This year, the Ocean City house that Evan Andrews' great-great-grandmother bought so many decades ago will turn 100.
The "cottage," as it is affectionately known by the seven family members who own it and the countless others who spend summers here, has seven bedrooms, three baths, and the requisite rocking-chair porch. It has never been winterized, has neither air-conditioning nor dishwasher, but does have sleep porches where the smallest of the clan dream under the stars when the heat bears down.
Each Memorial Day weekend, about 30 people arrive here in Ocean City's quiet Gardens section for a "work weekend." A to-do list is compiled, and awnings are put up, windows are fixed, paint is refreshed, and furniture is dusted off for the season. All of which leaves the rest of the summer free for family traditions such as Wiffle-ball games, Scrabble on the beach, and Sundays with a crossword puzzle.
Though they rent out the place for three to four weeks each summer to help pay the bills and taxes, the family decides in January which two weeks each relative gets.
"Weekends are open to anyone," says Evan Andrews, who heads for the house as often as he can each summer with wife Angela and their twin teenage sons. "You first have to call down and see if there is room and what you can bring to Saturday night dinner."
Frequently, there are 25 around the huge dining table, elbow to elbow, breaking bread. "If you don't help make the dinner, you are washing and drying dishes after," he says matter-of-factly.
The other rule: When you visit, you pay $10 a day, per person.
"We are an old Quaker family," Evan, a civil engineer, says of the simple systems in place. "That money goes into the tax fund and the repair-bill fund. Generations ago, we had this all figured out."
The cottage has always been run by the owning generation, and over the years some family have been bought out. Others have moved as far away as Washington, Alaska, Arizona, and Montana, but still make the trek for a summertime week or two.
Lydia Wills Evans probably had no idea what she would start all those years ago. A farm owner in Medford, she bought the cottage because a grandchild had asthma and the doctor prescribed ocean air to help with it.
The dwelling was a boardinghouse for the summer of 1912, and Grandmother Evans purchased it that fall. The sale included bedroom furnishings times seven. Every bedroom still has the original dressers and mirrors; the second-floor bathroom has the original claw-foot tub.
"It's like going back in time and makes you think about the history," says Angela Andrews, Evan's wife. "We were watching Boardwalk Empire last summer at home, and we realized she was already in this house at that time, just across the inlet."
The house remains architecturally intact, a grande dame on a double lot. It was only recently that ceiling fans were installed in the kitchen and bedrooms. And now that teens are part of the equation, the family is springing for Internet access this year.
"Everyone over the age of 18 is in agreement for no television," Angela says. "We have had moments of wishing we could see an exciting Phillies game, but listening to the game on the radio on the front porch is fun."
(There is a TV in the apartment over the garage, the one that's rented out all summer, mostly to family friends.)
The main house still looks much as it did in the Prohibition era that Boardwalk Empire re-creates. On the first floor are a large dining room, living room, kitchen, and foyer. After the dinner dishes are dried, there is reading, bridge-playing and porch-rocking.
"One of our favorite things to do is sit on the porch when there is a nice breeze and have a drink. It is quiet and you can see the ocean," says Evan. It's also part of his earliest memories of the cottage, where he recalls playing board games with his aunt and uncles.
"I now do that with my nieces and nephews," he says.
Documenting the history of family and domicile are sepia photos in the foyer and dining room featuring women in long dresses, and framed blueprints of the house hung over the mantel. Wood trim in those rooms and the living room comes from an American chestnut harvested before the blight.
In the dining room, Angela says, she loves the original built-in corner china cabinet with its leaded glass, and the Tiffany-style chandelier.
On the second floor are the large sleeping porches, where children grab cots and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. On the third floor, "where the posts from the porches have settled, the floor is a bit uneven, so sleeping up there sometimes can feel like you are in traction."
Labor Day weekend, the family reconvenes to discuss what they will invest in for the next year. "It is a Quaker tradition that we all have to agree on the expenditure to move forward," Evan says.
To gain more room and spread the wealth, his father bought the house across the street. "People see us walking back and forth, and I know they are wondering what is going on," he says. "We have joked about building a bridge between the two houses."
Grandma Evans' place "is a clunky old house, but in my opinion it is the place to be," Evan says. "It is the reason we've kept a family, spread across the country, together.
"This house would have to fall down for any of us to want to ever sell it."
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