The Beach Times

Taking the Self-Guided Captains' Mile Walking Tour
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, October 7, 2019


Captains Mile

There's a ton of history along the Old King's Highway, which stretches between Sandwich and Orleans and passes some of Cape Cod's oldest sites. Between Barnstable and Brewster, you'll come across over 200 historic sea captains' homes, many of which are being used by modern businesses.

The highest concentration of old homes sits in Yarmouthport in a 1.5-mile stretch between Willow Street and Union Street. Here, you'll find over 50 sea captains' houses, all of which are marked by a black and gold schooner plaque, which is given out by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Since many of these buildings are in operation, and some are still residences, you'll have to do your viewing from the sidewalk. But a walk through the Captains' Mile is well worth your time during your Cape Cod vacation.

 

The West End

The West End of the Captains' Mile is a section between Willow Street and Thatcher Street. The first two homes that you'll encounter are located at 92 and 95 Old King's Highway. The home at 92 Old King's Highway belonged to John Eldridge, a captain who delivered mail between England and Cape Cod. He was also in charge of Union transport ships during the Civil War. Eldridge's brother, Asa, was Yarmouth's most famous captain and set a record by sailing from New York City to Liverpool in just 13 days. His home is just down the street at 100 Old King's Highway.

Captain Bangs Hallet built the other home, and Allen H. Knowles later occupied it. Hallet operated trade ships between China and India, eventually retiring on Cape Cod. Knowles transported passengers between England and Australia and was recognized by the British government for saving the crew of another ship.

Moving further down the highway, you'll encounter the homes of George Taylor, Frederick Howes, Thomas Matthews, Otis White, Paddock Thacher, and James Crocker, just to name a few. One of the largest residences in the area belonged to Josiah Gorham, who operated ships from Boston and was described as a man with exceptional tastes.

The final historic home in this area was Captain Edward Gorham's residence. Edward, brother of Josiah, delivered mail between Boston and Cape Cod. His home is on Summer Street, just around the corner from the Old King's Highway.

 

The East End

On the east side of the Captains' Mile, you'll find a higher concentration of homes, some of which you can actually go inside. In fact, the first two homes you'll encounter, Captain Bangs Hallet House and Edward Gorey House, are museums that give tours.

As the story goes, Captain Bangs Hallet House originally belonged to Allen H. Knowles. The two captains traded when Hallet retired, and this home became known as Captain Hallet House. Today, the museum includes period decor and a maritime exhibit. Edward Gorey was actually an artist, but his home-turned-museum originally belonged to Captain Edmund Hawes. The museum is dedicated to the artist, but it's still worth checking out if you want to enter an old captain's house.

We mentioned Edward and Josiah on the west end of the mile, but there were six brothers, five of whom were ship captains. The remaining three captains, Thacher, Oliver, and Joseph, all had houses on the east end of this section of the highway.

The Taylor and Matthews families are also highly represented in this part of town. For the Taylors, you'll find the houses of Freeman, Thacher, Seth, Nathaniel, Gorham, and Solomon all within this region. The Matthews are represented by George, Oliver, Issac, and Samuel. Other families with multiple members living in this region include the Thachers, Hamblins, Hawes, and Brays.

The last house that you'll encounter is at 500 Old King's Highway and belonged to Samuel Matthews Jr. Matthews would go on to become a Yarmouth Selectman and a representative in the State Legislature.

 

Check Out Some Living History

Seeing these homes, it's not hard to imagine what life might have been like in the 1800s on Cape Cod, especially for those with a little money. These homes are diverse, as well, since more successful captains might build structures in a grand style, while others have smaller, charming bungalows. You can pick up a free brochure with information on the homes, in addition to a map, at the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, which is right behind Captain Bangs Hallet House.

Whenever you're passing through Yarmouthport on your Cape Cod vacation, keep an eye out for the gold and black schooner plaques because their presence means that you're looking at history.



Captain Bangs Hallet House Captains Mile Edward Gorey Old Kings Highway Yarmouth Port

Here Are Some Places to See Animals on Cape Cod
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Wednesday, July 10, 2019


It's somewhat surprising that the animals of Cape Cod don't receive more attention. Sure, you probably hear all about it when a sea mammal makes a rare appearance, but what about the smaller creatures that call Cape Cod home?

Luckily, there are a few places where you can see these animals in a controlled environment during your time here. You can also check out some larger animals at a nearby zoo, or head to a sanctuary to see wildlife in its natural habitat.bIf you're looking to see some animals while on the Cape, you'll have options.

 

Butterflies of Cape Cod

When you cross the Sagamore Bridge to the off-Cape side of the Cape Cod Canal, you'll see Butterflies of Cape Cod. This venue isn't like a traditional zoo, as it's a greenhouse that is home to countless species of butterflies, all of which are native to the Cape.

Butterflies of Cape Cod is a great place to learn about the insects that live on Cape Cod. Here, you can see different butterflies all summer long, depending on the weather and which species are having a good breeding year. It costs $6 for adults and $4 for kids, so you won't have to break the bank when doing so, either.

