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On baseball and bigger issues, this town has an opinion

By Shirley Eastman

Cape Cod Life Magazine


Town Dock

Turning off the highway, heading toward the water, you won't pass a single stoplight, shopping center, motel, or even a miniature golf course. Although part of the village stretches north of Route 28, the heart of Cotuit rests on the gentle hills sloping down to Nantucket Sound, flanked by North Bay to the east and Shoestring Bay to the west.

All the commercial transactions taking place here center around one restaurant, one country store, two real estate offices, and one oyster shed. The Cotuit Oyster Company has been harvesting shellfish from Cotuit Bay since the mid-1800s, before which the native Wampanoag had a monopoly on the delecasies. Oystermen have come and gone over the centuries, but for the past 30 years, johnson and Sandy Nelson have had the Little River waterfront property pretty much to themselves. Oystering, no longer a primitive bucket-and-rake operation, has evolved into aquaculture. The Nelsons lease their oyster beds from Barnstable County and, as a crew of two, do all the work themselves. They seed the beds, tend the growing shellfish, layer them in barrels, and truck them off to the wholesaler. On a good day, according to johnson, the pair can process close to 1,000 of Cotuit's finest: "subtle, mellow, and mild."

Today Cotuit oysters are ordered by name in seafood restaurants as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. And, according to an ad found on the internet, gourmet seafood outlets are asking as much as $2.25 per oyster. But if you go to the source - the back door of the Little River oyster shack - the Nelsons say they'll sell them to you for a buck a piece.

Farther down the hill, on Main Street, stands the Cotuit Grocery Company, whose weathered shingles and clapboard attest to the building's 140 years. Before it specialized in food and drink, it served as a hardware store, lumber yard, and gas station. Only washashores call it a grocery store. To Cotuit old-timers it's the "Coop" - a corruption of co-op or cooperative. Once a cooperative enterprise with four seperate owners, the store is now owned and operated by Steven Gould, son of village historian Jim Gould.


The Coop

Most Cotuiters are not much for partying. But those looking for a cold drink and a little conversation often meet at the bar at the tiny Kettle Ho Restaurant and Tavern on School Street, the village's only nightspot. Its name derives from tradition: Miles Standish, it is said, journeyed from Plymouth to buy Cotuit's lush hills and spactacular waterfront from the Wampanoag for a kettle and a hoe.

With past incarnations as varied as a barbershop, bicycle shop, and variety store, the old buildingis now a popular family restaurant by day. But at night the Kettle Ho is the place to be if you want to find out where the striped bass are biting or weather the Patriots will make it to the Super Bowl.

Let it not be lost on the first-time visitor that real estate firms outnumber any other business here two to one. "People want to live in Cotuit," says Deborah Schilling, a Re/Max broker-agent who recently opened her own office on Main Street. "Families attracted to Cotuit are looking for a laid-back lifestyle." They are people who enjoy walking, biking, sailing, and just basking in the beauty of the village beaches and woodlands.

A good number of the some 3,000 residents are well-healed retirees. But now Schilling and other brokers are finding that more and more young families with small children are interested in moving here. Whatever the age bracket, a family's incom level has to be well above average to even consider Cotuit.

"Technology breeds most of today's high-end buyers," says Susan Gill, broker for Cotton Realty who has owned a home in COtuit since 1978. Many residents telecommute to companies based in Boston, Connecticut, or New York.

Both Schilling and Gill handle properties along the area's "golden horeshoe," where Cotuit, Marstons Mills, and Osterville converge around North Bay and Prince Cove. About 60 percent of her customers, says Gill, are buying these multi-milliondollar houses for second homes, which they expect to have every ammenity - expansive lawns, several bathrooms, and of course, private piers. But environmentalists view each "improvement" as more of a nemesis than a necessity. These additions, they say, will overload local waters with pollution, endangering the quality of the area's beaches and the quality of the area's beaches and the desirability of its shellfish.

A few years ago the citizens of Cotuit took on a group of the would-be pier builders and eventually secured passage of a local zoning overlay banning construction of any new docks in Cotuit Bay between Loop's Beach and Cordwood Road. Spearheading the campaign were the 500 families who make up the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association. While proud of his group's achievement, current Association president Stew Goddwin, a retired Wall Street executive, points out his village still has serious issues to face, such as the threatened closing of Cotuit Elementary School. Furthermore, the village maintains its own fire department, roads, and streetlights, but has no full-time Barnstable police officer assigned.


Cotuit Federated Church

Although Cotuiters tend to "speak with one voice" when it comes to local issues, attorney Rick Barry, who represents most of the village on the Barnstable Town Council, says two recent commercial projects created more than a hint of dissent. The first was the construction of a Super Stop & Shop and renovation of an adjoining shopping center in Marstons Mills on Route 28, just across the village line. Letters to local newspaper editors and speakers at public meetings warned of increased traffic, a spike in crime, and burgeoning urbanization in the tiny community. Protests were in vain. The developers won. Today the shopping center is open and thriving. Thjose who complained the loudest can regularly be seen pushing grocery carts down the supermarket aisles. Yes, they admit, shopping there may not fit Cotuit's image, but it certainly is convenient.

The second controversial proposal is still up in the air - construction of a so-called "wind farm" on Nantucket Sound. This project, designed to generate electricity, would consist of 130 wind turbines within sailing distance of Cotuit's harbor. Opponents charge the structures would be a hazard to wildlife, fishermen, boaters, and aircraft, not to mention esthetically appalling. Supporters say the windmills would provide the Cape with cheap power and reduce air pollution. The Civic Association held three informational meetings on the project and then announced its opposition to constructing the turbines as plans now stand.

One subject on which there is never any question about a Cotuiter's position is baseball. On summer evenings the bleachers at little Elizabeth Lowell Field are packed with fans of the Cotuit Kettleers. Since 1946, the Kettleers, one of 10 teams competing in the Cape League, have brought home 14 championships. The young men selected to play for the league are top-notch college athletes who come here during the summer to hone their baseball skills and hope for a nod from a Big League scout. The Cincinnati Reds recently called up two former Kettleers, and three alumni played in the 2002 World Series, says manager Bruck Murphy - Jeff Kent then of the San Francisco Giants, and Tim Salmon and Scott Spiezio of the Anaheim Angels.


Lowell Field home of the Kettleers

If Cotuiters aren't watching baseball in the summer, chances are they are out sailing. And they start young. Cotuit's Mosquito Yacht Club (CMYC), the oldest junior racing club in the nation, first took to the bay in 1906. From the beginning, the club admitted only "unmarried men and women under 21" (12 of the original 15 members were girls). Before long, these seasoned sailors were setting up sailing classes for boys and girls eager to take their places. For the past 50 years the club has provided instruction for more than 100 children every summer. For many Cotuiters, such as Leonard W. Peck, the CMYC has always been the heart of the town, unique in its focus on children.


  • FOUNDED: mid-1600s


  • SUMMER POPULATION (Approx.): 6,500

  • TAX RATE: $8.31

  • MEDIAN HOUSE PRICE (2003): $714,041


From Cape Cod Life Magazine

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I have to take in some baseball games when I'm on the cape, fishing this summer. That picture of Lowell Field is fantastic!!

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I grew up in Cotuit, and my family is from Cotuit. We moved to another nearby village when I was in school, but my grandparents lived there, so we were there a lot. My grandparents had a boat in Cotuit Bay that we used to spend a lot of time on.

My ancestors emigrated from Nova Scotia and were among the first Europeans to settle in the village.

Hopefully, I'll get down there this summer to take some of my own pictures.

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