History During Travels to PTown: Louis Brandeis House

When you drive to Provincetown from the mainland, you’ll see everything from architecture to nautical sights… and even some sites of historical significance as well. While we hate to prolong your trip to our beautiful shores, we’d like to point out some stops of interest to consider during your travels through Cape Cod. Over the next several months, we’ll occasionally touch on something you can see and/or do during your travels on the Mid-Cape Highway.

Just five miles from Route 6 in Chatham, MA is the Louis Brandeis House National Historic Landmark. This 1-1/2 story Cape-style home was the summer home for Louis Brandeis, who served on the United States Supreme Court from 1916 until 1939.

brandeisBorn in Louisville, KY to Jewish parents, the precocious Mr. Brandeis studied law at Harvard and graduated when he was just 20 years old with the school’s highest GPA to date at the time.

Brandeis practiced law in Boston and was known for his liberal views. His article in Harvard Law Review entitled “Right to Privacy” helped established the very idea that all Americans still value today. He went on to fight large business and the corruption, monopolies and mass consumerism that he felt undermined the very core of the American culture. Eventually, when Brandeis was financially secure, he began to fight for public causes, often serving pro bono to bring those issues that were important to him to the attention of the law and the public. Through this work he helped uphold labor laws, helped create the Federal Reserve System, and presented ideas that were adopted in the Federal Trade Commission. He also set the precedent for using expert testimony in trial cases.

President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis for the Supreme Court in 1916, much to the outrage of both fellow Justices, Senators and Representatives. Why? They were afraid of his extreme liberal views and gave ridiculous reasons against his appointment including his intelligence, his bravery, and because he was “incorruptible”… not to mention that he was the very first Jew nominated to sit on the Court.

Despite the arguments, he was confirmed to the Supreme Court in June, 1916, and went on to defend our freedoms and privacy with great conviction and success. In 1922, the Brandeis family fell in love with Chatham while on vacation, and ultimately purchased what is now known as the Louis Brandeis House. During his summers in the wood-framed house, Brandeis would spend time with his family, work on Supreme Court cases, and entertain friends.

Whether or not you agree with his politics and ideas, it is easy to see that Louis Brandeis was one of the most effective members of the Supreme Court in the history of the United States. Brandeis made such an impact on the common man that he was honored on a USPS commemorative stamp in 2009, and results of his valiant legacy can still be found today in the form of Unionized Labor, Workers Rights, and any case having to do with Free Speech. Brandeis University in Waltham, MA was named for this historic icon.

The home can be found on the shores of Stetson Cover near Eldridge Point. It sits at the end of Judges Way off Stage Neck Road (also known as Neck Lane).

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