 

Woods Hole Science Aquarium

At the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, you can get up close with 140 different species of marine animals, all of which live in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. The sea life that you'll come across on your visit includes lobster, bass, cod, urchins, angelfish, and toadfish. You can also handle some of the fish in the touch tanks.

At times, the aquarium operates a seal habitat for seals that are unable to live in the wild. You can even learn about whales, sharks, and turtles through the interactive exhibits. The Woods Hole Science Aquarium sits in Falmouth's Woods Hole neighborhood and is free to enter, although donations are encouraged.

 

Taylor-Bray Farm Preservation Association

The animals at Taylor-Bray Farm are more domesticated than other locations on this list, but that means you can get closer to them at this petting zoo. The farm currently has sheep, cattle, goats, chickens, and donkeys, so it's like a typical farm, except people are encouraged to visit and interact with the livestock. The cows are particularly interesting because they're Scottish Highland Cattle, rather than the bovines that you'd typically see in New England.

There is no admission fee to visit Taylor-Bray Farm, although the owners appreciate donations. Keep in mind that 100% of all donations go towards caring for the animals, so it's an excellent cause. The property sits in Yarmouthport, and the land has been inhabited since 1639, making it one of the Cape's oldest farms.

 

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary offers the chance to view animals in a more natural habitat, making it a rewarding experience if you're able to visit. Here, you can meet some of the animals that call Cape Cod Bay their home, or walk the trails to see other wildlife in its natural habitat. There are four habitats at this sanctuary: salt marsh, brackish water, forest, and freshwater, and as you stroll on the boardwalk, you can see animals in all of these environments. There are guided tours that allow you to get close to crabs, owls, and other wildlife, as well. If you happen to be on the Cape when one of these events is happening, check it out.

Visiting the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary costs $8 for adult and $3 for children. You can spend the entire day exploring, as the trails open at 7:00 AM and don't close until the sun goes down.

 

Buttonwood Park Zoo

Ok, so we've finally got a real zoo on this list. The catch is that it's not on Cape Cod, but it's only about half an hour from Bourne in the city of New Bedford. If you're serious about visiting some animals, the Buttonwood Park Zoo is well worth the drive because you'll see elephants, cougars, bears, monkeys, hawks, owls, and lizards, just to name a few.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is seven-acres in size and includes attractions like a train and a cafeteria. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for kids for non-residents, and parking is free.

 

A Different Way to Spend a Day on the Cape

While the beaches, bike paths, and restaurants get most of the attention on Cape Cod, there is a very active wildlife scene to explore. Whether you're into seeing local wildlife in its natural habitat or exotic creatures in a zoo, you can find exactly what you're looking for on the Cape and its surrounding area.

It's also nice to know that all of these venues are cost-efficient, giving you a way to spend the day with the family without overspending.



Animals On Cape Cod Taylor Bray Farm Wellfleet Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Woods Hole Woods Hole Aquarium Yarmouth Port

Historic Places to Stop on the Old King’s Highway
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, June 25, 2018


A must-do while on Cape Cod is to drive down Route 6A, much of which is known as the Old King's Highway, as it is full of historic attractions that will give you greater insight into life on the Cape as a whole. Along the highway, you'll come across architecture that reflects the changes the area has undergone, as there are buildings from the 1600s all the way through the 1900s.

This portion of Route 6A starts in Sandwich and runs all the way to Orleans. As you drive the highway, you'll be following the same route used by Native Americans before settlers even arrived in the United States, as it was first a trail connecting local villages and camps. The path was also used by the first European settlers, as they came to Cape Cod from Plymouth, before settling in the region and creating the still-standing society we enjoy to this day.

Of course, a lot has changed over the years, but you'll have views of the same beaches and green spaces that pilgrims saw over 375 years ago, and can even enter some of the homes built by some of Cape Cod’s first inhabitants. The Old King’s Highway is a look at living American history that you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the country.

Get Started in Sandwich

Soon after crossing the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod, you’ll reach Sandwich. Here, you’ll want to make sure you get onto Route 6A, rather than Route 6, as 6A will take you through many of the Cape’s historic districts.

Sandwich is not only the oldest town on Cape Cod, having been incorporated in 1639, but is also one of the oldest centers in the entire country. To start your tour of Sandwich, you'll head south just off the Old King's Highway into the town's historic center. Here, you'll come across the Sandwich Glass Museum, known for its rare glass creations dating back to the 1880s.

The historic district also has Dexter Grist Mill, which was built in 1637 and in commercial operation until 1881. It remains one of the country's oldest water mill sites, and you can purchase cornmeal ground right there at the mill.

Just south of the mill is Hoxie House, one of the oldest houses on the Cape, having been raised in 1675. There are tours through the house’s interior, which still features period decor. If you head a little further south off 6A, you'll come to the Heritage Museums and Gardens, a structure that is home to pretty much everything you'd expect to find in an American museum, including classic cars.

