Birdhouses Tell Stories of Falmouth's Historic Homes
By: ELIZABETH W. SAITO, July 8, 2014
There is a new way to learn the history behind the old houses that line Falmouth’s Village Green: a ceramic birdhouse walking tour.
In the midday heat on Wednesday, July 2, Falmouth High School art teacher Corine Adams walked the tour, which was created by her students, each of whom learned about a historic house in the downtown area and fashioned an appropriately themed birdhouse to hang on the property.
“Everyone drives by these houses constantly, not aware of the stories behind them,” Ms. Adams said. She stopped in front of the Consider Hatch House at 47 Main Street, a stately white late Georgian Colonial house built in 1767. A birdhouse in the shape of a ceramic frog on a lily pad hung from a tree in the front yard. Siders Pond, which lies just beyond the house, was named for Consider Hatch, whose nickname was Sider. “So that’s why the students put up the frog on the lily pad,” she said.
Brochures for the tour are available at the Museums on the Green or the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce. The brochure shows the location of each house on the tour, and has a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone. This directs the phone to the tour’s website, where tour takers can read about each house’s history and thus puzzle out the connection with the sometimes bizarre looking birdhouse out front.
The modest white house at 24 Main Street was originally the residence for the caretaker of the much grander Mostly Hall across the street. The birdhouse at 24 Main Street is a mouth with a tongue sticking out and toothbrushes fixed to the roof. The house is owned jointly by Gail Rousseau and her sister, Susan. Their grandfather, Dr. Arthur J. Wagner, was a dentist who ran his practice out of the house. When Ms. Adams visited Gail Rousseau to see if she was willing to have the house on the tour, Ms. Rousseau showed her a cabinet full of her grandfather’s tools. “You open it up and all the molds, and the tools, and that dental smell. And so I went back to the students, and I was like ‘Please put something dental in it,’ ” Ms. Adams said.
The childhood home of Katharine Lee Bates at 16 Main Street has a birdhouse in the shape of the United States. Ms. Bates wrote “America the Beautiful.”
Ms. Adams has her students execute one project in collaboration with the Falmouth Historical Society every year. “So instead of just learning a ceramic technique, they learn history, too,” she said. Ms. Adams said she enjoys seeing her students engage with the history of their town. “It’s not history they can learn in a book or on Google, you need to reach out to the community,” she said.
The birdhouses were hung up in May. Students worked on the website until the last day of school, Ms. Adams said, and the tour became fully functional in late June. The project was funded with a grant from the Arts
Foundation of Cape Cod, which paid for the clay and glazes. The tour will end in the fall, when the birdhouses will be taken down. Homeowners have the option of purchasing their birdhouse for $50.