One Town, Seven Villages
The concept of villages versus towns is one that is a constant source of discussion in New England, but particularly on the Cape and Islands as well. The Cape consists of 15 towns, many of which have their own unique villages within their town lines. The town of Barnstable is often a confusing riddle to unravel, partially since two of its villages contain the name Barnstable. The town consists of Barnstable, West Barnstable, Cotuit, Marstons Mills, Centerville, Osterville and Hyannis. Getting down to a more granular level, there are still even more enclaves that by all rights seem to rise to the level of village status, like Cummaquid and Hyannis Port, which each have their own unique zip code and, at least for the time being, their own post offices—in fact Cummaquid can boast the smallest post office in America. And what about Santuit—perhaps they can’t claim distinction in their five-digit mail code, but they do have quite the unique historical society.
Regardless, the connotation of a village is one that certainly resonates within the small-town lifestyle found in this region. Images of strolling through a village, greeting neighbors with a nod or a more lengthy pause for conversation; picking up the paper and maybe some coffee and treats; or relishing the resourceful nature of the local hardware store—all of these day-to-day activities are the transactions of life that invest us in our local communities.
In the next few pages, we will take the journey through two of Barnstable’s villages, Hyannis and Osterville, and between the two we will tie-up for a bit in the Harbor LIFE of Hyannis and the bustling Ocean Street docks. Hopefully this exploration will encourage you to not only venture out into your own village, but also entice you to visit one of the many other special communities across our unique region. –Julie Wagner
Hyannis – By Blair Miller
In many ways, Hyannis is a quintessential Cape Cod village—just look at its picturesque beaches and quaint shops. But this is also a village with its own unique identity. Hyannis is arguably the epicenter of the commercial world of Cape Cod. It once was historically dubbed “The Port” because of all the vessels that made their way to and from the village’s shoreline in previous centuries. Much of that hasn’t changed today—there’s just a lot more traffic on land now.
What also hasn’t changed is the glory of its yesteryear—the John F. Kennedy Museum on Main Street is a testament to that. For almost three decades the museum has brought the stories of America’s First Family to the visiting public. Intimate glimpses of generations of the entire Kennedy family are presented in the form of photos, videos and artifacts that immediately remind visitors that the Cape, and more precisely Hyannis, was the beloved home and gathering spot for some of the most influential members of the country’s modern history. In 2019, a new exhibit profiles JFK’s brother in “Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope.” The Kennedy Legacy Trail, a 1.6-mile self-guided walking tour, begins in front of the museum. It has 10 stops, each shedding insight on the Kennedy family’s connections to Cape Cod.
Todd DeLuca, president and CEO of the Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce, says Hyannis became a “global brand” because so many people wanted to spend time in the town that JFK loved. To DeLuca, what sets Hyannis apart is its multifaceted nature. “People come here all the time and they ask where the boardwalk is,” he says. “There isn’t one. You can walk for a mile and have all these choices. It’s Hyannis’ identity.”
That mile (and then some) of Main Street offers the perfect backdrop as its vitality reels you in. Countless restaurants have sidewalk café seating, allowing patrons to indulge in some people watching while enjoying a wide variety of first-class cuisine. Fresh seafood on the patio of The Naked Oyster, accompanied by one of their innovative craft cocktails, makes for a memorable afternoon or warm summer evening. Alberto’s Ristorante delivers an endless menu of Italian delicacies either outside or in their attractive, spacious dining room. Their wine list is one of the most extensive and thoughtful in the entire town. Main Street is certainly popular with tourists in the summertime, many who are discovering Hyannis because they’re catching one of the two ferries to the Islands, but throughout the year, the Main Street Business Improvement District (BID) has a robust schedule that includes street fairs, sidewalk sales and strolls.
Visitors to Main Street in the summer months can experience two of the village’s classic, can’t-miss events for the whole family—the Father’s Day Car Show and Fourth of July festivities. And the off-season doesn’t disappoint, with the traditional Christmas Stroll, which also includes Santa’s Boat Parade at Hyannis Harbor. The Village Green is home to the annual Pops by the Sea concert every August that brings thousands of summertime revelers to the park to either picnic for the festive concert or take in the special night with a table in close proximity to the stage so they can fully experience Keith Lockhart and his Pops orchestra along with special celebrity guests.