As you move along the Old King's Highway, you'll quickly reach East Sandwich, an area home to the Wing Fort House, the oldest continuously-owned-by-the-same-family home in New England, having been built in 1641. You can do a tour of the house during the high season for a small fee. This area is also where the Nye Family of America Homestead stands. This homestead was constructed in 1678 and is now a museum, with each room being representative on a different era of the home's existence, right down to the period decor.

 

Continue Through Barnstable

The Old King's Highway Historic District in Barnstable runs the entire length of the city from east to west on Main Street. In that space, there are nearly 500 buildings, some of which were built as far back as the 1630s, with the newer buildings being constructed in the mid 1800s. The area as a whole was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Of particular interest in Allyn House, which dates back to the late 1600s, and Barnstable House, a structure that might be haunted. The district is also home to the Old Jail, built in 1690 and the country's oldest wooden jail. The jail now houses a museum, along with the Old Customshouse.

 

A Stop in Yarmouth Port

The great thing about Yarmouth Port is you won't have to venture off Route 6A to visit most of the town's historic sites. This part of Cape Cod was popular with sea captains, as many built large homes there and, as luck would have it, a number of these structures remain to this day.

Captain Bangs Hallet House is Cape Cod's only fully-furnished former captain's house that is open to daily visitors. The residence provides insight into how a sea captain would have lived in the 1800s, right down to furniture and decor.

Just across fro Hallet House is Winslow Crocker House, which was moved to Yarmouth from West Barnstable in 1936. The house was originally built sometime around 1780 and was a very high-end home for its time period. The building belonged to a merchant and trader, who might have been a rum runner, and today is a museum with public tours available daily.

Edward Gorey House offers a different kind of Cape Cod history because it is an art gallery and museum dedicated to the life and works of Edward Gorey. Gorey purchased the home, which was 200 years old at the time, in 1979 and it became a museum after his death in 2000.

Yarmouth New Church dates back to 1870 and is one of Cape Cod's choicest examples of Gothic architecture. The building is detailed and very similar in quality to what you'd expect to find in an old European neighborhood. It is no longer an active church but does host events throughout the year.

 

Some History in Dennis

After crossing through Yarmouth, Route 6A heads north into the heart of Dennis, where you'll find Josiah Dennis House and the West Schoolhouse occupying the same grounds. Josiah Dennis House dates back to 1736 when it was home to a local reverend. In fact, the town of Dennis is named after this man, who was a minister for 38 years in the area. Today, the home is a museum, as is the West Schoolhouse, which was moved to the land in 1973. The school was constructed between 1770 and 1775 and is the last remaining schoolhouse from that era.

The Scargo Tower isn't as old as many structures along the Old King's Highway, having been built in 1901 as a lookout, but it is free to visit and at 30 feet tall, provides panoramic views of the entire area. In fact, on a sunny day, you can see all the way to Provincetown in the north and the Sagamore Bridge to the west.

 

Drive Through Brewster

In Brewster, Route 6A runs along Main Street and is surrounded by historic sites. As you approach the town's center, you'll see Drummer Boy Park, which is home to a windmill from the 1700s, along with a blacksmith shop. Just down the road from the park is the Cape Cod Museum Of Natural History, an entity that takes a more ecological approach to the area's history.

Moving into central Brewster, you'll find Captain Elijah Cobb House. This building is the permanent home of the Brewster History Society and hosts a variety of museum artifacts while offering tours. The home was built in about 1799.

The Crosby Mansion, just north of Route 6A near Nickerson State Park, is a massive 35-room house built in 1888 by Albert Crosby, a wealthy alcohol distiller. The home, which was built around the homestead in which Crosby was raised, would become an art gallery after his death in 1906. Today, the mansion is a museum but is only accessible to the public a few times per year.

 

The End in Orleans

Finally, the Old King's Highway runs through the heart of Orleans. Here, the official name of the road changes to the Cranberry Highway, but it's still part of historic Route 6A. Just off the highway is the French Cable Station Museum, providing an in-depth look at the undersea telegraphic cables used by the United States and France during World War One.

Just north of the museum is the Jonathan Young Windmill, which is unique because all of its original parts and mechanisms remain intact, despite the fact it was moved to Hyannis in 1897 and then back to Orleans in 1983. The windmill was constructed sometime around 1720 and now sits in a small park just off Route 6A.

 

Make a Day of Route 6A

After heading through Orleans, the Old King's Highway joins with Route 6, or the Mid-Cape Highway, where it runs through Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro. Route 6A reappears in North Truro and heads through the heart of Provincetown, before coming to an end at Herring Cove Beach.

There are other historic sites to explore along Route 6, but that’s a journey for another day because if you stop at even a fraction of the museums and homes along the Old King’s Highway, you’ll quickly find it’s time to return to your vacation rental for some much-deserved relaxation.

 

 



Barnstable Brewster Dennis Old Kings Highway Orleans Route 6a Sandwich Yarmouth Yarmouth Port

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