Fun facts about the town of Orleans…

  • Water, water, everywhere . . . Orleans abuts the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Cod Bay, and Pleasant Bay.
  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 5,890 people live in Orleans. Other interesting facts from the census: 38 percent of homes in Orleans are seasonally occupied and the median age of the town’s residents is 62.4 years.
  • Some sunset lovers swear the best sunsets on the Cape can be seen at Rock Harbor on Cape Cod Bay. At low tide, the beach can be a brilliant multi-colored mirror for the setting sun. Children chase Hermit crabs and adults can often be seen savoring cocktails on the beach as the sun makes its descent.
  • Another way to rock Rock Harbor is to enjoy a huge lobster roll from Young’s Fish Market, right on the dock.
  • Speaking of splendid seafood, don’t miss the jumbo stuffies (stuffed quahogs) at Land Ho!—they are big, bursting with chopped clams, and constitute a meal in a shell. Other Land Ho! favorites to clamor about include chowder, clam pie, and fried clams.
  • The Mayflower almost did not make it to America because the Pilgrim’s ship nearly foundered in the fall of 1620 in treacherous waters off the coast of present day Orleans. The exhausted captain and crew—giving up on the original dream of reaching the Hudson River—headed toward Provincetown where they eventually made their first foray ashore.
  • The area of present-day Orleans was first settled in 1693 by a group of Pilgrims who came to Cape Cod searching for fertile soil, displeased as they were, with the agricultural potential of their plots in Plymouth.
  • A lack of fast-running rivers or streams meant that early Cape Cod residents had to rely on windmills to generate power for the grinding of grain and rock salt from town salt works. The 1750 Jonathan Young Windmill, resurrected with painstaking care by volunteers in the early 1980s, is an iconic Cape Cod monument on Town Cove.
  • Orleans was named by eight of the town’s Revolutionary War soldiers after Louis Philippe II—also known as the Duke of Orléans—aided the colonies during the American Revolution.
  • During the Revolutionary War, France’s Marquis de Lafayette led colonial troops against the British as an American general. Lafayette’s descendants still visit American towns where the general saw action. A few years ago, the current Count Lafayette laid a wreath on the grave of Issac Snow, who escaped from a British prison ship with the help of the Marquis. Snow, who lived to be 98, walked 400 miles across France to board a ship carrying Lafayette’s troops to America.
  • In the War of 1812, Joshua Crosby of Orleans was a gun captain aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, when, on August 19 of 1812, the ship defeated the British frigate, HMS Guerriere, off Nova Scotia.
  • In the Battle of Rock Harbor on December 19, 1814, a local militia fought crew from Britain’s HMS Newcastle, who had come ashore for an attack near the end of the War of 1812. In the skirmish, the militia killed one British Marine, injured others, and the British crew departed. Five days later, the Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve, ending the war.
  • During World War I, in 1918, Nauset Beach in Orleans was the site of foreign fire on a Sunday morning when a German U-boat fired upon four coal barges and a tugboat. People on the barges and the tug scrambled for shore; the injuries to Americans were slight despite a fusillade of German fire. This attack earned Orleans the unique distinction of being the only town in America to have been attacked twice by a foreign power.
  • Orleans has more French connections than any other town on Cape Cod; in the early 1900s, these connections were solidified with the establishment of the French Cable Station on Route 28, which made possible the speediest transmission of messages across the ocean from Europe to America.
  • In 1849, Henry David Thoreau embarked with a friend on his famous tour of the Cape, first riding by stagecoach and then walking through coastal communities. Thoreau spent the night in Orleans at the Higgins Tavern seeking respite from a driving wind and rainstorm. In his famous book, Cape Cod, Thoreau said of the experience that he and his companion were, “feeling very much as if we were on a sand bar in the ocean.”
  • En route from Canada to Norfolk, Virginia, the Maltese freighter, Eldia, was blown ashore on Nauset Beach on March 29, 1984. The crew of the massive vessel was rescued and the ship was salvaged, towed to Rhode Island, and eventually scrapped for parts.
  • Students from Orleans—as well as Brewster, Wellfleet, and the host town—attend high school at Nauset Regional in Eastham.
