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Village LIFE: The Magic of Mashpee

Mashpee Commons

The clock tower on Steeple Street in Mashpee Commons at dusk

A hidden treasure no more

The true essence of any classic village is found at its center, or trademark downtown. In the dynamic hub of Mashpee, community spirit is on full display, since it is the people of Mashpee who have transformed this town into a vibrant hotbed of activity. Once a pass through for those looking to recharge away from city life, Mashpee now stands on its own, despite being the second-to-last area on the Cape to go through the progression of becoming its own town.

Like its neighbors, the layers of history stretch far and wide from one edge of Mashpee to the next. Members of the Wampanoag Tribe were the first to settle in this area near Sandwich, but eventually they lost control of the land. Despite that, even today, many generations later still call Mashpee home. Lifetime residents haven’t forgotten that deep history, and neither do visitors who drop by the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum. The Museum is proud to be the “geographic core of the Mashpee Wampanoag people,” since most of them live within just 20 miles of it. Mashpee’s Wampanoag roots are ever-present in the Old Indian Meeting House, which remains the oldest church on Cape Cod and the oldest Native American church in the United States. Built in 1684, it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the town attracts more than just the mainstays who’ve developed this town into what it is. Tourists, shoppers and food enthusiasts who discovered their way here via Massachusetts Route 28 are often pleasantly surprised by what they find. In a place where there’s no central downtown, the unofficial occupier of that role has been the gem that is Mashpee Commons. But it hasn’t always been that way. Fifty years ago, the Commons was living out its existence as an inconspicuous shopping location. That changed in 1986, when a new buyer came in and redeveloped everything about Mashpee Commons, setting the foundation for what it is today. Currently boasting 60 businesses, the Commons’ open-air shopping yields all types of customers, from traditional shoppers to those hoping to get lost in the quaint boutiques that have come to define this unique destination.

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