CapeWomenOnline - Where Cape Women Shine

Your local venue for the women of Cape Cod to share their ideas, experiences and resources while inspiring each other in their life's journey

Inspire . Encourage . Network . Share

Working Women icon
  • Bookshelf
  • Facebook icon
  • Share

30 Years at Nauset House, and Still Inn Love with the Cape

by Diane Johnson

“It is wonderful to have personal hopes, but magic occurs when two people arrive at the same momentous dream together. That is what happened to my husband, Al, and me.”

I wrote those lines in Dreaming Inn Cape Cod, a book celebrating our first twenty years at Nauset House, and the memories are still fresh, including the serendipitous encounter with people sitting next to us at a restaurant who knew that although Nauset House was not on the market, the owners were thinking of selling.

We visited, and as I wrote, “It took one look.”

“Dream big dreams, then put on your overalls and make the dream come true.” - Fred Van Amburg Al, Diane, Cindy and John, 1983

Al, Diane, Cindy and John, 1983

Al and I and our daughter, Cindy, moved to the property in November 1982 with the intention of opening in April 1983. When Cindy’s boyfriend, John Vessella, heard our plan he exclaimed, “What will you do all winter on the Cape?”

After his first visit to see the Inn, he was equally incredulous. “How will you ever be ready to open?” he asked, and then moved in with us and became a very important member of the team.

We were four adults and two dogs, Wendy and Roo, and we lived in the barn with snow drifting in under the front door, one bathroom, and no closets. Which was fine because our possessions, including most of our clothes, were still in packing boxes.

Al declared that the first thing he was going to do was to be sure that every Nauset House room had a window that opened.

The work was endless. Painting walls, painting ceilings, painting floors, painting, painting and painting. We stenciled and wallpapered, cleaned and cleaned, did major work on plumbing and made electrical updates.

We needed furniture, dishes, sheets and blankets, some new appliances. The list, like the work, seemed endless. But buying at flea markets and auctions was fun, and now we share those experiences with our guests, as so many items have a tale to tell. I felt as if we were creating a huge dollhouse, or a set for a theater.

We overflowed with enthusiasm. Each day ended with all of us sitting in front of the roaring fire in the great room, exhausted but happy, and planning the next day.

I am remembering the wonderful guests who have touched our lives and many who have become dear friends. Our first guest arrived a few days before we officially opened in April 1983, and she slept with Cindy’s dog, Roo, to keep her company.

Judy Selvidge arrived as a guest, enjoyed 10 years of our hospitality, and then, loving Cape Cod and us so much, decided to move here. We immediately gave her a job, and she has become an invaluable Innkeeper and friend who has now been working with us for the past nine years.

One windy, cold night a young boy named Treg knocked at our door, looking for summer work. When Al asked him if he could make a bed, Treg answered without hesitation, “I can learn.”

That attitude got him hired, and he was with us for years. He was the first of many, including his two sisters. Some work for one season, others for more, and a few for 10 to 15 years.

The picking garden for flowers that Diane puts in every room of the Inn
The picking garden for flowers that Diane puts in
every room of the Inn

We have had guests from all over the world and all walks of life. Many just pass through, but many others come back every year, some for a weekend, some much longer, and some for several visits each season.

There have been writers, artists, farmers, teachers, most any profession you can think of. The storyteller, the woman who communicated with bees, the douser. The young artist from the Netherlands with no arms who drove here from Boston on his own. The photographer also from the Netherlands who arrived to do a beer advertisement and found that our bottles were the wrong color.

Thinking of them all, and how they enriched our lives, I could go on for pages. The family dogs become Innkeepers, too, welcoming people and playing with or entertaining them.

Often we are asked what we do in the winter. We close for the five coldest months, and that time goes by so fast. When we are open we work seven days a week, so having time to do all the things we have been putting off is welcome indeed. Repairs and cares still must be attended to, and we do a huge cleanup in March so the place will sparkle for our visitors.

But even with the winter tasks, the pace is different. John and Cindy continue to finish the interior of their home. They do woodworking and art projects and relax with games, reading, and a little travel. I fill my days with art, reading, trail hikes and beach walks with my dog. (Did I ever really think that the wish to live by the sea would come true?)

I love old movies to stream in to the TV where I can cozy in and watch at home. We all put in time with the new toys of the time, the computer and the iPad. What luxury it is to get up whenever and not really have anything you must do that very day!

Watercolor of the Inn painted by a guest

The tradition continues. We’ve had weddings and grandchildren and holiday gatherings with friends and family. Cindy and John’s son, Nick, grew from a baby watching me cook to a worker every summer and is now out

of college and pursuing his career as a graphic designer. Many joys.

But it would not be fair to say no sadness has entered our lives. Of course it has. The most difficult time was in 2002, when Al suddenly died. He adored being an Innkeeper and was wonderful with each person he came in contact with. His energy and spirit are still here.

As we continue without him, I am forever grateful for all the choices we made 30 years ago. Cindy and John have been the primary Innkeepers since Al died, and with the help of Judy we have been able to continue the tradition of providing a warm and comfortable place for our guests to enjoy.

It is a privilege living on Cape Cod, and we are looking forward to another season of guests and the ocean at the end of the street. Every morning when I open the door and feel the pure air, smell salt, or encounter fog, I feel a big “thank you!” that this is my home, and I dream of no other.

All photographs courtesy of Diane Johnson

Nauset House Inn ad

Open mid-April through October

143 Beach Rd, PO Box 774
East Orleans, Cape Cod
Massachusetts 02643-0774

Toll Free 800.771.5508
or 508.255.2195

Diane Johnson

Diane Johnson moved from Connecticut to Cape Cod in 1982. Prior to this move she owned her own business, Glass by Diane, for ten years.

Once settled at The Nauset House Inn, Diane began to create block prints and expand to many other aspects of art. She is represented by the Left Bank Gallery in Orleans.

Diane continues to work in glass, takes classes and thoroughly enjoys living on Cape Cod.