The Lash House is for sale. For a small group of people, that single sentence carries paragraphs if not pages of meaning.
For that small group of people, the Lash House means the house that Joe and Truda Lash built. Actually it was Roger Allen who built it. Roger was one of Chilmark’s premier builders 50 to 75 years ago. Mostly Roger built to his own design, solid traditional homes, eight-over-eight windows, wide, vertical-grain fir floors, well-built homes, meant to last. On the northern rises that encircle Menemsha Harbor you’ll find others — Mannes House, the Moore House, the Boni House — Roger designed and built them all in the 1930s. The Lash House, in contrast, was architect designed and Roger Allen built it according to the architect’s plans. It has some big picture windows looking out to Menemsha Pond and the harbor below, narrow white oak flooring and a louver arrangement at the roof ridge that was meant to ventilate the big room with the picture windows. That was the idea, anyway, but it wasn’t a very good one, and the louver arrangement has long since been abandoned and now there are some windows that open in the big room which can still be quite hot on a steamy August day.
But architect designed or not, unscathed by half a dozen hurricanes, the house that Roger Allen built served Joe and Truda well for almost 50 summers. They loved it. It was a vital center for the family, placed in a town where many of their artist and writer and teacher friends from New York had second homes. And it was a summer home for their children and then occasionally for their grandchildren. But Joe first, and then Truda died, and like many a summer home the Lash House passed into the hands of the succeeding generations. And for the grandchildren it was not such an important place. And the Chilmark Truda and Joe came to just after the second World War had changed a lot by the time Truda died a few years ago. With house lots starting at half a million dollars or more there weren’t many artists or teachers buying in Chilmark, but plenty was selling. And the new summer people, the lawyers and venture capitalists and CEOs were buying and building, and building big, sometimes tearing down more modest houses to build the 10,000-square-foot cottages of their dreams.
The whole of the Lash house, with its spectacular view of Gay Head and Menemsha harbor and pond, probably won’t get torn down (as was the Schell House, built a few years later and sold recently for $3 million, about what is being asked for the Lash House). The realtor handling the sale thinks a buyer might tear down the bedroom wing to create something more in keeping with expectations for bigger bedrooms today, and the kitchen would have to be Sub-Zeroed and granitized, but probably the large living-dining room with the fireplace and the picture windows and sealed-over louver arrangement wouldn’t need to be demolished.
If a remnant survives, it will still be called the Lash House, whoever buys it, but over time fewer and fewer people will know what that means.
Peter S. McGhee lives in Cambridge and Chilmark.