People began to open cottage colonies on the Cape in the early thirties, as more visitors began to come to the Cape in their own cars, and as demand grew for inexpensive places to stay.
The Salt Box cottage colony opened on the shore of Bass River, just north of the Bass River Golf Course, in 1938.
Bainbridge Crist, a South Yarmouth historian, wrote about it in The Register in 1978. You can find a copy of his article here: A baroness came, and so did a countess, in the heyday of Yarmouth's Salt Boxes.
The 36 acre Salt Box property had been purchased by celebrity aviator Russell Kendrick, who hoped to open an air school there. I don't know if there was enough room on the property for a runway. I wonder if he was thinking of a seaplane base?
The site was an old farm, lying between the Bass River Golf Course and the shoreline of Bass River. It came with a farmhouse and barn (built using wood salvaged from the old saltworks further down the river) and looked across the river towards the mouth of Grand Cove in Dennis. Five years after Kendrick was killed (in a 1933 airplane racing accident) his widow teamed up with her two sisters to open the cottage colony.
Mrs. Kendrick had earned income by renting out the old farmhouse. In 1937-38, the sisters had six modern, relatively simple, two-room, cottages built on the property. Visitors could rent one or more of the rooms; each room came with a fireplace and a bath. They began hosting visitors in 1938.
The sisters advertised in the New York papers and the Saturday Review of Books; perhaps, as a result, they attracted a cosmopolitan clientele. There was, for example, the Bavarian baroness, whose black satin swimsuit is said to have knocked a local shellfisherman out of his offshore skiff.
War time austerity limited car tourism. Many visitors arrived by train in Hyannis and had to be driven to and from the cottages. The site was some distance from restaurants, so the sisters started a restaurant of their own in the barn (this was closed at the end of the war).
In the late 1940s, the sisters began to develop permanent housing. However, the cottage colony operated until 1968. The original cottages were upgraded, and new ones were built.
Note: This is based primarily on the Crist article, which has much, much more detail. The paragraph about cottage colonies in the 1930s is based on James O'Connell's book, Becoming Cape Cod. Creating a Seaside Resort. There is a Salt Box Association with a website: http://saltbox.us/. Recently the Association has organized the rehabilitation of the development's beach site. (the Association's website links to a Flikr photo collection showing the river in front of the beach covered with shellfishermen sometime in the mid-seventies).
Edits: February 21, 2011