The Enduring Allure of Coastal New England’s Famed “Pink House”

published Feb 16, 2021
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It’s been the subject of countless pastel-washed photographs and storm-swept paintings. It’s made a cameo in a Honda commercial and inspired a clothing line. It has sparked a rhapsodic real estate fantasy, been included on the Essex National Heritage Area’s Scenic Byway, and has caused a stir with peculiar rumors about its origins. Still, the “Pink House,” a singular rose-colored structure perched along the road to Plum Island in Newbury, Massachusetts, draws artists, writers, birders, and tourists by the dozens every day. They flock to admire the candy-hued structure surrounded by wide-open coastal grasses and snap selfies against the backdrop of its picturesque decay.

A 2,100-square-foot American Foursquare design, the Pink House is one of the thousands of cottages purchased in the early twentieth century from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Though several Foursquares still stand in the region, none can match the charm of the Pink House’s solitary location, its distinctive windowed cupola, or its signature Pepto Bismol shade.

Built in 1925 by Gertrude Cutter for her son, Henry, and his wife, Ruth Morin Cutter, the Pink House was not, as the legend goes, a

When Fish & Wildlife proposed demolishing the structure in 2014, Support the Pink House, a grassroots nonprofit, sprang up to protect it. The two organizations are now working together to determine the Pink House’s next chapter.

Each year, Support the Pink House conducts a walk-through to assess the home’s condition. “It’s got great bones,” says Rochelle Joseph, the organization’s executive director. The bottom floor has a kitchen, living room, and half bath. Upstairs are the master bedroom, two smaller bedrooms, and a full bath. And then there’s the cupola, an actual, wood-paneled room and not an architectural ornament. “It’s got a pretty spectacular set of views,” Joseph says.

Thanks to the domed room’s “lookout” potential and the house’s location along a coastal migration route, the Pink House is a favorite perch for a variety of birds. It’s not uncommon to find raptors like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and snowy owls pausing on the cupola, as if awaiting their closeup, before soaring out over the marsh.

Artists also continue to use the Pink House as inspiration. Painter Jill Hoy remembers the home from her childhood but took note of it on a drive by several years ago. She says, “I saw it and I thought, Wow, that place is really soulful.

Since then, she’s painted the Pink House eight times. “There’s that vast expanse of open sky. There’s a luminosity — that pale pink, the light, and cloud formations. It’s like a sundial, the way the light moves over it,” she explains. “Gentrification has really taken a lot of soul out of many places. The Pink House is this untouched place that feels as though time has left it as it shaped it. It rises out of the landscape, this little piece of humanity.”

Photographer Jonathan Elcock used to specialize in birds — until he came across the Pink House. “The Pink House was actually the first landscape photograph I took where I felt like I had captured what I was trying to capture,” he says.

Elcock, who donates 50 percent of sales of his Pink House photographs to Support the Pink House, says he’s returned to his photographic inspiration “countless” times — against the green backdrop of summer and the blank white canvas of winter, at sunrise and at sunset, as the waning light tilts through the windows and makes the home appear illuminated from within. He especially appreciates its geometry, from its cube-like shape and sloped hip roof to the gentle curve of the gravel driveway.

“There’s not a day that I go to Plum Island that I don’t see if I can catch a cool scene with the Pink House,” he says.