Check Inn To The Black orchid Room.
Labor Day heralds the end of summer, and just under the wire I am fortunate to spend three days and two nights at Century House, the longest continuously running guesthouse on Nantucket Island. Located at 10 Cliff Road, in the heart of the historical district, it is surrounded by residences owned by scions of industry, business, and education. The beach is down the street while the center of town can be reached by walking three short blocks.
Getting to Nantucket is the first step.
There are a number of options that include flying, riding a ferry from Hyannis or Wood’s Hole, or going by private boat. From Boston flying Cape Air is the fastest, easiest way to get there. A quick trip to Logan Airport, and without much ado, I am airborne in a twin-engine plane that seats ten. Cape Air balances the plane by gauging passengers’ weight. If you require a lot of space or are squeamish about flying I would recommend either a larger carrier such as JetBlue or the high-speed ferry.
Flying at between 3,000 and 4,000 feet provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Boston harbor, the ocean, and the island of Nantucket. This is particularly interesting because at that altitude everything from cranberry bogs to farmland and mega-mansions become, literally, a bird’s eye view. The Cape Air flight lasts approximately thirty minutes.
Cape Air’s Cessna 402 aircraft.
Getting a taxi at ACK, the Nantucket airport, is as easy as walking outside. The flat rate to get into town is $14 for one person, $16 for two. One of the most popular acknowledgements on the island — ACK — is found on souvenirs of all descriptions. During the summer months, a passenger tells me, it has the distinction of being the busiest airport for private planes in the country.
Driving down and around narrow sometimes cobblestone streets provides visitors with a fascinating historical perspective. Buildings constructed in the early and mid 1800s when Nantucket was the center of America’s financial universe are as well cared for as the more recent additions. One can see and feel the rich influence generated from the days when whaling produced the oil that fueled and powered America. By the time we pull up to 10 Cliff Road I am in Nantucket’s thrall.
A sign declaring Century House 1833 tells me I have arrived. Pansies, geraniums, and hydrangeas spring from window boxes along the wraparound patio. Cyclists glide down the street. Birds sing. A sense of peace washes over me.
The welcoming entrance to Century House.
I open the front door and within moments Otilia H Saunders, the director of media relations for Century House, is there to greet me. Her warmth and enthusiasm are contagious. She genuinely wants to make guests feel at home, and that she does.
Otilia insists on taking my suitcase, carrying it upstairs to the Red Dahlia Room. Following her I’m fascinated by the eclectic combination of historical photographs and art. She tells me that innkeepers Jean Ellen Heron and husband Gerry Connick support an artist-in-residence program. Owing to the extraordinary light and the abundance of subjects — seascapes, landscapes, yachts, rose-covered cottages, interesting people — Nantucket is an ideal place to paint. Apparently, a number of artists return to Century House for one week each year to relax and create new work. One might say the island is a generous muse.
The Red Dahlia Room.
The smell of freshly baking chocolate cookies permeates the air. Every afternoon at 3 p.m. homemade cookies are offered in the sitting room. Tea is available from early morning until 10 p.m. when the door closes.
There are 16 guestrooms, all named after flowers. Century House is a Bed and Breakfast, however it is to B & B’s what the Ritz-Carlton is to hotels. The Red Dahlia Room is luxurious, yet homey. At the heart of it is a large red antique dresser with an impressive oval mirror. The bed is triple-sheeted and appointed with an eye-pleasing combination of Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley colors, textures, and fabrics. Three lace-curtained windows make the room light and airy. Books line the fireplace mantel. Over the desk there is a flat screen TV; there is also free WI-FI. I take a deep breath and decompress.
The Black Orchid Room.
The comfortable sitting room.
Otilia presents me with a series of pamphlets advertising everything from jeep and bike rentals to sailing aboard the Endeavor and visiting the Whaling Museum. There’s a restaurant guide that she marks with suggestions. And the weekly town newspaper provides a calendar of daily events.
“There’s an art opening tomorrow night at the Sosobee Gallery,” she says. “Catherine Elliott, one of our artists-in-residence, is having a show. I think you’d enjoy it!”
