Historic Places in Chatham, Cape Cod
The town of Chatham and its dramatic coastal setting are abundantly blessed with memorable and historic features beloved of visitors and many recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. A rich and full visitor’s itinerary would include:
Chatham Bars Inn
Situated on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, Chatham Bars Inn is the last of the grand hotels of Chatham. Built in 1914 as an elegant hunting lodge by Charles Hardy, a wealthy Boston stockbroker, it quickly became a summer retreat for wealthy vacationers escaping the heat of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other large cities. Designed by Boston architects Harvey Bailey Alden and William H. Cox, it boasted of long distance telephones and salt water baths in each room.. Its splendid seaside location winds across 25 acres of blooming gardens and cottages that encircle the stately Main Inn, a true Grand Dame! Today the Inn still exudes elegant charm and is an ideal setting for romance, restful retreat, or family holiday. Historic Hotels of America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Old Village” National Register Historic District (Chatham)
Established in 2001, the Old Village District protects more than 300 historic properties – approximately 85% of its structures – from demolition and substantial alteration. Residents work cooperatively to protect the oldest section of town.
Chatham Historic Business District (Downtown Main Street)
With buildings dating back to the mid-1800s, Main Street is the visually cohesive, true commercial and social center of town. National Register of Historic Places.
Louis Brandeis House
The summer home of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1916-1939) and namesake of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. National Register of Historic Places.
Built on Main Street in 1915 by Charles Hardy, the Boston stockbroker who also built the Chatham Bars Inn. Designed in the half-timber English Tudor style, the Brick Block building originally housed the post office and a local bank and was for many years considered the center of town activities. National Register of Historic Places.
Chatham Railroad Company Depot
A striking example of Victorian-era architecture, the railroad depot was the stepping off – and on – point for riders of the old Chatham Railroad, which served the town with a seven-mile strip of railway from 1887-1937. Today the depot houses the Chatham Railroad Museum, including relics from the era, a 75-year-old caboose from the New York Central system, and a diorama of the Chatham train yards of 1915. National Register of Historic Places. The museum is manned by an experienced group of volunteers from all over Cape Cod.
Chatham's Old Gristmill
Located in Chase Park, the wind-powered gristmill was built by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey in 1797 to grind local corn. Originally located along Stage Harbor Road, the gristmill was an active commercial operation until 1898. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Chatham’s windmill has undergone a historic renovation and will once again grind corn—at least, on occasion! Visitors to the 18th-century wind-powered gristmill will be able to relive a bit of town history. Please visit us at www.chathamwindmill.com
Eldredge Public Library
Designed in the Renaissance/Romanesque style by A. Marble, a student of the renowned 19th-century architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the Eldredge Public Library an architectural jewel, was completed in 1896. National Register of Historic Places.
Chatham Marconi Maritime Center
Seen on the Channel 5 Boston "Chronicle" news magazine and in the Boston Globe
In 2013, the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center will welcome visitors to its Museum and Education Center located at 847 Orleans Road (Route 28) overlooking Ryders Cove in the Chathamport area of North Chatham. The museum is located in the historic Operations Building built in 1914 by Guglielmo Marconi. The station was part of his visionary wireless network that was planned to link America with Europe and Japan.
Under the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and known by the call letters WCC, it was the busiest ship-to-shore station on the East Coast during most of the 20th century. Not only did WCC relay vital messages to ships around the world, it also provided communications to brave aviators and bold adventurers – Charles and Anne Lindberg, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. During World War II, the U.S. Navy operated the Chatham station as secret “Station C’ whose mission it was to locate and intercept coded messages from enemy surface vessels and submarines, helping to win the Battle of the Atlantic. Exhibits include videos about Marconi’s life and the role of WCC in world events, an authentic shipboard radio, artifacts from important periods in WCC’s history, and an opportunity for visitors to send Morse code as well as see an operational amateur radio station. For further information about the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, visit www.chathammarconi.org .
Monomoy Point Lighthouse
Located on the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, the Monomoy Point Lighthouse, now decommissioned, is one of the earliest cast-iron lighthouses in America, constructed in 1823. National Register of Historic Places.
Chatham Light and Coast Guard Station
Probably the most famous tourist attraction in town, with a weather-wracked history that never gets old. The first two wooden lighthouses that were erected in 1808 were torn apart by storms. These were replaced in 1841 by two brick lighthouses that lasted until an 1870 Nor’easter stirred up the Atlantic, until surf broke through the barrier beach and washed away the bluff, crashing the lighthouses into the sea. The current single lighthouse was built in 1877. Some 5,000 tourists visit the Chatham Light each year, taking in the Atlantic “South Beach” overlook, which gives fascinating views of the Cape Cod National Seashore, historic fishing camps, ever shifting sandbars and beach, rolling surf, and the fishing fleet coming and going “through the break” in the sand bars, caused by a 1987 storm. National Register of Historic Places.
