’Sconset

SIASCONSET: Algonquian term for “place of great bones.”
Si from missi, meaning “great;” ascon from askon, meaning “horn or bone”

Situation, 120 miles S.E. of the Hub of the Universe; 50 miles out in the Ocean. Nearest land East, Portugal. Ditto South, the West Indies. Neither in sight. 200 houses, big and little, perched on a grassy bluff. Such is ‘Sconset. Real name SIAsconset… .A place with a history written and unwritten—mostly unwritten. A veritable PATCHWORK village.

E. F. Underhill’s ‘Sconset in a Nutshell, 1895


One island, two towns: Nantucket and ‘Sconset—Nantucket town placed centrally on the island’s harbor, the village of ‘Sconset clustered at its eastern end, looking out into the Atlantic Ocean. How could there exist in the midst of one of the most charming, historic, and beautiful islands in the world, a village even more remote, more trapped in time, more evocative and whimsical, dare one say, even more beautiful than Nantucket itself?

This difference within such similarity is captured by a well-known tale that has achieved the quality of a local myth: Two ladies stand in the ticket line at an airport in Athens, Greece. One notices that the other is wearing a Nantucket lightship basket on her arm. She taps her on the shoulder and says, “I couldn’t help noticing that you’re from Nantucket, and so am I.” To which the other replies, “O heavens, no, my dear, I am from ‘Sconset!”

It is difficult to describe the essence of ‘Sconset, except to hint that it is perhaps indescribable. Edward Underhill, one of the village’s early promoters, comes very close:

Life out-of-doors, under awnings on the beach or in hammocks; saunters or rides over moors laden with perfumes of wildflowers; lawn tennis; croquet; golf; baseball; cycling; straw-rides in odd-shaped Nantucket box wagons or carts; “squantums.” (Squantum is half picnic and half clambake.) Indoors, social gatherings; evening entertainments; games; music; dancing.

‘Sconset is a kind of refinement, or elixir, of all that makes Nantucket beloved—a community of beauty, set against a backdrop of history, with a magic all its own.

Banner image of A View of Siasconset a Fishing Village on Nantucket, colored engraving on paper, ca. 1797. 1933.0022.001


My Nantucket Neighborhood: ’Sconset is being generously funded in part by the Judy Family Foundation.

The mission of the Nantucket Historical Association is to tell the inspiring stories of Nantucket through its collections, programs, and properties.

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