What better way to show your love than to build a new house by the sea for your sweetheart, preferably a mansion so gorgeous that centuries later it will still be welcoming couples seeking to rekindle romance? Some of Cape Cod’s loveliest inns started out just this way. We chose four “awww”-inspiring stories, from three lodgings and one restaurant, then asked the innkeepers their secrets to keeping the romance in their lives — and in yours.
THE CAPTAIN’S MANOR INN, Falmouth
The history: An architectural anomaly on Cape Cod, the Captain’s Manor Inn is a Southern plantation-style home. It was built by Albert Nye, a sea captain who made his fortune — and found his bride — in New Orleans. The captain built the house in 1849 as a wedding present for Henrietta Forbes, in the hope that she would feel more at home in an antebellum mansion than in a traditional Cape Cod cottage. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under the name of Mostly Hall. The story goes that in the late 1800s a young guest, upon entering the home, exclaimed, “Why, look, Mama! It’s mostly hall.”
The innkeepers: Trish and Kevin Robinson (pictured at left) have owned the inn for five years. Their secret to keeping the romance alive after 32 years of marriage, says Trish, is a weekly date night, “which could be anything from a walk into Falmouth Village for a quiet dinner at a great restaurant or an ice cream and then a walk to the beach.” Most important, she said, are “the little thoughtful things, like clipping roses from the garden for the table, running an errand, or doing a special action for the other as a surprise – it could be as mundane as getting the oil changed!”
The inn: Located in Falmouth’s Historic District, the inn is within walking distance of museums, restaurants, and shops. A 2,000-square foot wraparound veranda overlooks an acre of lovely gardens. Inside, common areas include an elegant living room with the original 1849 black marble fireplace and a “bistro,” where customized home-baked goodies tailored to each guest’s tastes and dietary needs are held under glass domes. In every room there’s a stuffed animal bear, appropriately named Ted E. Bear. “People love it,” Trish said, recalling the prospective bridegroom who tucked the ring in the pocket of the teddy bear, then brought the bear to breakfast to pop the question.
27 West Main St., Falmouth, 508-388-7336, www.captainsmanorinn.com; $150-$345.
CAPTAIN’S HOUSE INN, Chatham
The history: Hiram Harding went to sea as a boy of 11, was a mate at 17, and at 22 was in command of the brig Pearl, plying between Boston and Philadelphia. The precocious captain from Chatham married Lydia Gould in 1838 and a year later built a handsome Greek Revival home for his bride — and as it would turn out, for their eight children. The Harding family was well known in Chatham and Cape Cod. Several roads, buildings, and the town’s largest beach bear the name.
The innkeepers: Jill and James Meyer bought the property in 2006. Both grew up in Wyckoff, N.J., where they met in high school and have been “dating” ever since. With three children and two more on the way, finding “couple time” is extremely important, Jill says. The Meyers take advantage of baby-sitting offered by nearby family to schedule regular date nights. “It’s a treat to have a conversation without being interrupted to break up a sibling fight,” she says. “And we try not to talk about work.” Every few months they visit another inn or bed-and-breakfast, both to recharge their batteries and to do a little market research.
The inn: Set on two acres of lawn and gardens, with a heated outdoor swimming pool and fitness room, the AAA four-diamond property is known for its British accent – literally. The Meyers hire British hospitality students to intern with their regular staff. Each afternoon the inn serves a complimentary cream tea in the dining room. Guests can upgrade to a “champagne” high tea, with sandwiches, scones, sweets, and sparkling wine. The experience can be quite romantic served by a fireplace in your room, Jill said.
369-377 Old Harbor Road, Chatham, 508-945-0127, www.captainshouseinn.com; $185-$480.
THE ORLEANS WATERFRONT INN, Orleans
The history: In 1875 Captain Aaron Snow built a six-story mansion topped by a distinctive cupola on what is now Orleans Town Cove. To construct any building that high was an amazing feat at the time, and townspeople called the project “Aaron’s Folly.” But Snow wanted his wife, Mary, to be the first to spy his ship, the Nettie M. Rogers, when it rounded the tip of Cape Cod and entered Nauset Harbor loaded with wares to trade in their store on the building’s lower levels. Today the captain’s home is the Orleans Waterfront Inn, offering lodging and dining. Portraits of Aaron and Mary Snow hang in the lobby, still welcoming visitors to their home.
The innkeepers: Ed and Laurie Maas bought the property in 1996. Laurie grew up in Braintree and spent summers on Cape Cod. In the winter of 1972 she escaped to Florida, where she met Ed, a native Floridian, when both were working in the health care field. Today they have reversed roles: Laurie is a clinical care manager at a Florida hospital, and Ed runs the inn on Cape Cod. They celebrated 42 years of marriage in December by taking the children and grandchildren to Disney World. The inn has hosted weddings for many couples, including four of the eight Maas children.
The inn: Dining (including a complimentary breakfast) is available on a waterfront deck, in the formal dining room overlooking the cove, or in the historic tavern. You can take romantic walks along the shore at Skaket Beach and Nauset Beach, both nearby, and you can rent kayaks next door at the Goose Hummock Shop. You can even climb the narrow stairway to the cupola, still one of the highest points in Orleans, and be thankful you don’t have to wait for your true love to sail back home.
3 Old County Road, Orleans, 508-255-2222, www.orleansinn.com ; $250-$450.
CAPTAIN LINNELL HOUSE, Orleans (dining only)
The history: The first house that Captain Ebenezer Harding Linnell built for his bride, Rebecca Crosby, incorporated a small Cape Cod-style house on what is now Skaket Beach Road in Orleans. He later decided it was not grand enough for a clipper captain’s wife, so around 1860 he copied his French shipping agent’s Neo-classic villa in Marseilles, and commissioned his father-in-law to build it. Captain Harding died at sea at 53. Rebecca lived to be 81, and it is said she sat for a time in one of two cupolas on top of the house every day until she died. Today the mansion is a fine-dining restaurant, the Captain Linnell House.
The innkeepers: Bill and Shelly Conway bought the inn in 1986 and have spent nearly 30 years restoring this architectural gem. Married for 38 years, the Conways have four children, all of whom have worked at one time or another in the restaurant. This is a couple that says it with flowers. “Bill has brought me flowers on the first day of spring every year since we have been together,” Shelly says. “This is particularly welcome after weathering another Cape Cod winter!”
The restaurant: Small dining rooms, soft lighting, and warm fireplaces all contribute to the romantic ambience at the Captain Linnell House. A self-taught chef, Bill has worked with French, Italian, and Thai chefs and says he incorporates all those influences into his “classic American” cuisine. “Roses are our trademark,” says Shelly. “We have gigantic bowls of champagne white roses in the dining rooms and lobby, and we give them to diners for any romantic reason.” During the winter the restaurant is open for dinner Friday through Sunday.
137 Skaket Beach Road, Orleans, 508-255-3400, www.linnell. com; dinner $25-$32; three-course prix fixe $35 through June.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at email@example.com.