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Bohemia Beach Is Having Another Day in the Sun

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Top 3 Best Rated Wellfleet, Massachusetts — Sunday Cape Cod Modern House Trust when the four houses it maintains are ready for the next group of tenants – artists, writers, and architecture enthusiasts vying for the opportunity to spend a week in these modest bohemian monuments.

Architect and Trust founder Peter McMahon is the principal curator of this fascinating architectural collection. He and others rescued the home from extreme decay over the past decade in an unusual arrangement with the National Park Service, which owns the structure, along with more than 44,000 acres of beaches, wetlands and woodlands. Cape Cod National SeashoreSigned by President John F. Kennedy in the summer of 1961, national coast law It was an extraordinary confluence of politics and civic will that stretched from Chatham to Provincetown and protected 40 miles of coastline and highlands, including more than half of Wellfleet.

This is the ecosystem that author Mary McCarthy famously caricatured as “Bohemian Coast”. McCarthy said she was left here in the 1930s. She is Edmund because she has a ruinous and stormy marriage to Wilson. Edmund Wilson was a prolific cultural critic and author in the early Outer He was a pioneer of the Cape. (When he first arrived in the 1920s, he was chasing Edna St his Vincent his Millet.)

Years later, in his 1955 novel A Charmed Life, McCarthy enjoyed channeling the self-respecting intellectuals and back-to-land-type practices of this place. : The book describes 3 village idiots, 8 bearded freewheeling lads, 21 town drunks, and a number of ex-spouses.

But Wellfleet isn’t just a literary ghost. An in-depth cultural history by author and intellectual property attorney John Taylor Williams, Bohemian Shores: The Story of Cape Cod, 1910-1960 features a dizzying array of characters You can learn more about Left-handers, artists, writers, and those who supported them including wealthy arts patron and social justice activist Mabel Dodge (she was particularly devoted to John Reed and his gang), and acerbic society. Dwight McDonald, a critic and famous for nudes. Cocktail parties are all covered in a book out in May.

Mr. Williams’ father-in-law, Jack Hall, was one of the region’s founding fathers, a handsome movie star, married and full-blooded settler. Mr. Williams once thought to organize the book by profiled Mr. Hall’s four wives before an editor turned against him. Hall was a self-taught architect who began buying land in the 1930s. The first was a renovated old farmhouse purchased from writer John Dos Passos (who, as his wife says, fled Provincetown for Wellfleet because it fell apart). before he made his own structure.

The most poetic of these is the Hatch House, now part of the Trust’s small collection. (Reservations for the house begin in his October; rates vary upon request.) In 1962, for Robert Hatch, critic and editor of The Nation, and his Ruth Hatch, painter was built in When Ruth died in 2012 and the trust restored the house, her family loaned out its contents, including all the books. This is a time capsule of the reading preferences of mid-century intellectuals. Rights”, “Olympia Reader”, a digest of erotic stories from the French publisher of “Lolita” published in 1965.

The region’s singular settler legacy is this singular architecture. Along with those built by European exiles who found their homes here at the dawn of World War II, notably the modernist architects Marcel Breuer and Serge Chermayeff, are quirky, often handcrafted structures. I designed a home for myself and my friends.

The region’s first wave of free-thinkers in the 1920s and ’30s were drawn to the wild landscapes and lights and cheap real estate. And many of these settlers, like Hall, were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but turned their backs on wealth (or were wiped out). McMahon calls this group the Brahmin Bohemians. They were the later Thoreau family, often carving out new lives in structures they built and designed themselves. Others took advantage of his modest mid-19th-century house in the center of town and added their own artistic embellishments to the New His England backgrounds on postcards.

Gilded Age Newport, 100 miles southwest, is a resort town built on the spoils of greedy capitalism, proudly displaying its vast wealth in equally massive marble and granite ‘cottages’. I was. But the architecture of the Outer Cape was almost imperceptibly austere. Twentieth-century colonist politics was decidedly pink. Its interior was as eclectic as its civic.

A cluster of small structures secretly placed along Horseleech Pond, The Turkey Houses are a prize at the end of a series of narrow sandy roads that mysteriously wind through the deep woods. That’s where I met Hayden Herrera. Hayden Herrera lived on her family’s property in July of this year. It’s a collection of turkey coops rehabilitated for humans by his father, John C. Phillips, known as Jack, who, like Mr. Hall, was one of his early settlers in the area.

Herrera, 81, is a noted biographer of artists such as Frida Kahlo, Arshile Gorky and Isamu Noguchi. Her memoir, Upper Bohemia, published last year, is a harrowing tale of her chaotic upbringing (not uncommon for Bohemian children) by her careless, pleasure-seeking parents. is. Security between turkey houses.

Her mother, Elizabeth Cornell Blair, called their cohort Upper Bohemian. It wasn’t a compliment.) The upper Bohemians lived according to strict norms that included respect for nature and beauty. Fascist ”- and aversion to displays of wealth and luxury. Her parents each married her five times (and had a habit of attending her parties naked with cocktails), and were also keen on sexual adventures. Yet, being forced to take control of themselves in the woods, Herrera and her sister Blair have learned resilience. That place was the ballast of their unstable world.