Among the gems found along Main Street in Hyannis is the mainstay that is Puritan Cape Cod, founded by Abraham Penn in 1919. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the popular clothing store, featuring top-quality brands for men and women, is run by the third-generation of Penns who say it’s about focusing on “the customer experience and getting to know the person who walks in the door.” That philosophy has extended to the handful of businesses that are intended to be a part of the Puritan shopping experience, including Rendezvous Café & Creperie, where shoppers can grab something from their barista bar or crepe wheel; The Naked Oyster for a bistro-style lunch or dinner; and Solstice Day Spa for a bit of indulgence.
The shopping choices will satisfy all members of the family, including at Islands (585 Main Street). Their selection of sunglasses and activewear for any condition one might encounter on the Cape are popular among all ages. Bennett Gallery at the beginning of Main Street (357 Main Street) is a new addition that showcases the exquisite photography of the region by Cape native Kevin Bennett. SeaBreezes Clothing and Allium are next door to each other (556 and 558 Main Street) and both indulge the shopping desires of any female consumers. At Columbo’s Café & Pastries (544 Main Street), diners can delight in Italian specialties for lunch, dinner and cocktails as well as coffee and pastries. Out back, the more adventurous crowd can hone their golf skills at Donnellan Golf 365 (510 Main Street, Suite 11). Their indoor golf simulators and knowledgeable staff will take the mystery out of the mechanics of the perfect swing.
Penny candy (if only it still cost that much) and fudge are the highlights at the Kandy Korner (474 Main Street), where they have been spinning the cotton candy and handing out samples of fudge to generations of sweet tooth victims for 50 years. Katie’s Homemade Ice Cream (568 Main Street) and Ben & Jerry’s (352 Main Street) will take care of everyone’s favorite hot summer indulgence. And Palio Pizzeria (435 Main Street) will send you out with a slice or a full pie in a variety of innovative and delicious combinations. They also offer daily soups, salads, grinders and pasta, all made with the special attention not normally found in a pizza parlor.
Whether you are headed to your favorite spot on Main Street, wandering here and there to take it all in, or setting up for the annual Pops concert on a hot August evening, the village of Hyannis is open for business, to share its history, its food or its wares—it’s all just a stroll away.
Hyannis Harbor – By Bill O’Neill
Bismore Park is the gateway to Hyannis, and Carol LaDuke is the gateway greeter.
You can find her at the Bismore Park Welcome Center on Ocean Street, and there’s not much about Hyannis Harbor that you’d want to know that she can’t tell you. For example, LaDuke, who loves detective movies, did some research to find out why the greenspace at the harbor is named Bismore Park. “All we had was a drawing of him in the harbormaster’s office,” she says. LaDuke managed to track down several relatives of Ralph Bismore, including his 96-year-old sister. Bismore came from a large family in Hyannis. He left his job as an assistant at a Main Street pharmacy to serve in the Air Force during World War II. A gunner in a fighter plane, he saw action during D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge before dying in a crash. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Hyannis Harbor is “the gem of Barnstable,” according to LaDuke. “You have the fishermen who work here, the local people who wander by, and the visitors who come from all over the world. There’s a diverse mix of people in one little area. To me, that’s a wonderful thing.”
On a sunny day, the cornhole boards in front of the welcome center get steady use. Town agencies run free programs at Bismore Park, including Natural Resource Department talks on Cape Cod wildlife and hula-hoop classes put on by the Recreation Department.
The docks for Hy-Line Cruises are just south of the welcome center, and ferry passengers add to the pedestrian flow around the harbor. If passengers stroll past the visitor center, they will encounter a collection of small sheds, the HyArts Artists Shanties. The shanties are home to dozens of local artists over the course of the warmer months (they’re open 11 a.m.-evening, Friday-Sunday, from May 3 to June 9 and then daily through Columbus Day). Some artists spend a week per summer in a shack, and others are there multiple times. One of the regulars is Jeanmarie O’Clair of Bass River Pottery, who has a year-round studio nearby on South Street, in the HyArts campus, next to the Guyer Barn.
