some cases, longer. Due to a fortuitous twist of fate, the government did not have the money to raze the houses as was originally planned so they remain, a silent reminder of the modernist history of that area in the last 50 years.  The goal of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust is to “Restore all seven of the Modernist houses owned by the National Seashore and reconfigure them into educational and cultural resources.”

Click here for some amazing photography of these modern homes, linked to the Cubes on Dunes/DWR article referenced below.

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