Captain David T. Bassett House
The captain of a two-masted schooner was the first known resident of this historic home in the 1840s, which now houses the Visitors Center managed by the Chatham Chamber Of Commerce.
Home to the Chatham Historical Society, the original part of the house was built in 1752 by Captain Joseph Atwood when he was still a subject of King George II. The main house remains unchanged. It houses extensive collections of art, artifacts and decorative arts which portray life on the Cape since the 17th century.
Located on Main Street at the center of town, this 1820 home is a perfect example of traditional “Cape Cod” design. The Mayo house is furnished with period furniture and open to the public mid-June through September, as well as during the Christmas Stroll Weekend. The house serves as the headquarters for the Chatham Conservation Foundation.
Caleb Nickerson House and William Nickerson Cabin Site
Run by the Nickerson Family Association which boasts 900 active members around the country and 109 annual reunions. Nickerson progenitor William Nickerson was the first to purchase land in what is now Chatham from the native tribe, and also founded the first house of worship in town. Caleb Nickerson, great-great-grandson of William, was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. The Nickerson house remains in original condition, featuring three working fireplaces including a beehive oven, original iron cranes, period woodwork and hand-hewn, random-width pine floors. Extensive early genealogical records stored on property are available for public study. Educational events on colonial life are scheduled during the spring, summer and autumn. The site was honored with the 2005 Preservation Award from the Historical Commission and Chatham Historical Society. For more information, call 508-945-6086 or visit www.nickersonassoc.org.
The famous Native American who saved the first Plymouth pilgrims from starvation and taught them to plant native crops, died at the site of the William Nickerson cabin. Squanto had been in the area to purchase corn from Monomoyick natives for the pilgrims, and after falling ill was taken to the Nickerson cabin. A marker commemorates the site.
Main Street School
Constructed in 1924, the school housed all twelve grades until 1963. It finally closed in 1998 and is now being restored. This major project focuses on preserving and enhancing the historical character of this town landmark, while creating a new Community Center featuring meeting and recreational space, a gymnasium and a teen center.
Chatham Fish Pier
A true working pier, the Chatham Fish Pier is where the local professional fishermen bring in their catch. Visitors can catch the sights, sounds and scents of the action from a prominent observation deck. The Pier is a port for Coast Guard rescue boats, one of the three local commercial seal watch operations, as well for forays to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and sport fishing departures. The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman’s Association provides guides at the Fish Pier to educate visitors about Chatham’s strong maritime history and long fishing heritage while also focusing on environmental issues and scientific fisheries management.
A professional theater since the 1930s, the Monomoy Theatre was purchased in 1957 by the family of Ohio University President John Baker to provide performing arts graduate students with a venue for semi-professional experience. One of the last true summer stock theaters in America, the troupe now features Ohio University students as well as outstanding young talent and professionals actors from across the country. Still owned by the Baker family, the theatre will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2007 with a ten-week summer season of eight plays including one musical.
Chatham Drama Guild
At 75 years old, the Chatham Drama Guild iis the second oldest community theater on Cape Cod, producing dramas, comedies and revues year-round.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
Chatham is an unparalleled destination for bird watching, affording unexcelled sites to observe the region’s 285 known species, some of which are extremely rare. The island stretches nearly ten miles into the water of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic. Its nearly 3,000 acres of sand dunes, ponds and marshes protect numerous avian species, including endangered piping plovers and roseate terns. The only nationally designated Wilderness Area in southern New England, a designation it has held since 1970, Monomoy is an important link in the chain of migratory waterfowl refuges along the Atlantic Flyway.
North Beach and the Cape Cod National Seashore
The barrier North Beach is a favorite destination, by auto or boat, for locals and tourists alike. Rustic fish camps dot the beach which separates the open Atlantic from Pleasant Bay and North Chatham. The National Seashore designation dates from the 1950s, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy helped enact legislation to protect the area of beaches that run along the Atlantic from Chatham to Provincetown. Chatham’s North Beach is the southernmost piece of this national treasure. Bare-bones fishing camps – no running water or electricity – are protected by grandfather provisions in the laws governing the seashore. The camps have been owned by the same private families that created them generations ago and may not be sold.
Old Colony Rail Trail Bike Path
A 4.5-mile paved bike trail in Chatham built on the former railroad right-of-way. The trail connects with the neighboring town of Harwich, which then connects to the 30 year old Cape Cod Rail Trail, covering 21.9 miles. Plans are underway to expand the Chatham trail throughout town and to provide a second connector to the CCRT.