Nantucket Essays

Draw of Community on the Isle

by Robert P. Barsanti

On the south shore of the island, downwind of the sewer beds, you can rent a house for $25,000 a week. For that money, you get two master bedrooms and two guest bedrooms. Each bedroom has an “en suite” bathroom and a television set. The master bedroom, of course, features a “state of the art” shower. The house is less than a mile downwind from the beach..

Of course, it has a pool.

In the last few years, the Realtors must have been placing pools in their pitch decks to prospective investors. In order to get the maximum return out of your “property investment” you need to install a pool. Then, you can charge $25,000 a week. I see him, in an embroidered belt and baby blue blazer, in front of a glowing architect’s vision, with a pool and landscaping: “As a seasoned Realtor, I can assure you that your real estate portfolio will experience a remarkable boost in its upside potential. With my expertise and strategic approach, we’ll supercharge your investment opportunities, unlocking greater profits and growth in the dynamic property market.” The charts draw themselves. As a result, you can find a pool featured on almost every page of the real estate pages. Throughout the island are overwrought “investors” writing check after check for lawn-care and pool-care while their shingled investment vector sits empty.

The Realtors and their investors have done more research on the prospective client base than I have. I would think that, when you rented a house on Nantucket, you would want to get to the beaches. Our island features more than a hundred miles of public beach where anyone can go topless if they wish. Almost everywhere else, you need to get a sticker, get in line, and leave your top firmly tied. Out here, you could go anywhere on a hundred miles of beach, put up a chair, and watch eternity wash in. Compared to the Atlantic, a pool comes in a distant second place. If you don’t want to swim in the ocean, perhaps you could send $25,000 a week to stay in a pool someplace else, like Hanover NH.

In the modern era, the Realtors have a different idea of vacation; they want the visitors to be “alone together.” So, the sewer bed house has TV’s in every bedroom, along with en suite bathrooms, so that none of the guests need to cross paths with the other guests; nobody has to wait for the bathroom or take turns with the remote.

The pool logically extends the “alone together” mindset. When you have a pool, you get to have the Instagram vacation. You can be an influencer at your own pool, make some video, and then lay back in blessed solitude. They can only reach you through your DMs.

However, beaches require a community mindset. You have to lie on your towel with other people who could see, and possibly talk to you. When you sit in your chair, kids at play, book on the lap, beverage in the coozie, you could get tapped on the shoulder by a long lost friend. Your individual bubble would get pierced. You might have to take your ear phones out.

Nantucket has never been a place where you can be alone together. When you go to Fisherman’s Beach, friendly faces are going to find you. The beauty of island living has nothing to do with the sand, the water, or the sky. It has to do with the people that know you here. It’s not a problem, it’s a feature.

When Sconset first became a tourist destination, the visitors didn’t just come because it was a long way from the sewer (Nantucket Harbor), but they came for the people. They filled the Atlantic House and the Underhill Cottages to be with each other. They didn’t build houses a half mile from each other, behind trees and hedges. As the years crept by, more people came, more hotels and homes were built, and that community developed. It spawned golf courses, restaurants, tennis courts, and the Casino. In the 1920s and 30s, when Sconset was at one of its peaks, the casino was the center for dances, concerts, tennis, and plays.

In Sconset, you bought in because you wanted to be a part of the community. You walk to get the paper and a muffin, ride bikes for your tennis match, stop for lunch, then head down to the beach. In the evening, you could walk to the Casino for a show. You want to live in a place where everyone knows your name and, if you ask nicely, they will pour you a cocktail.

In our new millennium, the Casino remains in the center. Every summer, since Hector was a pup, the Casino has put on a community theater show under the auspices of “On the Isle.” In the last few years, they produce demanding, but fun plays like The Pirates of Penzance, Hair, Trip to Bountiful, and Titanic. The cast includes Nantucket students, summer residents, a professional or two, and some people who are just “mad” for the stage.

On a Saturday morning, the tennis ball barrage continued un-interrupted outside, the surf was up, the humidity was building, and someone had a pool: a hundred things pulled the individuals away. But in the center of bicycles, and visitors, and tennis, the community actors filled a hundred-year-old space. On July 27, they will invite a larger community in.

I don’t believe people come back to Nantucket, year after year, because of the personal T.V.’s, the en suite bathrooms, or the swimming pool. I also don’t think they come back just for the beaches, the stars, or the roses climbing up the walls. I think they come back for the community. People remember a kind word at breakfast, a helpful taxi driver, and a fun play. They come out here, see the people who don’t have to leave right away, and think that they want to hang with them. The Cisco Brewers bartenders have sold more real estate than any broker. We have a community of people who find lost dogs, surf in the sunset, and tread the boards. Who wouldn’t want to join that?

Articles by Date from 2012