Cultural Landscape Report for Fort Hill, Cape Cod National Seashore


The subject of this report is a tract of land in the Town of Eastham, Barnstable County. on the outer part of lower Cape Cod. It encompasses about 100 acres of salt marsh aod upland located south of

Hemenway Road, west of Nauset Harbor, northwest afthe Town Cove, and east of U.S. Route 6. This report refers to the entire tract as Fort Hill after its most prominent feature. However, the subject area of the report extends well beyond Fort Hill proper; e.g., it includes part of nearby Skiff Hill, to the north.

The tract is essentially comprised of the two large farms formerly owned by the Knowles family. and the Captain Edward Penniman property. It is currently part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Fort Hill boasts a tong and rich history of settlement and use. It was visited in 1605 by the explorer

Samuel de Champlain, who reported that the land was partially cleared and inhabited by Native

Americans. Two distinguished figures in the Colonial history of Cape Cod and Massachusetts, Governor Thomas Prence and Samuel Treat, both owned land in the vicinity of Fort Hill.

Despite these illustrious associations, Fort Hill is most distinguished for its uninterrupted ownership by members of a single family for more than 200 years. This was the Knowles family, who owned Fort Hill from 1742 to 1943. During their long tenure, the Knowleses-with their relatives by marriage, the Pennimans, made a substantial if sometimes subtle mark on this landscape.

A fortunate series of circumstances has allowed Fort Hill to undergo only minimal change since the end of Knowles ownership in 1943. The surrounding Town of Eastham and all of Cape Cod, by contrast, have experienced dramatic development and change during this period. The remarkable constancy of the Fort Hill area gives it special value, and makes its protection and stewardship of critical importance.

This Cultural Landscape Report for Fort Hill was initiated by a direct request from the Superintendent

of the Cape Cod National Seashore. He and his park management staff were seeking guidance on the

protection and long-term maintenance of the landscape at Fort Hill . It was also realized that a Cultural

Landscape Report could inform the Development Concept Plan being prepared for the Fort Hill area in

association with the forthcoming General Management Plan for Cape Cod National Seashore. Of

particular concern was the need to balance the protection of landscape features in the open, eastern

portion of the site (field patterns, stone walls, trails, and ponds) with current maintenance, safety, and

visitor needs. Indeed, when this project was initiated, it was assumed that the property to be addressed was limited to this formerly agricultural area. Only well into the preparation of the site history was it determined that the appropriate boundaries for the study area should encompass all of the NPS-owned land in this area. Thus, the focus of this report graduaIly expanded to include the Penniman House property, the Red Maple Swamp, and the privately owned Avery and Burrill residences.

Cite this Record

Cultural Landscape Report for Fort Hill, Cape Cod National Seashore. Lynn Kneedler-Schad, Katharine Lacy, Larry Lowenthal. Cultural Landscape Publication ,10. Boston, MA: Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, National Park Service. 1995 ( tDAR id: 5810) ; doi:10.6067/XCV89022NZ

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -69.989; min lat: 41.803 ; max long: -69.94; max lat: 41.837 ;

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