Lots of information. Lots of options. I close the door and scan the material. The Whaling Museum; a tour of Mitchell House where Maria Mitchell, America’s first recognized female astronomer was born; the Quaker Meeting House built in the late 1830s; a tour of The Oldest House built in the late 17th-century and still on its original site. There are so many options. And, at the same time, if one feels like doing nothing, that’s okay too. I opt for a short walk to the beach and dinner.
Company of the Cauldron restaurant.
Nantucket has so many good restaurants. Company of the Cauldron piques my interest. It’s been operating for nearly 20 years. It has two seatings nightly: 6:45 and 8:45. They offer a prix fixe menu that changes daily. I make a reservation for 6:45.
Armed with a street map, terrific directions, and Otilia’s assurance that, “It’s absolutely safe to walk around day or night,” I set out. Down the street I pad, and before I know it I’m in the center of town. In three short blocks I am standing in front of Company of the Cauldron.
On Thursday August 23rd I begin with Risotto Milanese with fresh picked lobster and roasted Bartlett Farm Beets.
Island Wine Time.
The second course is Grilled Filet Mignon, sauce Bordelaise with fresh rosemary, fingerling potatoes, and local green beans Almondine. Dessert is a delicious vanilla bean panna cotta with Cassis and blueberry purée and shortbread crumble.
The restaurant’s employees work together with the precision of a finely tuned Swiss watch. The food and wine are memorable. My prix fixe dinner is $67.50. That does not include alcohol or tip.
Friday morning I wake up rested and pleased to be in such a lovely bedroom. There is air-conditioning even though the windows provide a lovely cross-ventilated island breeze.
The bathroom is pristine. The floor and sink are beautiful grey-veined white marble. Molten Brown amenities and soft, thick Christy towels from England add one more luxurious touch.
Guests cannot help but feel pampered.
Gerry’s Berry Buffet Breakfast.
Breakfast is from 8:30 to 10 a.m. I make my way downstairs to the kitchen, the heart of the house. As promised there are bowls filled with Gerry’s Berry Buffet Breakfast — Nantucket grown strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. There’s a large crockpot with New Irish Scottish oatmeal. Freshly perked coffee, organic yogurt, granola, bread, bagels and muffins have been arranged near the toaster. Bowls with more fresh fruit are on the breakfast table.
“Hello! Good morning, I’m Jean.” Jean Ellen Heron, the lovely, animated grey-haired woman I’ve seen in an elegant portrait at the top of the stairs is in charge of breakfast. She and her husband, Gerry Connick, are the innkeepers of this charming establishment.
Century House is their passion. Gerry, a former corporate executive and his wife JeanE (a senior docent at the Norton Simon Museum in Palm Beach during the winter months) purchased Century House in 1984. Over breakfast Gerry explains that the place was a real challenge. It is very unusual for each bedroom in a B & B to have its own private bathroom. Gerry and Jean have spent years renovating and remodeling, turning their baby into the award-winning B&B it is today.
The Red Dahlia Room’s private bathroom.
n 1989 the executive producers of Wings, the hit TV sitcom selected Century House to be the backdrop for a number of the show’s Nantucket locations. Over the years their awards include: the International Restaurant & Hotel Award for Best of City, Top 5 of U.S. Summer Destinations by Forbes.com, Best Bed and Breakfast on Nantucket by Cape Cod Life Magazine readers, and last May Century House was named a “2012 Best of New England-Editors’ Choice” winner by Yankee Magazine.
What really sets Century House apart from other Bed and Breakfasts I’ve visited is the salon atmosphere. JeanE is a gracious hostess who loves art and artists. Gerry is a wonderful host who shares his wife’s appreciation for art while constantly finding ways to improve the building and amenities. Guests meet one another in a warm, casual environment. Everyone I met seemed to enjoy rubbing shoulders with other guests as well as visiting artists. Century House, quite simply, is a place to recharge one’s batteries; to relax and come away refreshed.
The White Narcissus Room.
The home away from home atmosphere is heightened by the innkeepers personal touches. Gerry’s great-uncle, Charles Connick, was a famous American painter, muralist, and internationally renowned master of stained glass. Among his works are the Rose Windows at St. Patrick’s and John the Divine Cathedrals in New York, the Boston University Chapel, and the American Church in Paris. Gerry Connick has Fine Art in his DNA.
