Walter O. Luscombe – Village Entrepreneur


Walter O. Luscombe was probably the most involved and successful businessman in the history of Woods Hole. He arrived in the village in 1878 to act as the deputy customs collector for the port, busy with imported material for the Pacific Guano Company. He worked in this capacity for 10 years and then became interested in real estate and other enterprises. He was involved with grocery stores, grain and coal, insurance and real estate and owned many pieces of land – he was perhaps the largest owner of village property during the period 1890- 1930. He was considered an expert on Cape Cod real estate and was often consulted on property and land appraisals.

Walter Otis Luscombe was born in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1851. His first wife, Helen B. Davis whom Mr. Luscombe married in 1875, died two years later in 1877. The following year he moved to Woods Hole. He expected to die in short order, after a serious attack of inflammatory rheumatism. But he flourished. He married into the Shiverick family in 1886, beginning many happy years with wife Lunette, one of three daughters of Asa Shiverick, Jr., manager of the Pacific Guano Company, previously well-known for the design of clipper ships at Dennis. For his bride Walter built a beautiful new house overlooking Little Harbor in the year of their marriage. Yearly on January 26 they shared their anniversary with friends at an open house.

When he died in 1939, he had been involved in village affairs as well as town, state and national concerns for over 60 years. His trip to his business office at 7 a.m., driving his buggy behind horse Betsy Brown, was a daily occurrence which villagers said you could set your clock by. He and H.K. Dyer built the Woods Hole Library's stone building in 1913. He was very involved with the Church of the Messiah as treasurer and as a member of the vestry. He built the brick Post Office building in 1928. Behind it was another brick building he'd constructed, known as the "Flatiron Building" because of its triangular shape.

It housed his office in later years (his original office was in his large wooden grain and supply building near the Steamship) as well as some businesses: the first Woods Hole branch of the Falmouth National Bank and a hardware store, run by Bill Wilhelm. Bill later ran Eddie Swift's hardware store on School Street.

Politically active in the town, state and national scene, he was an active member of the Republican party. In 1899 he became a state senator. He was extremely active in clubs, civic and professional organizations. He was for many years a director of the Falmouth National Bank and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce of which he was a charter member.

An article in the Falmouth Enterprise read, in part:

"Woods Hole justly feels proud to point to the achievements of a man like Mr. Luscombe, who has always been foremost in his genuine interests for the welfare of this town. However, not only is the record of this faithful public servant pointed to with pride in his own village, but it is a source of equal pride to refer to the Senator as a man the entire town, Cape and State agree is one of their leading and most influential citizens."

In 1954 Depot Avenue in Woods Hole was changed to Luscombe Avenue in his honor.

Luscombe at his barn

Walter O. Luscombe, c. 1889, at his “barn” stable building across from his grain supply establishment. The railroad station is behind him. The location of this “barn” building is now the Old Barn Liquor Store and adjacent shops. Gulesian-Fish Collection.

Luscombe's Store

Walter O. Luscombe’s big grain, feed supply and stable building along Great Harbor. Luscombe eventually owned most of the land in the area around the steamship docks and Water Street area. Florence Howes Gordon Collection.

Luscombe in a carriage

The top end of Railroad Avenue. The Falmouth National Bank is on the corner. The brick building down the street behind it is Luscombe’s Flatiron building, since demolished. The Falmouth National Bank’s Woods Hole office began in the Flatiron building but then moved to the building on the corner. It still looks like this today, except the bank is the Bank of Woods Hole, a branch of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.

Luscombe in a carriage