Native Cape Codders take great pride in touting their local ties to the region, many of whom can trace their roots on the peninsula going back generations. Meanwhile, non-native Cape Codders are sometimes referred to by locals as “washashores.” So, if you find being compared to flotsam unflattering, here are 7 fun facts about Cape Cod even many locals don’t know. Deposit these gems in your historical memory bank and, with a little work on your accent, you’ll sound like a true Cape Codder.
With 14 lighthouses spread out throughout the Cape, there are more lighthouses on Cape Cod than any other county in America. From Bourne all the way to Provincetown, lighthouses can be found at all key marine navigation points across the Cape.
Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument, at 252 feet high, is the largest all-granite structure in the nation. It was built to commemorate the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing on the shores of what would eventually become the United States. Though Plymouth Rock gets all the attention in the history books, the truth is: the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown in November 1620. They were horrible fishermen who almost starved to death if not for the indigenous Wampanoag helping them survive until the settlers learned how to fish. Yes, the ancestors of the same Wampanoag tribe who now call Mashpee home. Even those familiar with the Pilgrim Monument may not know that the cornerstone was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt, and when the construction was complete, officially dedicated by President William H. Taft.
Cape Cod Potato Chips are arguably the best potato chips in the country. The Cape Cod Potato Chip factory in Hyannis where visitors can tour the facility and see first-hand how these homemade potato chips are made – from the hand-stirring of the potatoes to inspection before the iconic chips are shipped out to stores, restaurants, and hotels across the U.S.
The first square bottomed paper bag was invented in 1872 by Luther Childs Crowell in the Cape Cod town, Dennis. Although there are multiple credited inventors of the paper bag, it was Crowell who was granted the patent for a machine to create them.
Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich owns and exhibits one of the most impressive collections of American antique automobiles in the United States. The Automobile Gallery has vehicles dating back as early as 1909. The exhibition also showcases a variety of cars from private collectors, including a 1931 Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster owned by Gary Cooper. The cars are housed in a replica Round Stone Barn, situated amid the gorgeous grounds and gardens on a tract of land donated by the famed pharmaceutical Lilly family.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole - a village in the town of Falmouth – is a private, non-profit research and education organization established in 1930. It’s the largest independent oceanographic research institution in the United States. WHOI’s next-door neighbor, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is another world-class research institution, making Woods Hole one of the primary and most prominent marine science centers in the world where you are just as likely to bump into a Nobel Prize winner walking the village’s seaside streets as you are to find a seafood restaurant. Visitors should also be sure to check out the Woods Hole Aquarium, the oldest marine aquarium in the United States.
Route 6A, the Old King’s Highway, at 39 miles long, is the longest contiguous historic district in America and contains four centuries of architecture. Along a two-mile stretch of Route 6A in Yarmouth Port, there exists an eclectic array of structures housing private residences, B&Bs, antiques shops, restaurants and galleries, not one of which was built in the 20th or 21st century. Meanwhile, Route 6A’s cousin, Route 6 - the central highway running from Provincetown to the Cape Cod Canal and beyond – should have been the star of Jack Kerouac’s beatnik classic “On The Road.” (see Route 6A article). Depending on where you start, Route 6 in Provincetown is either the beginning – or end – of a highway that stretches from the tip of Cape Cod to California.