Cape Cod National Seashore | CAPTAIN EDWARD PENNIMAN HOUSE

Captain Edward Penniman House at Cape Cod National Seashore

Captain Edward Penniman House at Cape Cod National Seashore

See the Historic Sites web page for an interactive location map.


Entry into the Captain Edward Penniman House is only allowed during free, one-hour guided tours that are held a few times during the week from mid-April until the end of September. While free, reservations are required due to a limit on the number of participants. Call the Salt Pond Visitor Center at (508) 255-3421 no earlier than one week in advance to book your spot. Exact schedules come out a month in advance and are posted on the National Park Service’s Calendar and Ranger-Guided Activities web pages for the park and published in a free newspaper that is available at the Salt Pond and Province Lands visitor centers.

The Penniman House is located in the Fort Hill area of Cape Cod National Seashore and has its own parking area just past the house on Fort Hill Road. The lot holds fifteen vehicles, and if it fills up there is another parking lot at the very end of the road (.2 mile farther down) that holds a dozen vehicles. These lots are also used by those hiking the Fort Hill Trail. No permits are required to park here.

Captain Edward Penniman built this French Second Empire-style house in 1868. The style, also known as the mansard style for its use of the mansard roof, was all the rage at the time for those with money. Napoleon III had much of Paris rebuilt using this style. The roof design stems back to the 1600s when François Mansard first used it for an addition to the Louvre in Paris (long before it became a museum).

Back side of the Penniman House at Cape Cod National Seashore

Back side of the Penniman House at Cape Cod National Seashore

Penniman made his fortune as a whaling ship owner and captain. He made seven whaling voyages, each lasting anywhere from two to four years. It wasn’t until he retired in 1884 at the age of 54 that he finally got to enjoy the house. He lived here until his death in 1913.

The house remained in the family until Penniman’s granddaughter sold it in 1963 to the National Park Service for $28,000. She offered all of the furnishings as well for an extra $400, but the government claimed not to have the money. As a result, with a few exceptions, the rooms are empty. The few pieces of furniture that do exist were donated back to the house by the Penniman family.

Room inside the Penniman House

Room inside the Penniman House

Some original Penniman furniture is on display in the upstairs bedroom

Some original Penniman furniture is on display in the upstairs bedroom

The Captain’s daughter, Betsey, was into photography and took many photos of the house’s interior. Some of these are on display in the rooms to give you an idea of what the place once looked like.

Photos show what rooms in the Penniman House once looked like

Photos show what rooms in the Penniman House once looked like

The Penniman House once had a whalebone entrance, which reflected Captain Penniman’s pride in his career. However, the bones were recently removed due to deteriorating condition. This was actually the third set of bones used at the entrance, having been installed by the National Park Service in 1966 using the jawbones of a dead finback whale that washed up on shore in Wellfleet. Below is a 2015 photo of the entrance. The National Park Service hopes to erect a new whalebone entrance in the future.

Whale bone entrance to the Penniman property at Cape Cod

Whale bone entrance to the Penniman property at Cape Cod

Penniman also built a large barn. However, this is not open to the public and not part of the house tour.

Barn at the Captain Edward Penniman House in Cape Cod

Barn at the Captain Edward Penniman House in Cape Cod

Back to the Top


Last updated on September 21, 2021
Share this article