Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Henry Beston's Outermost House, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

These Cape Cod pictures were taken in 1973 of  Beston's "Outermost House".   Photos from personal archives

“I wanted a place to come to in the summer, one cosy enough to be visited in the winter could I manage to get down... It consisted of two rooms, a bed-room and a kitchen-living room, and its dimensions overall were but twenty by sixteen.  A brick fireplace with its back to the wall between rooms heated the larger space and took the chill off the bedroom.”

Henry Beston, The Outermost House

“Of the three elemental voices, that of oceans is the most awesome, beautiful, and varied....  Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear in it a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp, rifle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea.”

Henry Beston, The Outermost House

One book that has stood out as probably the most salient was "The Outermost House" by Henry Beston.

Henry Beston had built the house in 1925 on the Atlantic-facing stretch of beach on Cape Cod  (in Eastham) as a retreat,  spending time there in all seasons, and then writing about it in "The Outermost House".  He donated it to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1959, and it is said that his writings were instrumental in JFK's establishing the Cape Cod National Seashore - 40 miles of protected beach - in 1961.   Having been moved back from the water a couple of times,  the house was finally washed away in the Blizzard of 1978.

Henry Beston spent the rest of his life on his farm in Nobleboro, writing about that as well in "Northern Farm".  His legacy is perpetuated today in The Henry Beston Society.

Amazon link: The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

An earlier generation, pre-Amazon and iBooks, correlated affection for a book with number of copies owned. 


Michael Rowe said...

Thank you for this, Muffy. I'll be visiting ABE later this afternoon to order some of these books. And, as always, the photographs are most evocative.

Parnassus said...

What impresses me about this house is the number and quality of architectural details, despite its size. There are strap hinges and other special hardware, wide corner boards painted a contrasting white, the recessed porch, the exposed rafter ends, and the way the extension echoes the original shape while giving the structure more complex massing. Not too surprising for someone who was so in tune that he noticed so many nuances in the surf.

I can understand accumulating multiple copies of books you love. It seems to intensify your affection for the book, and they can be lent without the usual sense of foreboding.
--Road to Parnassus

Anonymous said...

My father was a keen amateur naturalist and had Beston's books on his shelf. I started reading many of those books around age 12 or so, and now have my father's copies on my own shelves. They're always such a pleasure to re-read and still seem fresh.

This seems like a good place to mention that the Henry Beston Society is a partner, with filmmaker Christopher Seufert, in a documentary film about the legacy of Beston and Outermost House (more here, .

In fact, they have a deadline of July 27 to raise the last bit -- $5,000.


Anonymous said...

Just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has multiple copies of beloved books. And what a pleasure it is to pass a copy on to a treasured friend.

Patsy said...

Amazing. Perfect Cape light.

Bitsy said...

Lovely post. Stunning photos.

Greenfield said...

Thank you for these plaintively beautiful and evocative photographs; now I've got to track down those books!

Squeeze said...

Henry Beston was a good friend of my mentor at Dartmouth, Professor Herb West who discussed his work in Comparative Literature and introduced many students to wonder of his private thoughts.

Kionon said...

I still purchase additional copies of certain real books. Most notably, Midshipman's Hope. I have owned at least four copies over the last 15 years. When its author died in 2006, I helped write his obituary for a monthly anthology.

JDSprouse said...

I have never read any of Henry Beston's works. You are encouraging me to do so. The house reminds me of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond. I've read Thoreau's works multiple times.
I sometimes wonder why I have so large a house, to entertain guests perhaps, or why I think I need more worldly possessions.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for introducing me to Henry Beston his writings
and the photographs of his house.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.

Paul Connors said...


Do you know if these were shot with Kodachrome? They look like they were taken just yesterday!


Don Wilding said...


Thank you for bringing Henry Beston's Outermost House to your readers. I find the photographs impressive and always love to hear from folks who have a connection.

Thank you,
Don Wilding
Executive director & co-founder
The Henry Beston Society