Orleans Information

 

The Town of Orleans, incorporated in 1797, is a resort community on the outer Cape whose European history begins in 1642 with the first permanent settlement established by Nicholas Snow and his family. Settlers had purchased rights to the town from Mattaguason,sachem of the Manamoyick Indians. The Colonial economy was built on agriculture, especially corn, rye and wheat, plus the growing of hay and vegetables. In the 18th century, commercial fishing and shellfishing supplemented local incomes and residents worked on herring boats and went after whales. By the 19th century, coastal packets from Boston were being serviced and several windmills created power resources in the town, but residents heaviest reliance was on cod and mackerel fishing. Lifelong residents recall that in those days, the very old and the very young farmed, while all the able-bodied men fished. Fishing in Orleans declined as competition from larger boats and larger ports grew, but the town had established a commercial importance on the Cape as a market center for other communities, that continues into the 20th century. Small businesses, like the Mayo Duck Farm that produced 50,000 ducklings in 1918 were welcomed by the town, but the major modern change in Orleans was spurred by the impact of summer development. This resort home development, which accelerated between 1915 and 1940 and still continues, has had the greatest effect on the town and in turn has supported increasing commercial development along Route 6.

Town Location

Southeastern Massachusetts, at the elbow of Cape Cod. Bordered by Eastham on the north, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Chatham and Harwich on the south, and Brewster and Cape Cod Bay on the west. Orleans is about 22 miles from Hyannis; 88 miles southeast of Boston; 93 miles east of Providence, Rhode Island; and 270 miles from New York City. Town offices are located at 19 School Road, Orleans, MA 02653. The main number is 508-240-3700.

Name Address Telephone Town/Village Description
French Cable Station Museum 41 South Orleans Rd 508-240-1735 Orleans Seasonal. Opens June 1st. Hours: 1-4 p.m. Fridays through Sunday. Free guided tours are available of an historic collection of original Atlantic undersea telegraphic cables, instruments, maps, and assorted memorabilia. The station is part of American History. During World War I, General Pershing in France communicated with the US Government through this cable station. In 1927 the message that Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris came through this station from Paris. It was then sent to the rest of the United States. Come and see history.
Orleans Historical Society’s Meeting House Museum 3 River Road 508-240-1329 Orleans Seasonal. Hours: 9 a.m.-noon Mondays through Fridays or by appointment. Greek Revival structure on National Register of Historic Places. Formerly used as meeting house for Universalist Church of Orleans, this building houses the Society’s museum and is used for special exhibits and programs. At present, the Society has a collection covering genealogical information, diaries, deeds, 19th and 20th century photos, artwork by local artists, special collections focusing on Orleans families and individuals, ships’ logs, Native American artifacts, and other items relating to history of Orleans and its citizens. Donations accepted.