COTUIT – After 67 years, the Santuit and Cotuit Historical Society has found itself “full to the brim”, according to historical society administrator and archivist Amy Johnson, prompting an expansion project that begins later this month .
The historical society was founded in 1955 and over the years has accumulated artifacts and documents that illustrate life in Cotuit since the town was founded in 1648.
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Some of the oldest pieces in the society’s collection are Wampanoag artifacts, but most of the collection – such as old newspapers, photographs, books, family histories, house plans and a fire truck Model T – give a glimpse of Cotuit from the 1800s.
“We cannot accept new items,” Johnson said. “We just got a steady supply of people donating.”
So the historical society simply ran out of space and it was time to expand.
On October 5, there was a dedication ceremony in front of his William Morse Fire Museum.
What is on display at the Historical Society
Located at 1148 Main Street, the current facility consists of three buildings: the Main Office Gift Shop and Fire Museum, the Samuel B. Dottridge Homestead, which dates to 1808, and the Rothwell Ice House.
The Samuel B. Dottridge Homestead is a house museum featuring artifacts depicting life in Cotuit in the 1800s.
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Minor renovations to restore the Samuel B. Dottridge Homestead to its original condition by removing a bathroom and replacing it with a pantry and butter area will also be part of the build.
The Rothwell Ice House was built in the 1890s and was donated to the historical society in 2009 and opened to the public in 2011.
Additionally, there is a historic vegetable garden, maintained by the Cotuit Bird and Garden Club. Typical flowers and vegetables are grown as well as medicinal herbs used in colonial times and in the 19th century.
Here’s what the expansion project includes
The expansion will primarily take place in the main office and gift shop building, increasing the current space of 160 square feet to 567 square feet.
“We had a few different goals: to expand the exhibit space and archival space to better tell the story of Cotuit,” Johnson said.
The company also wanted additional space to update the exhibits to include a digital display of approximately 500 historic homes.
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Additionally, a former Cotuit Skiff, a modified catboat specifically designed for use in the shallow waters of Cotuit Harbour, will be on display in the main building.
“It’s sort of the symbol of Cotuit, part of the history of the village,” said Beth Johnson, president of the Santuit and Cotuit Historical Society.
How the project was funded
The whole project will cost around $450,000, Amy Johnson said.
The historical society received about $87,500 through the Barnstable Community Preservation Committee, but most of the money comes from private donations from society members and supporters. Over 300 people donated to the project.
“We had very generous donors,” said Amy Johnson.
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There have been three major gifts since fundraising efforts began in 2020 of $50,000, another of $100,000 and a third of $115,000, Beth Johnson said.
So far, the company has raised $420,000.
“That was enough to start building,” said Amy Johnson. “We still have a little more to do, so we still need to raise that $30,000.”
The historical society has also applied for a few grants, still pending, to help cover costs, particularly for digital signage exhibits.
When the renovation is complete
Construction will begin at the end of October, with the finalization of the demolition permit, and will be carried out by the Central Cape Construction Company of Cotuit.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
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“The construction site will go fairly quickly. I’m guessing it will be done by winter and we’ll be working indoors in the spring,” Beth Johnson said.
The Santuit and Cotuit Historical Society is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday from Memorial Day through Christmas.
It is also open by appointment on weekdays in season.
“We receive a few thousand people during the season. We get a high rate of seasonal residents in June, July and August,” said Amy Johnson.
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