Fun facts about the town of Harwich…

  • At about 33.2 square miles, Harwich is slightly larger than St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Harwich’s population is 12,243; also per the Census, about 40% of the homes in town are seasonally occupied.
  • Harwich has several villages including Pleasant Lake, West Harwich, East Harwich, Harwichport, Harwich Center, North Harwich and South Harwich.
  • The town has three active harbors: Saquatucket, Wychmere, and Allen Harbor.
  • The Harwich and Chatham public school districts combined in recent years, creating the Monomoy Regional School District; construction of the towns’ new high school—Monomoy High in Harwich—is slated for completion this year.
  • Coinciding with the new Monomoy High, Harwich High, which was built in 1963, will close its doors at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The girls basketball team won state titles in 2003 and 2004, the baseball team captured state crowns in 1996, 2006, and 2007, and the field hockey team has been a powerhouse for years.
  • Founded in 1995, the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Harwich is an option for middle-school students; currently, 228 students in grades 6 through 8 attend the regional school, with 76 in each grade. Since 2011, the school has been located in the building on Route 137 that formerly housed the Harwich Cinema Movie Theater.
  • In 2014, the Harwich Cranberry Arts & Music Festival—the descendant of a Cranberry Festival held in town for decades—features a series of events from July 12, through the final Festival Weekend of September 13-14, including two craft shows, a flea market, a special Beach Day, and more.
  • Harwich Junior Theatre and Harwich Winter Theatre are part of a nationally recognized family theater company attracting actors of all ages. Created in 1951 by founder Betty Bobp, the organization stages 12 full-scale productions a year.
  • When Harwich was first settled in 1670, the region was known as Satucket and was part of the sprawling town of Yarmouth, which encompassed several present-day towns until the 1700s.
  • When the town incorporated in 1694, community leaders took the name, Harwich, after a well-known port in England. At that time, the town also included much of present-day Brewster.
  • Harwich was home to the nation’s first commercial cranberry bog, established by Alvin Cahoon in the mid-1800s. The cultivation of cranberries, which flourished in the town’s acidic bogs, boosted the local economy substantially. Entire families were employed in the cranberry industry—children were allowed to miss school to be part of the town-wide harvests each fall.
  • Harwich was a thriving seaport with more than 125 successful sea captains in the mid-1800s. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the town’s fishing industry had declined drastically. The cultivation of cranberries at the turn of the twentieth century helped save a nearly bankrupt community.
  • In the late 1800s, Ocean Grove in Harwichport was founded as a cottage community for religious revivalists; today, most of the cottages are summer residences.
  • Wychmere Harbor was originally a landlocked Salt Water Pond. Local fishermen tried to dig a pathway from the pond to nearby Nantucket Sound by hand, a frustrating effort that was abandoned, ultimately, in favor of a racetrack for horses around the pond. In 1889, the state dredged a 100-foot wide channel to the Sound.
  • After the destructive Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, which decimated much of Cape Cod, German prisoners of war were brought from Camp Edwards to help repair storm damage in Harwich.
  • An enterprising widow—Hannah C. Stokes—opened a successful factory in Harwich in 1865 to manufacture overalls. With a mostly female workforce of around 50, Hannah’s business was expanded to produce shirts.
  • A. Elmer Crowell (1862-1952), a master decoy carver known internationally for his decoys of shorebirds and waterfowl, was born and lived in East Harwich. Two of Crowell’s decoys—the Preening Pintail Duck and the Canada Goose—each sold for 1.13 million dollars in 2007.
  • Shared between Harwich and Brewster, Long Pond is the Cape’s longest pond and a favorite spot for seaplane landings.
  • Harwich native and entrepreneur Caleb Chase, founder of Boston’s famous Chase and Sanborn coffee in 1878, contributed to the town’s tourist trade by building roads that brought outsiders to savor Harwich’s many coastal attractions.
  • Jonathan Walker (1799-1878), a sea captain from Harwich, was the subject of the John Greenleaf Whittier poem, “The Man With the Branded Hand.” Walker was branded with the letters ‘SS’ for ‘slave stealer’ after trying to free seven slaves in 1844.
  • Tip O’Neill (1912-1994), famed politician and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, owned a house in Harwichport for generations. His family members continue to live in Harwichport today. Cape Cod LIFE interviewed the O’Neills in the early days of the magazine.
  • Cory Snyder of Harwich blasted 22 home runs to lead the Cape league in 1983; Snyder played professional ball in Cleveland and was known for his strong arm in right field. His single-season home run record has stood as a Cape League record for three decades.
  • Shawn Fanning, creator of the music-sharing website, Napster, graduated from Harwich High in 1998.
  • Land Ho! restaurant—long a mainstay in Orleans for home-cooked cuisine in a friendly atmosphere—opened a second location in Harwich in 2010. Land Ho! is a frequent winner of Cape Cod LIFE’s ‘Best Of’ Readers’ Poll, winning best ‘Lower Cape Lunch’ choice in 2013.
  • For decades, locals and visitors flocked to Wychmere Harbor’s Thompson’s Clam Bar to chow down on classic Cape Cod fare including fried clams and lobster rolls. A 1983 documentary on Thompson’s—now on DVD— can be purchased from the Harwich Historical Society for $20.
  • Wychmere Beach Club—now the site of high-end condominiums—is the former location of Wychmere Harbor’s Snow Inn, created for tourists in the late 1880s by an entrepreneurial resident, featuring a bowling alley and gorgeous Nantucket Sound views.
  • Open since 1941, Bonatt’s Bakery & Restaurant on Main Street in Harwichport has won Cape Cod LIFE’s annual ‘Best Of’ Readers’ Poll award several times for such bakery items as their famous Meltaway pastries.
  • The Indian name of the elegant Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, which offers 120 guest rooms, four restaurants, two pools, tennis courts and a golf course on 27 acres, means “crescent on the water.” Wequassett is one of Cape Cod’s most popular locations for weddings for couples from around the country.
  • Another famous Harwich hotel was the Belmont Hotel, which attracted wealthy industrialists from around the country. A ticker-tape machine was installed in the hotel’s lobby to keep track of stock market activity and guests enjoyed gambling at a hotel casino. The site on Belmont Road is now home to condominiums.
  • In 1935, guests could reserve a room at The Melrose Inn on Route 28 for $4 per night; the inn closed in the 1980s and today, the site is home to The Melrose Retirement Condominiums.
  • Sundae School Ice Cream in Harwichport, the 2013 winner of the Lower Cape’s “Best Ice Cream” in Cape Cod LIFE’s ‘Best Of’ Readers’ Poll, uses real chocolate chips, real pistachios, fresh fruit, and a high content of butterfat in its prize-winning flavors.
  • Overlooking Island Pond in Harwich, the Cape Cod Lavender Farm has more than 14,000 lavender (Lavandula) plants and sells unique lavender products, including candles, body butter, and Lavender Lemonade.

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Wychmere Harbor, Harwich