Fun facts about the town of Nantucket…

  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Nantucket’s year-round population is 10,172, representing nearly a 7 percent increase since 2000 (9,520). That amount soars in summer, though, reaching 50,000 to 60,000.
  • The island is 24.4 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard (at Edgartown Light) and about 30 miles from Hyannis.
  • Nantucket’s land area is 47.8 square miles, making the island comparable in size to Peru, a town in Maine.
  • Surfside, a region on the island’s southern coast, is the southernmost spot in the state of Massachusetts.
  • A large swath of undeveloped land in the island’s center is called the Middle Moors. With few trees and a resemblance to the African plains, the southern part of the moor is known as the Serengeti.
  • The Wampanoags were the first inhabitants of Nantucket; the first European settlers to live on the island arrived in 1659.
  • Nantucket was part of Dukes County, New York until 1691, when the island was ceded to the Massachusetts Bay Colony; today, Dukes County (Mass.) consists of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
  • Nantucket woven baskets, a famous island craft and profession, were first made by English settlers who arrived on the island and needed the baskets for storage. The main materials used remain hickory, ash, and oak.
  • In 1795, the name of the town was changed from Sherburne to Town of Nantucket. Today, ‘Nantucket’ is used for the town, the island, and the county.
  • Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, was born on Nantucket in 1818. Her home on Vestal Street is now a museum and contains Mitchell’s personal items including her telescope.
  • During the early- to mid-1800s, Nantucket was known as the whaling capital of the world: Ships built on the island during that era include the Charles Carroll, Joseph Starbuck, Lexington, and a 350-ton, oaken vessel, the Nantucket.
  • Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby Dick, features a whaling vessel, the Pequod, that departs Nantucket in search of oil and riches. In addition to Ahab, Ishmael, and Queequeg, the crew features a first mate, Starbuck, who years later would serve as the inspiration behind the name of a famous coffee brand.
  • Rowland Hussey Macy, founder of the Macy’s Department store chain, was a Nantucket native and worked on the Emily Morgan whaling ship as a teen. During his whaling days, Macy had his forearm inked with a red star tattoo, a design he later used for his company’s logo.
  • In 1901, North America’s first wireless radio station was built in Siasconset, and it was operated by the New York Herald.
  • Located at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor, Brant Point Lighthouse is the second-oldest lighthouse in North America. The current structure is the ninth to be built on the location.
  • In 1918, Nantucket was the last community in the state to lift a ban on automobiles.
  • In 1966, the island’s historic district was named a National Historic Landmark; in 1975, the designation was expanded to include the entire island.
  • Per town regulations, Nantucket has no fast-food restaurants. Also, chain stores, exterior neon signs and vinyl siding are not allowed in the downtown area.
  • Nantucket features more than 30 miles of bike paths, many of which lead to or are connected to beaches.
  • Nantucket’s Historic District Commission has approved just 12 colors to beautify residents’ homes, including: White, Main Street yellow, Nantucket red, Newport blue, Quaker gray, Nantucket gray, and Essex green.
  • Most houses on the island have quarter boards on their exterior, with creative names such as Dreamweaver, Crosswinds, Thickly Settled, Whale Spray, and Bestimever.
  • To preserve it from an eroding cliff’s edge, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse in Siasconset was moved back about 400 feet in 2007.
  • Nantucket High School was founded in 1838; the Class of 2013 included 81 graduates.
  • In 2012, Nantucket High’s John Buckey was named Principal of the Year in Massachusetts.
  • Clad in navy blue and white, the NHS Whalers football team won state titles in 1980, 1995, 1996, and 2011.
  • Every December, a Christmas tree is displayed in a green rowboat, which is moored in Nantucket Harbor through the holiday season. Known as the Killen Family Christmas Dory, the boat has been a holiday tradition on the island since 1965.
  • The Figawi—an annual weekend of sailing races from Hyannis to Nantucket—is held May 24-26, 2014; past winners include Bob Luby and Red Rooster in 1972’s inaugural race, and Ron Cameron’s vessel, Moby Dick, captained by Stan Moore in 1973.
  • Nantucket held its 40th annual Nantucket Noel/Christmas Stroll in 2013. The festive, three-day event in December features holiday lights, music, a talking tree, and the arrival of Santa with an assist from the Coast Guard.
  • The Dreamland Theater on South Water Street has more than 100 years’ of history entertaining island residents. With the help of private donations and renovation work, a new facility was opened in the summer of 2012.
  • The Chicken Box restaurant on Davies Street no longer serves chicken. In business since 1947, the establishment focuses on music (and light snacks) today, and has hosted artists including Grace Potter, Little Feat, Rusted Root, and Galactic.
  • Founded in the 1980s, Nantucket Nectars features more than 17 flavors of juice including Watermelon-Strawberry, Peach-Orange, and Grapeade.
  • Cisco Brewers began making beer in 1995, and spirits two years later. Today, the company features a variety of brews, including Grey Lady Ale, Whale’s Tale Pale Ale, and Sankaty Light Lager.
  • Author Lisa Genova’s 2012 New York Times bestseller, Love Anthony, is set on Nantucket.
  • Starring Thomas Haden Church, Tim Daly, and Tony “Monk” Shalhoub, the NBC sitcom Wings, which aired from 1990 to 1997, was set on Nantucket.
  • Nantucket Memorial Airport—ACK—is the second-busiest airport in the state; for example, through October of 2013, the airport had 163,052 passengers, including an August high of 35,758.

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Main Street, Nantucket

Main Street, Nantucket