The Wauwinet House first welcomed guests in 1875. The inn was named after the chief of the Indian tribe that inhabited the eastern section of the island. On June 17, 1876, The Inquirer & Mirror, reported that "The Wauwinet House was the scene of a pleasant time. A glorious sail up harbor." 163 people attended a shore dinner serving clam chowder, boiled lobster and pastry. People kept calling out for more chowder!" Dinner was followed by quadrants, polkas and waltzes.
The steamship made regular daily trips to the inn along with the cat boat called the Lillian. Fare on the steamship was 50 cents round-trip and a shore dinner cost 75 cents. It wasn't until 1882 when the new owner Asa Small purchased the inn for $1700 and decided to rent rooms. It was at that time that the laundry and new bathhouses were built, and the "best mattresses and springs added to the beds with neat muslin curtains and freshly painted furniture."
The inn continued to flourish retaining its natural setting and charm. James A. Backus operated it from the mid-1890's and became its owner soon after the turn of the century. During the 1900's, the second floor was added along with the veranda to the front where people sat in rocking chairs to enjoy the comings and goings of the inn and the view.
In the early 1900's, the Wauwinet Casino was built. The literal definition of the word "casino" is "a room or building for public resort or diversion." The Wauwinet Casino served a menu of steaks, lobsters, clams, and fresh fish to the beat of a five-piece orchestra, making it the most popular restaurant on the island.
The 1930's brought lazy summer days of sun, sea and sand with guests enjoying sailing, swimming, fishing, tennis, parties and picnics. Radios were a novelty, televisions unheard of and automobiles used only when necessary.The Backus family later sold the inn to the Robert B. Bowmans (of the Folger Hotel) in 1978. The Karp family bought the Wauwinet House in 1986. After an extensive renovation and redecorating, the inn was opened in June 1988 as The Wauwinet.
"Times and people change, but Wauwinet will always be a haven for those seeking sea, sand, and sun," - Jane Lamb from her book Wauwinet, 1990