This is Madaket Millie, a folk heroine well-known to the people of Nantucket, and more specifically, the town of Madaket. Her real name was Millie Jewett.
‘No one visiting Madaket could miss Millie Jewett. She was a powerfully built woman in her fifties with stringy gray hair and a light brown complexion…Of her many feats, she had beaten the head of the YMCA at Indian wrestling, had harpooned a shark with a pitchfork…and so faithfully volunteered for the coast guard that in later years she was made an honorary warrant officer…She ran a small store to which we would often go for ice cream.’ -Bill Hoadley Please Walk Your Horses Up This Hill
She lived on Nantucket from 1907 until her death in 1990, and has been immortalised as a local legend. Although she was never one to brag about her accomplishments, she didn’t mind confirming or denying the many wild and humourous tales that surrounded her. Since her death, a children’s book has been written about her, and a bridge and a restaurant have been named in her honour.
The tourist trap of the northeastern USA, Nantucket is filled with eateries of every price range and description. Millie’s restaurant is unpretentious and proudly local, like its namesake.
Although Millie’s Restaurant is not the same building as Millie’s house (sometimes a source of confusion to tourists), it certainly shares some similarities. Both are wooden weatherboard structures at the water’s edge. Both have beautiful views of beach and ocean. One notable difference had been that Millie’s house was adorned with a carved and gilded quarterboard sign while the restaurant had none. Now, the restaurant has a quarterboard, too – actually two of them: One hanging above the entrance, the other hanging from the ceiling above the bar.
The restaurant quarterboards were made in our workshop. It does seem a little strange to be carving quarterboards in Inverell and shipping them to Nantucket (a bit like selling coal to Newcastle). But it was a fun project, taking us back to the roots of the sign-carving tradition. Furthermore, several members of our crew grew up in the Northeastern USA and enjoy making signs for ‘the old country’ from our shop in New England, Australia.
For Millie’s quarterboards, we used the typeface Aviano, which has a gracious classical elegance that goes well between the two gilded barn-stars. The combination of black and gold showed up well against the light weathered wood of the restaurant.
The quarterboards have now been hanging for more than a year and have even resulted in further enquiries. One gentleman from Florida, after enjoying a meal at Millie’s, bought a similar sign for his own house – ‘Dovey’s Nest’.
So, next time you’re in Madaket, be sure to turn your sandy bare feet towards Millie’s Restaurant for a New England Lobster roll and a mug of Whale’s Tail Pale Ale!