The historic Nickerson Mansion, built in 1907, has become a premier resort destination.
Sometime in the 1880s, bank czar Samuel Nickerson stabbed the golden tip of his cane into a 48-acre plot of land in Brewster on Cape Cod. This was it. This was where he would build a home for his son, Roland. Nickerson had returned east from the windy streets of Chicago, where he made a cool fortune as the founder and president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He would build Fieldstone Hall, one of the swankiest houses in town. Over a century later, that property has transformed into the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club—still very swanky—which has won the AAA Four Diamond rating and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. This summer, guests will enjoy the resort’s extensive $40 million renovation, including the addition of 31 villas by the resort’s private beach.
But back to the Nickerson family. Fieldstone Hall, built in 1890, quickly became the social center of high society in Brewster, welcoming local and national dignitaries (including President Grover Cleveland) for lavish parties. The family used part of the land (which is now Nickerson State Park) as private hunting grounds and kept it stocked with beer and deer. Liveried servants stood vigil, and the carriage house was the size of a substantial home. Tragedy struck on May 10, 1906, when the mansion caught fire and was completely destroyed. Roland died shortly after (some say of a broken heart over his beloved home), and his wife and father built a new home on the property, Nickerson Mansion, which lives on today as the Mansion at Ocean Edge.
A new villa at Ocean Edge Resort offers expansive views.
“When they rebuilt the house they were obviously worried about fire, so the place that exists today is made of reinforced fireproof stucco and steel garters,” says Sally Gunning, a local historian, author, and Nickerson family member. “The original house had these intricate shingle patterns on the exterior and a grand stone tower, while the new house was done in an English style.” The new Nickerson Mansion also boasted Italian marble fireplaces and a sweeping, hand-carved oak staircase that remains in place today. The the original billiards room (which also doubled as a roller-skating rink for the Nickersons) was decorated with wooden busts of Shakespearean characters, which still peer down at guests today.
In 1945, the Nickerson estate was sold to the Catholic Church, which used it as a seminary until Corcoran Jennison Hospitality purchased the property in 1980 and launched it as a luxury resort in 1986. “The location on Cape Cod Bay guaranteed a great vacation destination,” says Suzanne Corcoran, a vice president of Corcoran Jennison Hospitality. The historic Nickerson Mansion continues to be the focal point of the resort, and its status as a national landmark ensures that the stunning architecture of the original building remains intact, providing a gorgeous setting for lavish weddings and conferences. Overnight accommodations in the mansion’s guest suites were constructed in wings off of the historic building, accessible by a covered walkway. Corcoran added other modern amenities, such as six swimming pools and an 18-hole Nicklaus Design golf course. Nearly 35 years later, the resort carries on the rarefied style of summering that the Nickersons so cherished, with celebrities like the late actor James Gandolfini and DermotMulroney seeking privacy at Ocean Edge.
Fieldstone Hall, the original home on the estate, was destroyed by a fire in 1906.
In recent years, Corcoran has been quietly developing nearby land, and this year the resort opens its new Presidential Bay Collection villas, which offer a new level of privacy and family friendly amenities. Each two-or three-bedroom villa comes with a stocked refrigerator (think gourmet ice cream and s’mores essentials) and a concierge who can help plan activities before guests arrive and throughout their stay. “With the villas we are trying to attract guests who want a quieter atmosphere and access to the town when they need it, while still being able to utilize the resort,” says Corcoran.
Where the Nickersons once held elaborate picnics, Ocean Edge now offers yoga on the beach, stand-up paddle boarding on the water, a deluxe tennis center, and shuttles to Crosby Beach. The resort has added new bicycles for guests to ride on the 26-mile Cape Cod Bike and Rail Trail. “If you bike to the Wellfleet Beachcomber, we will pick you up,” says Corcoran. “We designed that for people who want a little exercise, but didn’t want to bike back to the resort after a day of enjoying themselves.”
Enjoying the property, after all, is what Samuel Nickerson had in mind when he first laid eyes on the land. “This spot was a playground for the Nickersons, and the play still continues,” says Corcoran, “but instead of one family, now hundreds of people are enjoying it.” 2907 Main St., Brewster, 508-896-9000