This Historic Nantucket Home, Built in 1694, Has a Link to Herman Melville

A saltbox-style home on the highly coveted Main Street in the resort town of Nantucket, MA, is on the market for $2,575,000. It comes with a page-turning pedigree.

“When [Herman Melville] was writing ‘Moby Dick,’ he came to Nantucket and spent some time in this house,” says the listing agent, Gloria Grimshaw of Jordan Real Estate.

The four-bedroom, 5.5-bath home was built in 1694 by Richard Macy, but it was moved from the Sherburne settlement to its current location in the 1740s. Locals may recognize it as the Reuben Joy Homestead.

“The thing about Nantucket is they would move houses,” Grimshaw explains. “Instead of packing your bags, you’d take the house with you.”

The current owner has been in the place for the past three decades, and is ready to move on. During the early 1990s, updates were made to the kitchens and bathrooms. A new owner will probably want to update again.


“It is ready now for a renovation and a further upgrade,” says Grimshaw. Most of the work needed is cosmetic.

“The owner has kept it in good structural condition. The historical charm of the house is there, but somebody would need to update the kitchens and baths.”

Possible upgrades could include the addition of central air conditioning and updates to the cabinetry, lighting, and plumbing in the kitchens and bathrooms.

For additional income, the attached three-bedroom, two-bath apartment, last renovated in 2007, is another incentive for a potential buyer.

While the home has no garage, there is off-street parking and room to build a small shed to park a car.

“There aren’t that many garages in town,” notes Grimshaw, given the age of the homes.

Dining room


One of the bedrooms

One of the bathrooms

Another bathroom

What kind of buyer will move into this unusual property?

“We’re a resort community. The majority of homes go to second-home buyers. That makes up 75 percent of buyers here,” says Grimshaw.

Many owners maintain primary homes in Boston, New York City, or the Washington, DC, metro area. With Massachusetts just starting to reopen—and Nantucket’s restaurants and shops opening in mid-June—Grimshaw expects an uptick in interest.

But the agent admits that today’s buyers don’t always flock to a historic home of this kind, despite its association with one of the greatest ever American novelists.

“The trends [right now] are more for new, sexy, a little more contemporary,” says Grimshaw. “The buyer pool for a home of this stature is smaller.”

She adds, “The profile of the buyer would be somebody who wants to be in town, likes historic homes and the antiquity it offers, and isn’t afraid of doing the work.”

The next owner will also need some patience to work with the town’s many bylaws.

Plans for the house will have to be submitted to the Nantucket Historic District Commission. Any design tweaks must be in perfect accord with the neighborhood.

“The whole island is under the jurisdiction of the Historic District Commission,” Grimshaw says.

If you’re up to the task, the next chapter in this home’s fabulous history is ready to be written.





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