I have seen many people, both residents and tourists, checking out the excavation at 37 Cooke Street. The cellar hole is now far larger than the house which is elevated and held in place with steel cross beams. It looks so frail and worn. The sills are rotten. The hole is new and raw and scary.

The house is old, although probably not as old as the 1680 date over the front door. More likely it dates from around 1720, according to most analyses of its interior, which features a so-called good morning staircase, and a fine but simple federal mantle. Dormers and back ell were add-ons from early in the 20th century, and the east side is probably newer than the west one.

The house was deposited at its location in the 1820s when Ralph Cleveland acquired it to put on the lots he had purchased from the Fisher family. The lot was assembled in two pieces. The larger piece at the corner of Cooke and Summer streets was purchased for $45.54 from Jonathan Fisher, while a smaller piece, the site of a small barn, was purchased from Obed Fisher for $21.00. Deeds indicate that School (or Maple) street had just recently been opened, and that the Jethro Ripley house across the street was already there.

The house itself was originally located at Major’s Cove, and was probably built by Joseph Norton who owned the vast tract we know today as Major’s Cove and Hidden Cove. No one has been able to find a bill of sale for the house, as records are usually kept only for land transactions in the county registry of deeds. Every once in awhile a deed for a house turns up, but it is not usual.

The Cleveland family owned both the land and the house for nearly 75 years. Ralph Cleveland was married to Rebecca Vincent; they had three children. Son Ralph Jr. lived in the house and had two daughters, Lizzie and Rebecca. His wife was Eliza Courtney, whose father was a merchant, as was Ralph. Ralph Jr. was born at around the time the house was set on the lot. After his death in 1894 his daughters sold the house to Lucretia S. Norton and Sarah Mayhew Norton, daughters of Ichabod Norton. The sisters never married. Lucretia died in 1944, Sarah in 1945. They left the house to their niece Miriam Butler, the daughter of their sister Minnie Norton Butler. Minnie was the first wife of Sen. William M. Butler, who owned select pieces of Vineyard real estate during his lifetime, including The Daniel Fisher House, Windy Gates and Mohu, today the former estate of Katharine Graham.

In 1966, Miriam sold the house to the Achelis family, where it remained until recently. Now, as is becoming the annoying custom, the title is held by an LLC.