“When we started we decided to have artists visit because we weren’t full. One artist tells another and before you know it you have an artist-in-residence program.” Those fortunate enough to be included in this group are invited to stay for one week. The innkeepers are giving artists a stress-free opportunity to hone their craft.
Otilia comes by to see if I need anything. She directs me downtown to the bus for Sconset, a charming, primarily residential community a few miles down the road. For $2 I hop on a public bus and within about 20 minutes I’m there. Chanticleer is one of the best-known, most highly regarded restaurants on the island. The setting is a rose-covered cottage surrounded by exquisite gardens.
I opt for the more casual Sconset Café. They boast “the best clam chowder in New England”. And, it is delicious!
The 46′ Sperm Whale skeleton at the Whaling Museum.
Next on the agenda is the Whaling Museum. I’ve been told that this is a must and I am not disappointed. The “Bones of History” film in conjunction with the Whale Hunt gives a whole new meaning to “Save the Whales”. The Native Americans who introduced whales to the first settlers didn’t fare too well either. For a few short years whales, their oil, and other by-products made a few families unbelievably rich. Most of the settlers were Quakers, serious, business-minded folk who believed in equality for women. When the men were off whaling the women were running Nantucket. I highly recommend the Whaling Museum.
I check out the shops on Main Street. Luxury goods abound. Style Paris offers made-to-measure cashmere jackets for men and women. There are art galleries, children’s clothing stores, restaurants, jewelry stores, and real estate brokers. It’s all there within about a four-block radius. I hear the ferry horn. A new group of visitors will be landing in a few minutes. It’s time to change for the art opening.
Oil painting by
Catherine M. Elliott at the Sosobee Gallery.
The Sosobee Gallery is open to the yachts lining the dock on one side and its sister gallery on the other. Catherine M. Elliott is having a show, and I have to say, her paintings are inspired and inspiring. She knows how to capture the ephemeral light and subtle color variations of the island.
After the opening there’s time to explore more shops, and have dinner. It’s been a long, exciting day so I opt for American Seasons, the restaurant one block from Century House. It’s fully booked so I go to the bar where a young man who’s just become engaged asks if I’d like a glass of champagne. He introduces me to his fiancée who’s just flown in from New York. They’re with a group of friends and it’s a treat to be invited to share in their celebration. This is the feeling that makes Nantucket a prized destination. There’s camaraderie. People are quite simply, nice.
The celebrants move on to their table and the bartender tells me that this is the restaurant’s 25th season. I order a delicious bowl of the locally grown Summer Squash soup, enjoy the homemade bread, and call it a night.
Relax and read.
The cleaning staff has done a meticulous job of making up my room. I look at the flat screen TV but decide to read more about Century House. Nantucket historian, and former director of the Peter Foulger Museum, Edouard A. Stackpole, traces Century House back to the Cliff Road land purchase in 1833. The purchaser, Captain Robert Calder, made several successful voyages to hunt whales. Construction on his house was completed in the 1840s. Stackpole lists Century House as the longest continuously running guesthouse on Nantucket.
Captain Calder selected the property for its views, privacy, and ocean breezes. Would I return to Century House? The answer is an unequivocal yes! In fact, I wish I could stay longer. Century House is open from May through October. Fall is a wonderful time to hike and explore the island. Prices range from $225 to $695 per night. For reservations go online to www.centuryhouse.com or call 508/228-0530.
Depending on the time your plane leaves, ordering a taxi well in advance is recommended. The ferry is within walking distance. The Nantucket Airport is only a few miles from Century House. Once there I meet a number of passengers in the waiting area who are flying to a myriad of destinations. Because Cape Air is synonymous with cities in Massachusetts: Boston, Hyannis, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, New Bedford — as well as a few cities in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont — I mistakenly think of it as a local, New England airline. I am surprised to find out that they have a number of destinations in New York, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Internationally they fly to the Caribbean and in Micronesia. The flight back to Boston proves to be as breathtaking as the flight to Nantucket. The city of Boston, and more specifically, Boston Harbor up close and personal, is a rare treat. For Cape Air reservations go to: www.capeair.com
— Feature by Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magazine New England Editor; photos by Linda and courtesy of Cape Air and The Century House.