Museums in Chatham, Cape Cod
Atwood House & Museum
The Atwood House & Museum at 347 Stage Harbor Road is owned and run by the Chatham Historical Society. The original part of the museum is a house built in the 1750’s by Captain Joseph Atwood when he was a subject of George II of England. Because the old house was occupied by the Atwood family until 1923 and acquired by the Historical Society in 1925, it has remained unchanged since the time it was built. It therefore provides an excellent view into the way of life during the 18th and 19th centuries in New England.
To house the Historical Society collections, several wings have been added to the original structure, with the latest expansion occurring between 2003 and 2005, Today there are eight spacious galleries housing art, artifacts, and decorative arts portraying life on Cape Cod since the 17th century. Illustrating Chatham’s seagoing experience, there is a portrait gallery of notable sea captains of the 19th century and a maritime gallery featuring paintings of Chatham ships, as well as nautical equipment. One of the highlights of the museum is the mural barn that houses the nationally known portraits of 130 townspeople painted by Alice Stallknecht between 1932 and 1945. Capturing the life and struggles of town residents during that period, a guide relates many fascinating stories about those portrayed. One of the newest galleries is devoted to the history of fishing in the Chatham area and traces the evolution of the fishing industry on Cape Cod through objects, paintings, and photographs. Of special interest to many are the cranberry growing, salt works, and other trades. Also on the grounds is the Nickerson North Beach Camp built in 1947 that was moved, with all of the contents intact, to save it from being washed into the sea as the beach eroded, and the working lighthouse lantern room, of one of Chatham’s last twin lights, with its original Fresnel lens.
Hundreds of interesting antiques are displayed in the 17 display rooms, providing something for all art lovers, history buffs, students, and lovers of Chatham and Cape Cod, no matter what their age. Although a complete visit requires about two hours, those with less time can enjoy selected sections of the museum. There is also a book and gift shop, stocked with items relating to the museums’ collections.
As stewards of the region’s history and culture, the Chatham Historical Society strives to educate, inform and enlighten the public, and bring enthusiasm to the Cape Cod Community. The Atwood House & Museum exhibits are open from June to October. The research library and special programs are available year round. For schedules and information, visit the museum website at www.chathamhistoricalsociety.org or call 508-945-2493.
Caleb Nickerson House
Chatham's Caleb Nickerson House, on the Nickerson Family Association property at 1107 Orleans Road (Route 28) is open for tours every Wednesday and Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00pm June through September. Donations are accepted. Caleb Nickerson, great, great grandson of William, the founder of the town of Chatham, and his wife Elizabeth Mayo built their home on Stage Neck Road in 1772. The house stood on a bluff over looking the Oyster River for 230 years. In 2003 the house made a journey by land and sea to its present location. This pristine home of an American Revolutionary War veteran features three working fireplaces including a beehive oven and original iron cranes, period woodwork and random width wide pine floors. Experience colonial life in this restored antique cape resting on the original homestead land, within a few yard of the cabin site of the founder of Chatham.
Experience Colonial life in an antique full cape, featuring a beehive oven, period woodwork and a Colonial kitchen vegetable and herb garden. Stop by and check the progress on the construction of our post and beam outhouse and see what is growing and ready to pick in Caleb’s kitchen garden. Donations welcomed. For more information call (508) 945-6086 or visit www.nickersonassoc.org .
Caleb Nickerson, a 7th generation descendant of William Nickerson, and his wife Priscilla Eldredge owned this home on Stage Neck Road in the early 1800s. The house stood on a bluff overlooking the Oyster River for almost 2 centuries until, in 2003, the house made a journey by land and sea to its present location. This pristine home features three working fireplaces including a beehive oven and original iron cranes, period woodwork and random width wide pine floors. Come and experience Colonial life in this restored antique cape which now rests on the original homestead land, a few yards from the cabin site of William Nickerson, founder of Chatham.
Chatham's Old Grist Mill
The Mill is located near Chase Park, off Shattuck place, just a short walk from the downtown Main Street. Built by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey in 1797, the Mill remains almost exactly as it was when it was grinding corn for early Chatham residents. It is a prime example of a post-Revolutionary War commercial venture that served the community for more than one-hundred years.
The Mill originally located overlooking Mill Pond was donated to the Town of Chatham by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Crocker and moved to its present location in 1956. The Mill was restored for the 300th anniversary of the Town of Chatham in 2012. Today thousands of visitors visit the Mill during the summer season and walk in the steps of many who used the Mill to supply them with corn meal and local gossip. Learn the variety of common phrases that started at the grist mills.
