May 6, 2020
Dear Members and Friends:
I hope this message finds you well. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Nye Museum faces the possibility that its buildings will not be open for public tours for the first summer since 1972. Right now, we are increasing our outdoor offerings. We will soon add a self- guided tour of the property that will be available for free to anyone with a smart phone. Meanwhile, we also hope to take advantage of the unexpected opportunity to undertake necessary restorations inside the 1678 Benjamin Nye house. I am writing you today to ask for your financial support for this delicate work.
By the end of last season, it had become apparent that the floor in the small chamber room had partially collapsed. Our facilities supervisor, Dave Wheelock, evaluated the condition of the floor’s substructure – a sill dating to the original construction of the house – and found it to be in good repair. However, a few of the joists supporting the floor, including, sadly, an original roof rafter repurposed during a major rebuild of the house in 1816, had been compromised. We need not only to replace these subfloor boards, but also to investigate the source and extent of the rot, which will involve removing part of the foundation in the northwest corner of the house.
The small chamber, or borning room, holds a special place in the history of the Nye Homestead. Constructed as an additional bedroom, typically where sick, elderly, and expectant mothers might stay and rest, this space enjoyed a second life as a taproom and tavern during the Homestead’s commercial heyday, from approximately 1805 to 1829. At the time, the location served as a perfect stop for stagecoaches traveling between Sandwich Village and West Barnstable. Silvanus Nye, who inherited the house from his father Joseph, continued to live there while serving as a rural inn owner. Today, the Nye Museum’s parlors are named after Joseph and Silvanus, respectively.
Mr. Wheelock, our facilities supervisor, who is also an accomplished archaeologist, believes the work on the foundation beneath the small chamber will involve minimal collateral damage if begun soon. Happily, we also believe that this work will afford us a terrific opportunity to recover lost artifacts, especially those pertaining to the Silvanus Nye tavern or, as previous digs have recovered, Native American artifacts. Wheelock participated, alongside our senior historian John Cullity, in two previous subfloor surveys. In 2009, restoration of Silvanus Nye Parlor turned up colonial era pottery and a gold chain. Likewise, the 2016 restoration of the Joseph Nye Parlor led to the recovery of diamond panes of glass from the 1600s windows, a mold for pewter buttons made from soft stone, and other interesting artifacts.
We are hoping to raise $20,000 to save the small chamber room floor from collapsing and have established a Nye Homestead Restoration Fund for the explicit purpose of funding this and future restoration work. Will you join us in this vital project? Thank you in advance for your help!
David J. Shorten, Ph.D.