It’s rare that a Cape Cod beach house is considered cheap. Then again, it’s not often that a dune shack—a humble shelter often without running water or electricity—is the property in question. But that’s what the National Park Service (NSP) is offering: the chance to lease a historic dune shack along the Cape Cod coast for as little as $2,107 a year. For those who dream of solitude, easy beach access, and simpler living, perhaps the trade off for affordability in place of modern amenities makes sense.
The NSP recently released a request for proposals, asking interested parties to submit applications for one of eight available properties for a 10-year lease. “The dune shack properties will be leased ‘as-is with all faults,’” the NSP said in the release. “The lessee is expected to occupy and maintain the dune shack as a traditional dune shack.” The homes are located within the Peaked Hill Bars National Register of Historic District in Provincetown and Truro, a region located along a stretch of land in the Outer Cape, which includes 19 dune shacks in total (18 are owned by the park service). The government agency stressed that all of the homes are remote (accessible only via foot or a 4×4 vehicle) and that there is limited water, plumbing, and electricity in the shacks. However, they are in “good condition,” according to documents about the properties published by the park service.
First built in the 1920s, the historic beach houses have long been popular among writers and artists looking for a quiet place to work. Eugene O’Neil once called a dune shack home, and penned two of his novels—Anna Christie and The Hairy Ape—from inside the structure. Other famous residents include e.e. cummings, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, and Jackson Pollock. Before creative spirits found solace in the beachfront homes, they were used by members of the United States Life-Saving Service, who were stationed along the coastline to assist shipwrecked sailors.
According to the NSP, each Cape Cod beach house will be rented, at minimum, at a fair market value. These prices vary depending on the size and location of the home. The determined annual rent for the first year of the lease ranges from $2,107 for the Jones Dune Shack—a 120-square-foot, one‐story, one-room home—to $16,000 for the Adams Dune Shack and Guest Shack, a 590-square-foot home with a deck. “This rent will be subject to an annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment,” reads the proposal instruction documents. The lessee is also expected to pay for repairs and maintenance during their time in the home.
“The opportunity to submit a proposal to lease any of these eight properties is competitive and is open to all interested persons and businesses,” states the web page for the shacks. Interested parties must submit proposals by July 3, 2023.