Being in a shanty is a nice break from the solitude of studio work, she says. “I get to connect with artists who are old friends, I get to meet new artists and make new connections, and I get to talk to tourists all day,” she says. “A lot of times when people purchase artwork, they’re also purchasing a piece of Cape Cod, a memory. I’ve talked to them and explained my life to them, and they’ve made a connection. I can say that my work is all over the world.”
Just past the shanties is one of the anchors of Hyannis Harbor, Spanky’s Clam Shack, owned and operated by Billy Moore and Jeff Spilman since 2002. “When we started, it was a learning process, and we struggled to do 200 lunches and 300 dinners,” says Moore. “Now in the summer, we do 500 lunches and 700 or 800 dinners.” Popular menu items include stuffed quahogs and lobster bisque. “Cape Cod has some of the best seafood in the world, right off our shore,” says Moore.
You might see a movie star or famous athlete at Spanky’s, but the main draw is the water view and the casual vibe. “Our main goal is keeping it family friendly for the local people and the tourists,” says Moore.
Other restaurants on the harbor’s west side include the Black Cat, the Bluewater Grille and the Raw Bar on Ocean Street. Continuing north toward South Street, you reach Aselton Park, named in memory of a Barnstable police officer. The corner park is the site of many public events, including the LoveLocal Fest. Mark your calendar for the 2019 festivals (July 28 and September 29), which feature local artisans, vendors and musicians.
Turn right on South Street and pop into the Cape Cod Maritime Museum at 135 South Street. Take a deep dive into Cape Cod’s nautical history by checking out the displays of artifacts, models and fine art.
Continuing clockwise around the harbor, you can stop in at Baxter’s Boathouse, tucked down non-descript Pleasant Street, a casual bar and restaurant perched above the water’s edge. Pair your fish and chips with a harbor-themed drink: the Binnacle Bloody, the Anchor Hitch or the Harbor Sunset.
Nearby is the Hyannis terminal for the Steamship Authority, and if you continue winding your way around the harbor into West Yarmouth, you’ll find a few more popular harborside hangouts (both at 21 Arlington Street): Trader Ed’s, where you can sip on frozen drinks by the pool, and Tugboats, a restaurant with deck seating overlooking the harbor.
Of course, there’s plenty of maritime activity along the harbor. Commercial fishermen come and go, and charter fishing boats also call the harbor home. For a family adventure, try Pirate Adventures for a treasure-hunting voyage, or a Hy-Line harbor cruise for a view of the Kennedy Compound from the water.
There’s plenty worth exploring just a little bit away from the harbor. If you venture south on Ocean Street, you’ll arrive at the John F. Kennedy Memorial and the adjacent Korean War Memorial. Nearby Veterans Beach has picnic tables for family gatherings. At the end of Ocean Street is Kalmus Beach, a popular spot for windsurfers and a great spot to watch ferries and other boats coming to and going from Hyannis Harbor.
Osterville – By Blair Miller
In the quaint village of Osterville, it’s hard to miss the elegance that is woven into every bit of this community nestled along the southern side of Cape Cod facing Nantucket Sound. Whether it’s simply driving through as you head toward Dowses Beach or taking a stroll down Main Street, there’s a different feeling here. The charm and distinction exist beyond the boutiques or the well-manicured homes, which certainly help define the reputation that so many people have cherished for centuries.
To understand Osterville, you must know that its history is defined in its name that exists today simply by mistake, if you believe the tales of the past. Osterville’s history is just as impressive as many of its New England neighbors and dates back to the 1600s. Originally, the area was called Cotachessett but then became known as Oysterville, as a nod to the many people who came here to go oystering. Legend has it that over time, the “y” was dropped because people kept misspelling the original name. But there’s no mistaking the riches of the sea that this village has to offer.
The heart of this village runs right down Main Street, lined with classic shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Many of these small businesses are family-owned and a staple of this community. In the heart of Osterville, Five Bays Bistro is a contemporary hotspot. The owners, Jamie Surprenant and Tim Souza, have been in the restaurant business for decades and wanted something you might find in a major city. Its American cuisine with modern flair, like the Apple Cider Brined Duck Breast with sweet potato and braised pork hash and pomegranate gastrique, exemplifies the unexpected and subtle sophistication that embues each dining experience.