  • Count Lafayette, descendent of Marquis de Lafayette, and his wife visited Nauset High in Eastham in 2010 and spoke with students in history, French language, and video classes. The Count also once walked in the town’s Memorial Day parade.
  • Orleans is home to the Church of Transfiguration, a magnificent structure that took 10 years to build and is replete with mosaics, frescoes, and bronze works built by an ecumenical Benedictine Monastic community of priests and nuns.
  • The stately Captain Linnell House—a favorite wedding choice for Cape brides—was built by a resourceful Orleans sea captain, Ebenezer Linnell, who was also hailed as the inventor of a topsail rig for clipper ships. With profits from trips to far-flung ports, Linnell built the elegant mansion for his bride, Rebecca Crosby.
  • The spirited ghosts of the Orleans Waterfront Inn reportedly include Hannah, a ‘woman of the night’ who was murdered in the 1920s when the facility fell on hard times and became a brothel. The legendary Hannah allegedly frolics naked through the inn, perhaps a less scary ghost than that of the bartender Fred, who supposedly hung himself in the inn’s cupola.
  • For several sizes of sweetly scented, long burning candles from pillars to tapers, in whimsical shapes like flowers, pine cones, and starfish—hand-dipped and created on Cape Cod with 100 percent beeswax or native bayberries—be sure to stop in to the Honey Candle Shop on Main Street in Orleans.
  • Hungry visitors to town often flock to the Lobster Claw Restaurant on Route 6A where owners Don and Marylou Berig have served award-winning seafood to happy families for decades. Every night, the Berigs insist the restaurant be steam-cleaned to remove any trace of the oft-aromatic crustacean.
  • Opening both its locations—in Orleans and Eastham—daily at 5 a.m., Hole in One donuts sells between 500 (off-season) and 3,000 (summer) donuts each day, in varieties including chocolate glazed, raspberry-filled, and Whoopee creme.
  • The Hot Chocolate Sparrow cafe on Old Colony Way, sells about 600 coffees per day, including lattes, cappuccinos, and the mocha sparrow, which contains chocolate sauce steamed into whole milk.
  • Henry Knowles “H.K.” Cummings was a well-known Orleans photographer who, from 1887 to 1905, captured arresting black and white images of everyday nineteenth-century life on the Cape. Today, The Snow Library in Orleans maintains a series of the photographer’s images in its Cummings Collection.
  • Orleans is also home to several excellent art galleries including Addison Art, the Collins Galleries, Rowley Gallery, Gallery 31, and Tree’s Place. Prices of paintings sold in these galleries range from a few hundred dollars to five figures or more for artwork by well-known regional artists.
  • Nauset Lantern on Main Street designs and handcrafts distinctive, onion globe and colonial style lamps sold both at the shop and online. Some of the distinctive indoor and outdoor lamps of copper and brass evoke lanterns originally designed for ships at sea.
  • In July of 2012, a shark was photographed ‘following’ a kayaker off the shore of Nauset Beach. Captured by photographer Shelly Negrotti, the image was featured on many national news outlets.
  • Snows Home and Garden has been a strong retail presence in the center of Orleans for more than 127 years. William H. Snow (descendent of Revolutionary War hero Issac Snow) opened the first store on Main Street. Today’s sprawling department store is still managed and staffed with several members of the Snow family.
  • Aaron Snow, the family’s first entrepreneur, built a huge Victorian house on Town Cove in 1875; during construction, Orleans townspeople nicknamed the huge house, “Aaron’s Folly,” because it took him so long to build. The mansion—now the centerpiece of the sprawling Orleans Inn—is a favorite with ghost hunters and has been featured on national TV.
  • For many years, an enormous Orleans structure called the Snow’s Block was the social center of the town, offering a shooting gallery, a gymnasium, a theater, a livery stable, and town meeting space. At one time the largest building on the Cape, the four-story structure was torn down in the 1930s.
  • Longtime Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra played for the Orleans Cardinals in 1993; he batted .321 that season and was named team MVP.
  • For several miles in Orleans, Route 28 North heads directly south; the opposite is also true.
  • Prior to becoming an independent town in 1797, Orleans was the south parish of the town of Eastham.

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Main Street, Orleans, Cape Cod, Mass

Main Street, Orleans, Cape Cod, Mass