Sheriff's Meadow moves to preserve 17th century farmhouse
Photo by Nelson Sigelman
On Monday evening, Adam Moore, executive director of the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation stood before a group of more than 60 invited guests and described why the Island's largest private land conservation nonprofit has set out to preserve the Mitchell House on Quansoo Farm.
The farm, on Black Point Pond within sight of the Atlantic on the Vineyard's south shore, retains many of the wind-swept vistas that would have been familiar to 17th century Vineyarders. Mr. Moore said the historic house occupied a setting that had not changed much over the past 300 years. In that sense, it was unique, he said.
Mr. Moore introduced Brian Cooper of Early New England Restorations of North Stonington, Connecticut, a company that specializes in such restorations. Mr. Moore spoke enthusiastically about the authenticity of the house and the setting.
The house is unencumbered with modern conveniences, such as insulation, wiring, and plumbing, that would need to be removed before the project could proceed. The nails had been manufactured from "bog iron" produced on the Vineyard. The use of "hurricane braces," one of many 18th century construction techniques, had allowed it to survive the 1938 hurricane.
Once restored, it would provide a glimpse into the past for generations to come, he said. "This is unique," he said, "and the setting is phenomenal."
The last inhabitants of the house, members of the Mitchell family, were descendants of the original builders of the house. Through the centuries, owners' names changed from Mayhew to Norton to Hancock in the late 1700s and finally to Mitchell in the late 1800s, as daughters of the family married men with different last names.
Inside the house for guests to see, the foundation displayed a set of marine charts discovered while cleaning the attic, the oldest of which dates back to 1794, that depict the British Channel, the western coast of Ireland, and the coasts of Spain and Portugal.
The maps bear the signature of Captain Samuel Hancock of Chilmark, a master mariner, who by some accounts lived in the Mitchell House with his wife, Frances, and their children.
For more information on the Foundation and its plans, go to www.sheriffsmeadow.org.