May 26, 2021 | Charting the Past

Oyster house built by George Lewis Hamblin, near the entrance to Warren’s Cove.Image from the Marstons Mills Historical Society Photograph Collection:

Knowing the history of a place is a gift. All too often history is lost and we find ourselves unmoored from the past and that doesn’t bode well for the future. Jim Gould, who passed away this March at 96, was able to capture much of Barnstable’s history in an engaging way. We are sharing one of his pieces from his blog here and want to mention that the other day we floated by Warren Cove, where oysterman George Hamblin built his oyster shack. 

By Jim Gould

Paupmunnock, a Native leader at the time of the Europeans’ arrival, had his home on Prince’s Cove in what is now Marstons Mills, Barnstable, a favorite Wampanoag site for 10,000 years according to archaeological records. It was called Broad Nook, a name that stuck until Prince Marston built his brick house on the hillside west of the cove, and people began calling it Prince’s Cove. In the nineteenth century Cyrus Jones had an oyster shack on the south side of Turtle Island, competing with neighboring Hinckleys and Hamblins.

A permanent pier was built in 1953 by Wilbur Cushing at the suggestion of Ethel Huston, a New Yorker who had a summer home on the point. She liked to go crabbing, but wanted to tie her rowboat to a pier so she didn’t have to wade out. Cushing’s stepfather, A. G. Griffin, owned a good deal of waterfront. Cushing salvaged some electric light poles and used lumber from a duck farm that was being demolished and built a dock.

Later he added two renovated floats salvaged from the dump. Locust poles to hold the floats in place were pumped into sand, mud and fresh water, sprouting green shoots two feet long. It created “quite a flotilla” of floats.

Aside from renting dock space, Cushing fixed outboard motors and rented boats. His most memorable customer was Air Force General Jimmy Doolittle, who Cushing took fishing in the summer of 1963.

In the spring of 1957 the town dredged Prince’s Cove, built a town dock to the north side of the pier, brought in sand for a town beach, and in 1964 paved the parking lot. The next year the town created a “Harbor of Refuge” from hurricanes by dredging depth for large boats.

Cushing decided to build “a real marina” in 1965. His stepfather A. G. Griffin gave him 217 feet of waterfront. In the summer of 1965 Cushing had R. A. Williams build a 26-by-41-foot wooden building, and new floats. Cushing agreed to limit lengths of boats to 25 feet, and prohibit sale of gasoline. Hyannis Marine Service dredged a ditch four feet deep at low tide and drove pilings. Cushing poured a concrete foundation himself. All of this cost $35,000.

The Prince’s Cove Marina opened in the spring of 1966 with space for 52 boats along three gangways. Public water and streetlights arrived as well. While Cushing was busy in his masonry business, he hired a Southampton College marine biology student Bruce Bennett to run the marina. The next year all the inventory of the closed Francis Wyman Bait shop on Route 28 was added. A popular attraction were two former lobster tanks which came from Snow Inn on Wychmere Harbor in Harwich, stocked with live crabs, eels and a 16-inch striped bass.

In 1970 Cushing leased the marina to John Warner who needed a place for his marine electronics business. Warner bought all the boats, motors, moorings and fishing tackle, but took out the lobster tanks. After four years or so, Warner turned the lease and business over to his employee, Dow Clark, who ran it until about 2000.

In 2000 Cushing sold the marina to John D. Lampe’s Schooner Corp. Lampe planned an elaborate expansion, but the town of Barnstable voted in Jan. 2002 to take it over by eminent domain.

Today, the once quiet oyster bed of Broad Nook is filled with motorboats and sailboats.


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