Phillips studied art at Harvard and Paris. When his uncle left his 800 acres of woodland and coppice here in the late 1920s, the buildings he began to build began in the early 1960s as an art studio on top of a sand dune that had fallen into the sea, It was like an installation of his art. He built a lovely modernist house with a flat roof and tubular railings from Homasote, a compressed fiber board made from recycled paper, and called it a paper palace.

The house was one of many that he first rented to Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, and the surrealist Chilean painter Matta Echauren. In his memoirs, Herrera wrote that the trio taught their parents a surrealist after-dinner game.

The paper palace was sold long ago (and backfilled with bourgeois shingles). But when Herrera’s niece, Miranda Cowley-Heller, wrote her first book, she called it “Paper Palace.” Published last summer, the novel is cinematic and haunting, and its title fits the volatile family background of protagonist Elle, a scholar with a tragic secret. A fictitious place set in a family estate, this place serves the same purpose as ‘Upper Bohemia’. It thus serves as a place of relative tranquility amidst the emotional and other chaos inflicted on the children of Bohemia. “Paper Palace” became a New York Times bestseller It’s on the list and has been optioned by HBO as a potential miniseries. Similar to “The Ice Storm” but with mosquitoes.

But we are ahead. When World War II began, Mr. Phillips and his young family had turkeys instead of active duty. He found a plumber nearby, built a hut for them with his friend Hayden Walling, an artist and builder of his like mind. When the war ended and Mr. Phillips got tired of turkeys, he moved five of his huts to the edge of Horsereach Pond and turned them into turkeys. bedroom cabin. The sixth was the bathroom.

For family gatherings, he created a living space in the rough outlines of Leentu, a wedge-shaped structure of concrete block and timber, now with a screened-in porch adjacent to a tupelo wood stand. rice field. The inside looks like a Morandi still life and has changed very little since Mr. Phillips’ time, except for his coffee maker. His paraphernalia still hangs on the wall. Mr. Phillips was an improviser. He made furniture out of salvaged materials. He turned plywood doors and wooden cable spools into tables and sofas, and made ceiling lamps out of washboards. When the sofa in one house got dirty, he painted it white. Duct tape was his preferred building material, and he was buried with it wrapped when he died in 2003.

“My dad complained that it wasn’t as fun here as it used to be,” Herrera said. “The only cynical thing we do now is get into a pond. It’s like someone’s arm. We behave ourselves. But we don’t behave ourselves.” We mourn the time.”

Julie Carlson The family home is a sturdy-looking former banker’s house built in 1868.

Ms. Carlson’s mother, Jocelyn Carlson Bartzel, was a hairdresser and educator who ran a literary boarding house and rented out rooms for a living. Ms. Carlson’s father, Sten Carlson, was a capricious fisherman and treasure hunter who was not often at home. In March 1970, his boat, the Joslyn C., was seized by the Cuban government for flying too close to the Cuban coast (Mr. Carlson was testing treasure-hunting gear), leading to a highly publicized international incident. Caused. Ms. Bartzel, once a Fulbright scholar in Rome, embarked on her domestic adventures while her husband was at sea. She did, however, except for the period when she had a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. (In her accepted bohemian practice, she left her then 14-year-old daughter to live for herself during her graduate studies.)

Mr. Bartzel was wiped out by someone who was staying at the house. British pop known for her collaborations with Betsey Johnson in the 1960s. I was. The  Childcare near me, at that stage, was acid green. “There was an overall pop palette,” Carlson said.

At another point, at the suggestion of another artist, Mr. Bartzel painted the dining chairs silver. One hot summer, ceramist Vera Vivante advised her to cover her lawn with white marble chips. Carlson and her husband, Josh Groves, bought Bartzel’s home after she died.

“Nobody said we should focus on fixing water pipes,” says Carlson. Carlson was a sensitive child, and he worried about delayed maintenance and messy wiring in his home. Her mother thought her renovation was too bourgeois. She was, as she put it, “too chatham”, referring to the wealthy town often called “Greenwich on the Cape”, and didn’t have enough money anyway. The used refrigerator had a large dent. Bedroom had no heating in winter. Summers were crowded with poets, artists and cello students one year. Carlson says the writers were very careful. “The poets were utterly incompetent. They just wanted to drift and be fed. My mother was the slave of the great literary.”

These days, the house, slowly regenerated over the past decade by Carlson and Groves, is painted a soothing white inside and out. Upholstery is white. Her mother’s furniture is now a drab black. The plumbing is intact, the refrigerator is intact, and the wiring is safe. The lawn was lush and lush on a recent summer day.

“I was always thinking about what I needed to do,” Carlson said, remembering her life as a child in Bohemia.

“I was obsessed with creating a calm environment,” she said. “I just wanted everything to be normal and more bourgeois.”

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