Starting in 1914, and lasting through the 1920s, South Wellfleet had a tea room, The Sign of the Pine, a business that had all sorts of social implications. Tea rooms were a popular seasonal business for the growing recreational area that was developing on Cape Cod. Hyannis had the Pink Geranium Tea Room and The Windmill Tea Room and Gift Shop; Barnstable had the Gray Shingles Tea Room; and West Yarmouth had the Bayberry Lodge Tea Room. One newspaper reference in 1917 mentions another one in Wellfleet: the Martha Washington, operated by two Boston women, but there’s no record of its location.
Tea rooms developed during the first two decades of the twentieth century when women were becoming less shackled to home, and to Victorian rules that limited their movements outside the home. Tea rooms were an acceptable place for single women —or a group of women without a male escort—to visit. There was no liquor served, making these restaurants a “safe place” for women. Many operated during Prohibition, so of course there was no need to even think about serving liquor. In the city, they offered a place for women to eat while shopping or taking a work break. In New York’s Greenwich Village, they became part of the bohemian environment.
Tea rooms also developed along the new roadways where Americans were driving their cars for recreational touring, particularly in the nineteen teens. This leisure-time pursuit coincided with the development of tourism on the Cape, where newly paved roads encouraged the “autoists” to travel. In addition, tea rooms were an acceptable business for a woman to own and manage. Many had gift shops attached.
The owner of The Sign of the Pine was Anne Wells Munger, an artist from Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1910, Mrs. Munger purchased an old home on what is today’s Old County Road. The deed shows that Edward Paine sold it; it had been purchased by Winslow Paine from Ebenezer Cole in 1852. There is a record of the Greek Revival style house available at the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, indicating that one earlier wing was built in 1808, and the main house in 1850. The record also indicates that the house may have been an early “coach stop” since it was on the main road to Wellfleet, and that there was a bus stop there in the 1930s. Today Old County Road has lost its importance as a route to Wellfleet.
The only evidence of the house’s use as a tea room, as noted in the historical record, was a “peephole” in one of the doors that may have divided the kitchen from the serving area. However, we also have advertisements that the Mungers placed in The Barnstable Patriot, along with a 1914 Patriot story:
At South Wellfleet, on the right, are to be seen the towers of the Marconi Wireless Station, about one mile off the State road, on the shore of the ocean. Not far from this place on the corner of the road is a sign directing one minute in to the Sign of the Pine, one of the most fascinating places on the Cape, where all sorts of unusual and interesting arts and crafts work are to be found. There are odd things from Russia, the Philippine Islands and Japan, hand made pottery, metal work and baskets, beautiful printed, dyed and hand-woven textiles, a novel and varied collection where one can always find a dainty gift for a friend, or souvenirs of Cape Cod which are worth while. At this place also are made the Dame Standish novelties. In the tea room delicious tea is served with a delicate lunch.
Advertisements for The Sign of the Pine appeared in The Barnstable Patriot in 1914 and 1915, and in the Cape Cod Magazine in 1915. There are no advertisements after this time, but there were news stories about the shop and tea room.
In the 1920s, Mrs. Munger posted a newspaper notice seeking to get back her “studio” sign that had disappeared from the corner of her road and Route 6. From this, we know that she was notifying motorists that there was an artist working there, something that would surely have been of interest to Wellfleet visitors as they motored through to Provincetown’s artists’ colony.
In the advertisements for the shop, “Dame Standish” products are mentioned. There was no connection found for this article to a company making products under this name — the only other reference is to the Dame Standish Candle Shop on Wellfleet’s Commercial Street in the 1940s and 1950s. A newspaper mention in 1929, however, describes Mr. Munger’s manufacturing his “remarkable satin cream” made with bayberry wax. This may be the same product called Dame Standish Satin Cream ($1.00) in 1915; there was also offered “Dame Standish Bayberry Balm for 50 cents.*
Anne Wells Munger owned other properties in Wellfleet. She bought the house on Cannon Hill known as “the Ark” in 1912, owning it until 1923. That property was the mainstay of the guest houses clustered on Cannon Hill covered in an earlier post. Jennie Hamblett would come to Wellfleet each season to open the “Cannon Hill House” and accommodate many visitors in this guest house environment. There is no record of Mrs. Munger’s role in this business. Mrs. Munger also purchased a cottage in the Pleasant Point neighborhood, and may have rented it during this same period. She sold this property in 1927.