The Mill will be during History Weekend, June 17, 2017, 10:00am to 4:00pm and depending on weather conditions it will be grinding corn .
The Mill will open for the season Monday, June 26 until Friday, September 1, 2017. During that time the Mill will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week from 11:00am -3:00pm. Tours may be cancelled due to rain or severe weather conditions.
The Mill will be open for the Festival of the Arts on August 18 through 20, 2017. The Mill will be open each day from 10:00am to 4:00pm and weather permitting will be grinding corn on Saturday, August 19, 2017.
Throughout the season a variety of activities related to the Mill will be available for children and adults.
Marconi RCA Wireless Museum
The Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum this year hosts a special exhibit “BREAKING BARRIERS – WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS (WASP) of WWII” in its Wireless History gallery, while there will be new and refreshed exhibits in the other two galleries of the museum, all located at 847 Orleans Road (Route 28) in North Chatham across from Ryder’s Cove.
More than 1,000 women – including nine who were stationed at Otis Field on what is now Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne – stepped in to fill the void created when most of the male Army Air Force pilots were shipped to the European and Pacific theaters. These women picked up the slack, ferrying planes around the U.S., as well as into the war zones; towing gunnery targets; transporting equipment and personnel, and flight-testing aircraft.
The display, combining interactive elements, artifacts and detailed explanatory panels, will feature elements and material from several noteworthy institutions including the National WASP Museum in Sweetwater, TX, and the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, GA.
Wireless Today - and into the future - is the theme for the exhibit gallery in the Education Center. Exhibits encompass wireless technology behind the digital age, modern travel and cyberattacks, joining ones on tracking white sharks and ships at sea.
The third gallery has no walls or ceiling or traditional flooring and is the one gallery truly open year round. This is the Antenna Field Trail behind the Operations Building, a winding path through the flora and fauna of Cape Cod with interpretive signs identifying and describing the station’s antennas. Some of the antennas are original, some replicas of those which had been used by WCC (the designation of the radio station headquartered in the Museum building), and some of them are in operation today for communication with ham-radio operators around the world.
In addition to relaying all types of commercial and personal messages to ships around the world, WCC provided communications to pioneer aviators including Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.
Visitors can explore interactive exhibits (such as one teaching basic Morse code), highlight videos of Marconi’s life, the role of WCC in world events, the ship-to-shore communication process with the actual shipboard radio from the hospital ship SS Hope, artifacts from important periods in WCC’s history and the opportunity to view our preserved 1914 station campus.
The Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum is the museum of the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. It is open one weekend each month off-season, and opens its regular 2017 Summer season on Chatham History Weekend, June 16-18. A weekly Summer Speaker Series provides interpretation and context for the museum’s exhibits, and the Center offers engaging STEM classes for youth year-round. For specific days and hours of operation and more information, please check www.chathammarconi.org or call 508-945-8889.
Just east of the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank building on Main Street is the Mayo House, which is an excellent example of a traditional Cape Cod house built in 1820. This antique home serves as headquarters for the Chatham Conservation Foundation, and is used by the group for its regular meetings. The Mayo House, beautifully preserved and restored, was donated to the foundation by the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank. It is furnished with period furniture and is open to the publicthree days a week from 1:00pm to 3:00pm during the summer months.
Chatham Railroad Museum
The Chatham Railroad Museum is located in the old Chatham Railroad Company station on Depot Road, and has parking space at the door. The building is now over 100 years old and on the original site. It served the Town for over fifty years from 1887 to 1937. In 1951, Mrs. Jacob Cox of Cleveland, Ohio and Chatham purchased the structure and land as a gift to our town. It was restored as a country depot and a museum in 1960.
The Chatham Railroad Museum opens Tuesday thru Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm mid-June through mid September. It is manned by an experienced group of volunteers from all Cape Cod. There have been over 100,000 visitors since the first season. It grows in size each year. The exhibits, starting with a relic of the first commercial railroad in the U.S. in 1826, include hundreds of factors of historical significance in the railroad field, plus models and objects which never fail to interest the visitors.
The 100-year old caboose of olden days, the gift of the New York Central System, has been fully restored and is open for all to enjoy the sounds of the rails. Young and old will enjoy the trip through this Home on Wheels of the railroad train crews. The diorama of the Chatham yards of about 1915 modeled in a scale of 1/8 inch to the foot is a new acquisition - a must see exhibit. Museum can be opened after season closing for groups by special arrangements. Donations are accepted. Handicapped accessible.