Finding the Light: Mid-Century Architecture on the Upper Cape

The Hatch House . Wellfleet

One thing has been true of artists throughout the centuries, they are drawn to nature, to light that possesses an exceptional clarity, to settings cloaked in serenity. Free from the distractions of a modern world, tucked away in hard to access locals they are left to commune, create, and improve the human condition. Lofty goals perhaps, but one need look no further than nature for inspiration on just about everything. From a seemingly simple blade of grass springs a ecosystem of ingenuity, and so it is no surprise that a group of exiled refugees from Eastern Europe found their way to the Outer Cape.

Three Bedrooms located at the back of the house. Note the panels above the doors open to let in fresh air while maintaining privacy for the occupants.

Marcel Brueuer, Serge Chermayeff and Olav Hammarstrom and engineer Paul Weidlinger all built homes here. Walter Gropius, Xanti Schwinski, Konrad Wachsmann, Constantino Nivola, the Saarinen Family and Florence and Hans Knoll rented summer cottages or were frequent guests.

Note the pulley system which lifts the panels to open the living room to the outdoors and maximize the waterview.

While it may not be a surprise that they found it among the hilly pine woods, of Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown, the houses that they built with the same simplicity found in nature were indeed a surprise to me.

Panels UP!

Dotted with Kettle Ponds and Glacier Lakes, the ruddy Pine woods make way to dunes and sandy beach that overlook the Bay where on a clear day you can see from Provincetown Light to the Plymouth Monument. I had just such a day as I stood on the deck of The Hatch House, lovingly restored to its original glory by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust, through National Historic Grants, and the community of craftspeople that call upper Cape home. The Hatch Family kindly donated all the original furniture and art work so that it is truly and lovingly restored.

No A/C but the breeze from the Bay is allowed to circulate through transom windows seen over the sofa.

What I wouldn’t give to have sat among those titans of architecture as they sipped cocktails on the deck and discussed form and function, sustainability and the course work they were preparing for the students at Wentworth and Harvard GSD. They shaped a movement that will forever leave its mark on history.

By the way – The Hatch House can be rented. No heat, no internet, no laundry, no dishwasher, and no distraction from its intended purpose.

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