As one of the most popular resort destinations in the world, Nantucket offers a vast selection of home rentals to suit every need. Whether you dream of a vacation with your family in a beachside home or seek to purchase a remote cottage for a bit of rest and relaxation, the island’s real estate offices can assist in locating the right property for you.
In her introduction to “Sea-Captains’ Houses and Rose-Covered Cottages: The Architectural Heritage of Nantucket Island,” Margaret Moore Booker writes of the late-nineteenth-century visitor who observed that the houses on the island were, “shingled, shangled, shongled, and shungled.” While he may have overstated his case a bit, his observation holds true today, as most houses are still framed with cedar shingles—in keeping with Nantucket’s designation as a historic district.
While the siding may be simple, homes on the island are anything but plain, and can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles, from colonial, to Georgian, to Federal and Greek Revival, to the grand summer houses of today. Two distinct architectural elements have become an integral part of Nantucket’s identity: roof walks and quarterboards. Roof walks dot the rooftops and frame the chimneys of many historic houses around town, and are also an inviting feature of many newer homes. While it is true that whaling era families may have used their walks as lookouts to the nearby harbor, the origin of the roof walk is more sublime. These platforms were built originally for fire prevention—buckets of sand were kept on top of the house to pour down the chimney in the event of a chimney fire. Today, roof walks are used as inviting outside decks, offering unmatched views of the town, harbor, ocean, or moors.
Quarterboards, some sporting fanciful names, are house identifiers that harken to the island’s maritime past. Ships often wrecked on the dangerous shoals surrounding the island, and the flotsam that washed ashore would be salvaged by frugal Nantucketers. In many instances, the quarterboard displaying the ship’s name would be reattached to a house or barn. This tradition continues, as houses in all parts of the island often sport newly-made quarterboards hand-hewn by island artisans. Many original quarterboards still exist, most notably in the village of ’Sconset, where cottages named “Shanunga” and “Wanackmamack” welcome visitors.