Builder Charles H. Robinson





Charles H. Robinson (1829-1915) was the man who created the new 'Sconset of the 1870s and 1880s, building many of the two-story Victorian houses in Sunset Heights, as well as thirteen large cottages at White's Hamlet,just north of the old village. Unlike Edward F. Underhill, whose architectural aspiration was to recapture the look and feel of the historic fishermen's cottages, Robinson built contemporary, fashionable summer houses not unlike those in other New England seaside towns. To connect Sunset Heights with the village center, Robinson built a ninety-foot-long footbridge from the end of Broadway across the south gulley, and it became a popular site of summer perambulations.

Robinson and his partner, Dr. Franklin A. Ellis, purchased a large tract of land overlooking the Atlantic, where in 1873 they laid out Ocean Avenue and a number of smaller throughways named for trees they may have wished for: japonica, magnolia, linden, laurel, and cypress. Robinson built, not only in Siasconset—where he was responsible for constructing both the Ocean View House (1873) and the Ocean View Annex (1883), as well as the Siasconset Union Chapel (1883),and for enlarging the Beach House (1906}—but also across the island, from the Surfside Lifesaving Station to the Sea Cliff Inn, formerly on Cliff Road. He also framed cottages that were shipped to Falmouth Heights on the Cape and Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.

Robinson must have employed a large crew of carpenters in order to complete so many projects. It has been reported that during bad weather he kept busy in his shop carving the architectural ornaments that embellished his designs, and that the preponderance of these embellishments was a testament to Nantucket's inclement weather.
Many of Robinson's 'Sconset houses have been lost: all of the White's Hamlet cottages are gone, as are the big 'Sconset hotels, and the chapel has been enlarged and altered from its original design. There are still a few houses in the Sunset Heights neighborhood that hail from his era, and were probably built by him, but his impressive imprint on 'Sconset has faded dramatically.


Charles H. Robinson built a ninety-foot-long wooden bridge over the south gulley to connect the Ocean View House and the Sunset Heights neighborhood with the village of 'Sconset, providing easy access for pedestrians between the two sites. The bridge was a popular spot for taking in the view of the ocean while meeting other fashionable strollers.

A large building known as Harp's Store, with an annex that became the site of the post office until it moved to its present location in 1902, was constructed by Robinson on the west side of the bridge in 1888; his daughter Emily sold it to Mrs. K. L. Dakin, who ran a gift shop there for many years. The Delft Tea Room on the bridge advertised meals by the week, dinner parties by appointment, and tea daily from 3 to 5 P.M. in 1919.

Photographer H. Marshall Gardiner opened an art store in a building on the east side of the bridge in the second decade of the twentieth century, where he sold postcards, art supplies, and gifts; that building was removed in the 1940s. The Treasure Chest, a gift shop with a sundial on the façade, was the last business to flourish on the bridge in the mid-twentieth century.



Charles H.Robinson


Gully Road in Siasconset


Unusual Gifts, Wearing Apparel, Treasure Chest, Lending Library


A digital exhibition by the Nantucket Historical Association