The New Seabury Story
By Rosemary H. Burns
The Great Neck of Mashpee, bordered by Waquoit Bay on the west, Popponesset Bay on the east, Ockway Bay and Red Brook Road on the north and Nantucket Sound on the south was called “The Metropolis of Mashpee” in the 1790s, because of its relatively large population. Reverend Gideon Hawley, Minister at Mashpee from 1757 until his death in 1807, published a census in 1793 listing 27 families living at the Great Neck. Among the many Indian families, there were a few Negro families as well as five “mixed” families. After the American Revolution several mercenary soldiers found refuge in Mashpee, marrying local Indian women and working the Wells Salt Works on the Great River.
While the early residents gathered at Popponesset Bay and Waquoit Bay, the Great Field and the Great Flat Pond lying between the two bays served for hunting, fishing, pasturing animals, gathering salt hay, and cutting wood. When Mashpee was incorporated as a Town in 1870, large parcels of the land at Great Neck were sold to non-residents, including cranberry growers, but some acreage remained with the early families through inheritances and purchases.
Only a few residents remained in South Mashpee during the early 1900s, when land accumulators and speculators, such as The Greater Cotuit Shore Company, established in 1917, purchased much of the acreage on Mashpee’s shores – the beaches and bluffs and fields known today as Popponesset and New Seabury. Beginning in 1929, Malcolm G. Chace, an industrialist from Rhode Island, and fellow associates of Nantucket Sound Associates bought the lands of Greater Cotuit Shore Company, as well as that of the cranberry growers, and local residents. Chace created new businesses – Popponesset Beach, Inc., Popponesset Corporation, Realty Operators, Fields Point Manufacturing Company, and finally the New Seabury Corporation.
Chace’s sons, Malcolm G., Jr. and Arnold B. “Buff”, are credited with the creation of New Seabury. In 1960 the Chaces hired William Warner to design New Seabury and Emil Hanslin to develop the seaside community. Bright Coves was the first of several villages to open, and its four model homes were featured in LIFE and AMERICAN HOME magazines in 1962. A small ferry serviced prospective purchasers. Highwood Village, catering to equestrians, opened in 1964 with 91 home sites. That same year, the clubhouse and Championship Golf Course and nine holes of the Executive Course were completed (the remaining nine holes opened in 1965).
Mashpee had adopted cluster zoning in 1961, and in 1964 New Seabury was granted a Special Permit allowing great flexibility in its overall community plans. In the mid sixties, three new models were opened on Troon Way. During that same period, Greensward, Triton Sound, Fells Pond and SummerSea villages were planned, designed and built. The Colony Villa and Stendahl Village Condominium Villas were built as rental units, followed by Tidewatch condominiums in 1971. The Beach Club facility opened next to the Popponesset Inn (built in 1941) replacing The Beach Tent on the Spit created in 1963, which was lost to a hurricane. During the first several seasons, residents leased the Beach Club.
New Seabury’s fast start was halted in 1971 by Mashpee’s enactment of a zoning by-law invalidating New Seabury’s Special Permit of 1964. After six years of litigation, New Seabury prevailed, convincing the court that the town by-law’s invalidation of its special permit after a multi-million dollar investment in infrastructure and resort facilities constituted an impermissible deprivation of vested rights. Not requiring the flexibility of the Special Permit, construction was started in 1974 in Little Neck and soon after in Sandalwood.
Only five months after the conclusion of the zoning suit, in 1976, Mashpee Wampanoag Indians filed a lawsuit to regain what they claimed was their tribal land. For nearly three years building once again came to a halt until the courts ruled that the local group did not constitute a “tribe” consecutively since 1791.
The suit settled in 1979, building commenced and The Mews Patio Homes, individually owned free- standing houses were built with zero-line zoning, in what was known as “California Style.” In eleven days Phase 1 sold out and Phase 2 sold out soon after. The Featherie condominiums (renamed The Mews Pool Villas) were constructed nearby, and a few years later more condominiums were built as The Mews Patio Villas, nestled along the Green Course 12th and 17th fairways. By 1982, there were 800 homes, nearly ¼ occupied year round.
Plans for The Sandpiper and Teal Harbor projects on Waquoit Bay featuring a major marina, specialty restaurants, art galleries and residences were ended in 1982, when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts took several hundred acres by eminent domain for South Cape Beach.
Popponesset Corporation built a series of summer cottages on the waterfront in the 1940s, and 40 years later New Seabury began the renovation of those cottages in the area known as Maushop Village. Nantucket style buildings were also built for both private ownership and rental and by 1984, 50 new units were finished. The Popponesset Marketplace opened in 1983 and that same year plans for Promontory Point luxury villas were initiated. Completed in 1985, the villas sold out almost at once. In 1987, The Sea Quarters time sharing units were built on the hill to Promontory Point.
Proposals for a third golf course and a residential area of fine homes at Bufflehead Bay, as well as projections for a greatly enhanced bath and tennis club which was to have 30 to 40 courts, a stadium court and indoor tennis courts plus a small village and large homes along Great Oak Road ended when the land was lost by family-owned New Seabury Corporation, headed by Malcolm Chace’s grandson, Christopher Burden, as a result of the ten year real estate depression of the late 1980s lasting through 1997. New interests became involved, and New Seabury Company Limited Partnership took control in December 1988. Burden, one of the partners was named President.
In the early 1990s, valuable waterfront property was opened for development resulting in million dollar residences rising on The Bluff and along the first fairway at Seaside. Financial difficulties continued and the Partnership filed Chapter 11 in 1997.
The Recreation, Hotel and Development divisions were sold to American Realty, one of many businesses owned by Carl Icahn, international financier (the sale finalized September 1998). Burden retained the general brokerage division, the New Seabury Marina and the Popponesset Marketplace.
New Seabury Properties razed the old clubhouse in 2000 and replaced it with a much larger and enhanced clubhouse. Plans to continue the Master Plan, which would include over 600 residential units and an 150 room hotel were stalled when Mashpee Conservation Commission filed a Jurisdictional Determination request with the Cape Cod Commission December 2000. The Cape Cod Commission challenged the validity of the 1964 Special Permit. Complaints and cross motions continued until NSP and the Commission entered into settlement negotiations in March 2004. More than a year later in May 2005 an agreement was reached ending the litigation.