A bit farther down Main Street, it is not uncommon to find a bustling crowd spilling out of the Pineapple Caper. Owners Tammy and Bill Russell changed their lives to open the café that started as a food truck and catering business. Bill left the corporate world last year to join his wife in the kitchen. Tammy has spent much of her life in the culinary field but wanted something more. Best known for its grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough, the new brick-and-mortar offering has delivered the challenge Tammy envisioned, as well as a new popular destination for visitors.
Perhaps one of the best-known and most rooted restaurants in Osterville is Wimpy’s. What started as just a small hamburger joint in 1938 has grown into a beloved 200-seat establishment serving a variety of classic lunch and dinner fare. Just up the street from Wimpy’s is Fancy’s Market, a go-to for locals and visitors alike in search of prepared meals, deli fare, baked goods, fresh produce and an impressive wine selection.
Come spring, Amie Bakery will move to its new, larger flagship location farther up Main Street. This community hub will be the perfect place to start your morning—with a cup of coffee and, of course, one (or two or three) of the bakery’s irresistible artisan pastries.
When it comes to shopping, there’s something for everyone—whether it’s Island Outfitters, featuring quintessential Cape apparel, or Pocket Full of Posies, which carries unique clothing for children and offers in-house monogrammimg. Oyster Island Emporium is a treasure trove of fine nautical homewares and accessories—a perfect memento for your time in town.
Off the beaten path of Wianno Avenue, there’s the Chart Room at Crosby’s, the sister restaurant to the popular Chart Room in Cataumet. Open during the warmer months, diners can take in the beautiful waterfront views along North Bay, seated inside or outside.
The Osterville Historical Museum chronicles the town’s history. Director Jenn Williamson says Osterville’s story reflects the story of America. “In our case especially, it is all about the sea,” says Williamson. “As we approach the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing on Cape Cod, we can trace back our early Osterville families to the very beginnings of this place we are lucky enough to call home.”
Williamson points to the family names that still hold weight around Osterville. “The Crosbys are America’s oldest currently active wooden boat-building family. For nine generations, the Crosbys have built boats on the bays of Osterville using a Colonial method of carving half-hull boat models. Even today, you can still see hundred-year-old Crosby catboats or Wianno Seniors sailing in Nantucket Sound on a warm summer afternoon.”
The museum hosts events all year, including the Village Day Antique Car Parade and the Art @ The Museum art show and sale. Part of their mission is being involved in the community, as evidenced by their popular Farmers’ Market, held each Friday from mid-June to mid-September. “Our farmers and small-batch food vendors are like none other. On any given Friday, we can bring in 600 to 800 visitors to the village,” says Williamson.
The summer months are full of events designed for people to enjoy the beauty of being outside and to attract visitors from beyond the village’s borders. But perhaps the most popular event is the Osterville Chocolate Festival, which is held in February. The festival’s popularity may be fueled by the samples that everyone can try for free after the judging.
Whether sampling chocolate in the winter, or sipping a mudslide on a hot August night at the Chart Room at Crosby’s, taking the time to pause in Osterville is a moment you will never regret.
On the next page, read about a few notable businesses that help make Barnstable special!
Celebrating 100 years! Puritan Cape Cod is a third-generation family-owned clothing store featuring stylish and modern brands for men and women. Dedicated to providing an unparalleled shopping experience, you’ll also find an upscale bistro, a full-service day spa, and a café all in one location.
408 Main Street, Hyannis. 508-775-2400. puritancapecod.com
Bike Zone is a family-owned business serving the Cape for over 25 years. With a focus on all aspects of cycling, the owners bring over 70 years of combined experience. From racers to beginners, Bike Zone strives for 100 percent customer satisfaction. Top brands include Pinarello, Cannondale, Electra, Kona, Salsa, Pivot, and more. Ask about their 90-day guarantee.
323 Barnstable Road, Hyannis. 508-775-3299. bikezonecapecod.com
Voted Best Candy Store in New England and Cape Cod. Kandy Korner has been serving up sweet nostalgia for over 50 years. Their penny candy selection is one of the largest on Cape Cod, and sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. One can see homemade fudge, caramel, chocolates and taffy being made daily in the front window the old-fashioned way.
474 Main Street. 508-771-5313. kandykorner.com