From the mid-1700s to about 1840, Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world and some of the island’s most interesting and impressive properties were built by ship owners and whaling captains. Thanks to the preservations efforts of residents, many of the mansions built and bought with whaling money still exist.
Moor’s End, so called because when it was built between 1829 and 1834, it was at the edge of town, is a prime example; the handsome Federal brick house was built by wealthy mariner and shipbuilder Jared Coffin, owner of the majority of shares in three whaling ships, Montano, Daniel Webster and Catherine. Unfortunately, the site chosen for the house was near a whale oil refinery, and Mrs. Coffin complained a lot about the smell, which frankly must have been horrendous. So, Jared built her a new house, which is now a hotel, farther away from the whale oil refinery. (Happy wife, happy life, as they say.)
Of course, the whale oil smell is no more, and Moor’s End, which still sports stunning murals of the island’s whaling days, as well as handwritten notes about shipwreck sightings on the walls of the cupola, is for sale for the first time in more than three decades, asking a firmly aristocratic $28 million. Listed by Linda Bellevue at Atlantic East Nantucket Real Estate, the property includes just over an acre of land, along with a number of structures: the original Coffin house, an 1850 carriage house and stable and a 1921 home awaiting renovation. In all, there are nine bedrooms, eight bathrooms and one powder room within 8,817 square feet.
The compound’s jewel is the main house. With two fireplaces, the double front living room includes wall paintings by renowned muralist Stanley Rowland, while the dining room includes hand-painted wallpaper depicting Captain Cook’s South Sea explorations. In the rear is the handsome kitchen renovated with soapstone counters, and the finished basement, with brick floors and walls, is used for entertaining. The second floor includes three bedrooms, all with fireplaces, three baths, a library with pumpkin pine millwork, and a sunroom. There are three more bedrooms and three more baths up on the third floor, along with a staircase to the cupola.
The offering includes recent plans to convert the carriage house and stable into residences, and the circa 1921 house included in the sale sits on a separate 5,766 square foot lot, with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The compound was long owned by Marilyn and John K. Whitney, who purchased the place in 1986 for $1.4 million. They made their money in medical equipment manufacturing. Mr. Whitney died in 1998 flying an experimental plane, while Mrs. Whitney passed last year. Their heirs are now selling the house.
The property is locally famous for its walled garden, with its brick terraces and formal parterre. The garden was created in 1899, and later redesigned by architect and museum director Fiske Kimball. The Whitneys were known to occasionally open the gardens for events, and in 2010 Mrs. Whitney received a local preservation award for her stewardship of the garden.
Perhaps the next owners will be as generous as the Whitneys and and open the gardens for occasional events because we sure hope we’re visiting the island when the gardens are open!