Essential Architecture- New England



Nantucket is an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the United States. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the town of Nantucket, Massachusetts and the coextensive Nantucket County, which cover all three islands. The region of Surfside on Nantucket is the southernmost settlement in Massachusetts.

Nantucket is a tourist destination and summer colony. The population of the island soars from approximately 10,000 to 50,000 during the summer months, due to tourists and summer residents. It has some of the highest property values in Massachusetts.

The National Park Service has designated the entire island as a National Historic District, paying particular note to the settlements of Nantucket and Siasconset. The island features one of the highest concentration of pre-Civil War structures in the United States.

Also nicknamed "The Grey Lady", Nantucket takes its name from a word in some Eastern Algonquian language of southern New England, originally spelled variously as <natocke>, <nantican>, and <nautican>. The meaning of the term is uncertain, though it may have meant "in the midst of waters."[1]


The cobblestone Main Street in historic Downtown NantucketNantucket was part of Dukes County, New York until 1691, when it was transferred to the newly formed Province of Massachusetts Bay and split off to form Nantucket County. The entire area of the New York county had been purchased by Thomas Mayhew Sr. of Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1641, buying out competing land claims. The earliest English settlement began on Martha's Vineyard.

Nantucket was formerly the world's leading whaling port (and still serves as home port for a small fishing industry). Herman Melville comments on Nantucket's whaling dominance in Moby Dick, Chapter 14: "Two thirds of this terraqueous globe are the Nantucketer's. For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires."

By the Civil War, whaling was in decline and the island suffered great economic hardships, worsened by the 1846 "Great Fire" that, fueled by whale oil and lumber, devastated the main town, burning some 36 acres. It left hundreds homeless and poverty stricken, and many people left.

As a result the island depopulated and was left under-developed and isolated until the mid-20th century. The isolation kept many of the pre-Civil War buildings intact and by the 1950s, enterprising developers began buying up large sections of the island and restoring them to create an upmarket destination for the wealthy in the Northeastern United States. This highly controlled development can be compared to neighboring Martha's Vineyard, whose development served as a model for what the developers of Nantucket were trying to avoid.

On July 25, 1956, 51 people were killed in the collision of the Italian ocean liner SS Andrea Doria with the SS Stockholm in heavy fog 45 miles south of Nantucket.

In 1977, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard unsuccessfully attempted to secede from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The secession vote was sparked by a proposed change to the Massachusetts Constitution, which reduced the islands' representation in the state legislature.

On October 31, 1999, EgyptAir Flight 990, traveling from New York City to Cairo, crashed off the coast of Nantucket, killing all 217 on board.


Image of Nantucket Island from spaceAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nantucket County has a total area of 786 km² (303.5 mi²), 84.25% of which is water. The area of Nantucket Island proper is 123.8 km² (47.8 mi²). The triangular region of ocean between Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, is Nantucket Sound. The highest point on the island is Folger Hill which stands 109 feet above sea level. Altar Rock is a close second at a height of 108 feet above sea level.

The entire island, as well as the adjoining islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, comprise both the Town of Nantucket and the County of Nantucket. The main settlement, also called Nantucket, is located at the western end of Nantucket Harbor, where it opens into Nantucket Sound. Key localities on the island include Madaket, Surfside, Polpis, Wauwinet, Miacomet and Siasconset (often abbreviated as 'Sconset).

There is also a census-designated place called Nantucket.
As of the census2 of 2000, there were 9,520 people, 3,699 households, and 2,104 families residing in Nantucket. The population density was 76.9/km² (199.1/mi²). There were 9,210 housing units at an average density of 74.4/km² (192.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 87.85% White, 8.29% African American, 0.64% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.01% Native American, 1.60% from other races, and 1.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.23% of the population.

There were 3,699 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 8.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.1% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the town the population was spread out with 19.2% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 40.4% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% at 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 105.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.0 males.

The median income for a household for year-round residents in the town is $55,522, and the median income for a family was $66,786. Males had a median income of $41,116 versus $31,608 for females. The per capita income for the town was $31,314. About 3.0% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.3% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.

The Nantucket school system has approximately 1,200 students, about 400 of which are in the high school.

Nantucket is served by Nantucket Memorial Airport, a three-runway airport on the south side of the island. The airport is one of the busiest in the Commonwealth and often logs more take-offs and landings on a pleasant summer day than Boston's Logan airport. This is due in part to the large number of private/corporate planes used by wealthy summer inhabitants, and in part to the 10-seat Cessna 402s used by several commercial air carriers to serve the island community.

Nantucket is served by Nantucket Public Schools.

Schools include:

Nantucket Elementary School
Cyrus Peirce Middle School
Nantucket High School
Nantucket Community School


Sankaty Head lighthouse at the eastern end of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts ca. November 2000Abiah Folger, Benjamin Franklin's mother, was born on Nantucket. Her birthsite is marked by a plaque and is known to locals as "The Bench." In 2002 Nantucket High School seniors staged a celebration of her birth at the site - a tradition which has continued every year since.
According to Nantucket selectman Doug Bennett, while The Inquirer and Mirror has been the island's "paper of record" since 1821, the island is served by and most locals received their news from the town crier.
Nantucket is home to the mythopoeic "Man from Nantucket" made famous in the opening line of countless limericks (some of which are vulgar,) one of the most familiar in all of poetry.
Nantucket island has one of the few US examples of moorland (heathland).
Although it is illegal, islanders, mostly teens, jump off the roof of the All-Serve General Store into Nantucket Harbor every spring. The building was made famous when it was featured on the labels of Nantucket Nectars.
A bomb shelter built on the island for President John Kennedy in 1961 was disguised by the United States Navy as a "jet assist takeoff (JATO) fuel bottle storage area" but was never used.
In the Island in the Sea of Time trilogy, Nantucket gets sent back in time 3,000 years and ends up as the capital of the world-spanning Republic of Nantucket.
The 1986 Warner Brothers film One Crazy Summer, starring John Cusack and Demi Moore, was filmed and took place on the island.
The 1996 Columbia Pictures movie To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday was filmed and took place on Nantucket. It starred Michelle Pfeiffer, Peter Gallagher, Claire Danes and Wendy Crewson and was directed by Michael Pressman.
Rapper Mason "Ma$e" Betha included Nantucket in his song "24 Hours to Live" saying that he would "Eat chicken from a bucket and have a drink in Natucket." Ian Dooley, bartender at The Lobster Trap, a popular bar on the island, claims Ma$e was speaking of The Elbow Bender, the bars signature drink.
The television series Wings was based in Nantucket.
Because of natural erosion, the Sankaty Lighthouse on Nantucket is in the peril of falling into the sea.
Souvenir shops sell T-shirts that say "I am the man from Nantucket..."
In Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the protagonist is from Nantucket.
One of Robert Lowell's most famous early poems, The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket, with its rich allusions to whaling and death at sea, is set here.

^ Huden, John C. (1962). Indian Place Names of New England. New York: Museum of the American Indian. Cited in: Bright, William (2004). Native American Place Names in the United States. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, pg. 312

Bond, C. Lawrence, Native Names of New England Towns and Villages, privately published by C. Lawrence Bond, Topsfield, Massachusetts, 1991.
Fabrikant, Geraldine, "Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New", New York Times, June 5, 2005, [1]