Things You Might Not Know About Chatham

The Town of Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod and surrounded on three sides by water. Located halfway between Falmouth and Provincetown, it extends out to sea as the most easterly point in Massachusetts. Once a quiet farming and fishing community, Chatham is now a vibrant tourist destination. Rich in its maritime heritage, as well as a spirited New England town with a variety of small businesses, Chatham is a special place for year-round residents and visitors alike.

Mainland features of the town and its geographic area are the result of glacial action during the last Ice Age and consist of ridges, knobs (hills), outwash plains, and kettles (depressions and ponds). Several ponds formed by melting glacial ice have become salt ponds because of rising sea levels.

Native American tribes who lived in the area before European colonization included the Nauset – specifically the Manomoy or Monomoy people. The expansive lands over which they roamed were known to them as Manamoyik or Monomoit.

In the late 1800s, the growing popularity of seaside summering and the development of resorts attractive to a wealthy clientele provided a new basis for economic growth, especially after the railroad was built in 1887.

Since World War II, Chatham has experienced rapid growth and has become a popular place for retirement. Housing construction has continued steadily since the war with about 1,000 new houses built per decade. Many are second homes. Currently only about one-half of the town’s 6300 housing units are occupied year-round; the other half are occupied seasonally.

The Chatham Fish Pier, at the corner of Shore Road and Barcliff Avenue, is a constant source of interest to summer visitors. The fishing fleet makes its run each suitable day to the fishing grounds which are three to 100 miles off the coast of Chatham. The catch consists of haddock, cod, flounder, lobster, pollock, dogfish and halibut. The fresh fish is placed in ice and transported in refrigerated trucks to the New York, Boston, New Bedford and local markets, reaching these destinations in less than 24 hours from the time the catch is taken from the ocean. You can’t get much fresher than that!

Several films feature or include scenes from Chatham, including The Lightkeepers (2009), Year by the Sea (2016), and the well-known Disney film, The Finest Hours (2016), which is the true story of a famous Coast Guard rescue, based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic, the 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.

With its old Cape Cod quaintness and by the vast pristine beaches and surrounding ocean, Chatham continues to have great appeal to visitors. While year-round residents weigh in at around 6,100, visitors in July and August now number 20,000-25,000 annually.

About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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