Explore Island Life on Special Tour

by Catherine Macallister

The Nantucket Historic District is a shining example of a well-preserved American seaport from the 18th and 19th centuries. On Saturday, September 7, leading directors and educators from The Nantucket Historical Association, Nantucket Preservation Trust, and the Maria Mitchell Association will offer a Four Centuries Domestic Tour that explores 400 years of life on Nantucket. The tour begins at the Oldest House on Sunset Hill, and moves towards Greater Light, and then to Maria Mitchell properties, and the Hadwen House. We are “using buildings and looking back in time,” explained Michael May, Executive Director of the Nantucket Preservation Trust. May is joined by Deputy Director of the Maria Mitchell Association, Jascin Finger, and NHA educator

The Four Centuries Domestic Tour | Nantucket, MA
Photo by Tom Griswold

Karen MacNab. Finger brings an extensive knowledge of the Mitchell family and legacy as well as knowledge of women on Nantucket. MacNab speaks to the general history of the island and of each house. Essentially, the guides work together to provide a seamless tour that provides participants with a vast yet connected history of the houses. Each guide brings expertise to the tour, “Jascin is a particular expert on women on the island…there is nothing she doesn’t know,” says MacNab, and likewise for May, “there is nothing he doesn’t know,” calling fellow tour guides, “so valuable.”

From the first stop on Sunset Hill, to their last stops on Main Street, participants will see how Nantucket has changed over 400 years. As Nantucket has evolved, housing styles and domestic life have evolved, too. While May might speak to the architecture of the house, Finger will fill in the domestic side and discuss roles people played. MacNab will discuss the broad historical background. “We are bouncing off one and other,” says Finger, speaking to the guide’s camaraderie as they lead the tour. You can expect to hear about surroundings, too, as the guides give an “overview of different types of architecture: things we pass along the way…traveling along and talking,” says May. “We all fill in each others’ gaps…it’s very relaxed back-andforth flow,” added MacNab.

About ten years ago Jascin Finger and former NHA Education Director Kim McCray first decided to bring the three groups together in this project, when it was thought that “these three organizations don’t have enough interaction” MacNab explained. Now, they come together on a biannual basis to offer tours of some of the island’s standout structures. “I love to go outside,” says MacNab, who also lectures and leads tours at the NHA. “When you’re out, you can reference so many different things,” she says, and there is “a different rapport.” Michael May says: “People enjoy it because it’s a different kind of tour.” Ultimately, it’s “a lot of fun for us who are doing it and a lot of fun for the people who are on it,” says Jascin Finger. Finger looks forward to “meeting people, their reactions,” and the mix of “islanders, summer people, and visitors… interacting with people.” The tour may even bring about unexpected facts about Nantucket, making each tour different from the last. There will be opportunities for questions and the chance to see Nantucket from the eyes of three experts from historical groups on Nantucket.

The Four Centuries Domestic Tour will be held Saturday, September 7 from 10am to 12pm. The tour begins at the Oldest House on Sunset Hill and ends on Main Street. Participants will briefly tour the houses and structures that are a part of the tour. Reservations are not necessary; tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the start of the tour.