There is some evidence that the Mungers were friendly with another South Wellfleet couple, Lillian Burk Meeser and her husband, the Revered Spenser Meeser. The Meesers bought their home on the State Road near Old Wharf Road in 1913; Mrs. Meeser was also an artist and created a studio there. Lillian Burk Meeser and Anne Wells Munger had been part of the Worcester art community in the late 1890s, according to news articles. The Meesers will be covered in a separate post.
Anne Wells and Willard C. Munger married in 1882 in Worcester, when she was 20 and he was 26 years old. By the 1890s, Anne Wells Munger was presented as an artist, according to the listings in the various editions of the Worcester City Directories. There are a couple of brief newspaper mentions of her in the 1890s, as participating in the Worcester Art Student Club. These reflect a more Victorian-influenced time, as she was opening her studio, and serving tea to visitors. The couple is listed in the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses. Mr. Munger is employed as a bookkeeper; in his obituary, he was given the title of Treasurer of National Ware Goods Company.
In the 1913 Worcester Directory, both Mungers are listed as “removed” —Anne to Boston, and Willard to South Wellfleet. Perhaps this was the time she studied at the Museum of Fine Arts School, as mentioned below. By the time of the 1920 federal census, both are living in South Wellfleet, and engaged in ”novelty manufacture.”
One of Anne Wells Munger’s biographies mentions her studies with Philip Leslie Hale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He was an American Impressionist, and had studied in Paris with summers in Giverny where he was influenced by Claude Monet. Hale taught in Boston after 1893. She also studied with George DeForest Brush at the Art Students League in New York City; his interest in pottery may have influenced her also, since she also sold pottery in her shop. The Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum has one or more pieces of her pottery.
In the 1920s, the social column of The Barnstable Patriot mentions the Mungers leaving the Cape in the winter months to settle first in New Orleans, and then in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Pass Christian was a small town on the Gulf Coast that had served wealthy New Orleans residents as a resort for many years. The Mungers purchased a home there, and shuttled between their two seaside towns for many years. According to an article in the Provincetown Advocate, Mrs. Munger even established an “information bureau” in her southern home and studio —with brochures on the Cape supplied by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
Willard C. Munger died in 1940 and Anne Wells Munger in 1945. Both are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Gulfport, Mississippi.
In the process of researching Mrs. Munger’s bayberry products, I found a company located in North Truro, called “Cape Cod Products, Inc.” A 1912 article in The Barnstable Patriot noted with delight the opportunities for children and adults to gather buckets of bayberries “for quite a good deal of cash.” In the poor outer Cape economy, this must have been a bonus. The article continues, “The little berries, of which it takes hundreds of thousands to make a bushel, are boiled and steamed, then made into bayberry candles, ironing wax and other products for the holiday trade.” Another article mentions a fire at the company’s location in Fairhaven in 1913. A Massachusetts record shows the corporation dissolving in 1917, but another article notes that its products were at the 1922 Barnstable County Fair. I did not find the bayberry candles branded as “Dame Standish.” In an ad in Cape Cod Magazine, the company offered canned goods: kippered herring, cranberries, or spiced mackerel.
Whitaker, Jan. Tea At the Blue Lantern Inn, A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America. New York. St. Martin’s Press, 2002 U.S.
Historic house forms and photographs available at the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum
Federal Census collection at www.ancestry.com
David Kew’s Cape Cod history site: www.capecodhistory.us
Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive: www.sturgislibrary.org
Barnstable County Deeds available at www.barnstablecountydeeds.org
Newspapers available online at www.genealogybank.com
Provincetown Advocate available at http://advocate.provincetown-ma.gov.