Boston, in fact, the greater region of New England, is the land of so many museums that it is often difficult to choose which one to visit. This is certainly the case with the seaside retreat of Cape Cod in New England, where there are a handful of museums that often surprise visitors. Often synonymous with beaches, summer/weekend fun and lobster rolls, Cape Cod’s cultural heritage is rich and unique.
Cape Cod has a fascinating history that many casual vacationers don’t know about, and these museums are the best places to go to learn about the unexpected yet incredibly interesting stories that make up Cape Cod’s heritage and history.
The French Cable Museum
So what is a French cable? – Well, visitors will have a great time learning exactly that at the museum. Visitors will also dive deep into an industry that seems so obvious to people today, but was a feat of engineering in the 19th century. (Don’t worry, engineers and computer scientists will find this museum fascinating even if they don’t like other history museums!).
The French Cable Museum in the city of Orléans appears to be a normal Victorian house from the outside, but inside the building is still equipped with all the advanced communication technology of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Orléans was the termination point of the “French Cable” telegraph line which ran from France and the United States; it enabled Europe and America to send telegraphs to each other, exponentially accelerating communications between these two parts of the world and serving as precursors to modern telephones. The cable still exists, and visitors can see it at the museum!
Guides take museum visitors around the station and teach them about the history, engineering and impact of French cable and telegraph/communication technologies. Be sure to visit the museum’s small but mighty gift shop; purchases from the store help fund the volunteer preservation of the French Cable Museum.
- Address: 41 South Orleans Road, Orleans, MA 02653
- Admission: Free, but donations are welcome
- Hours: Open June to September, Friday to Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Sandwich Glass Museum
Officially part of the Sandwich Historical Society, the Glass Museum educates visitors about the history of glassmaking on Cape Cod through exhibits and demonstrations that [glass]mind blowing (pardon the pun). Few realize that Cape Cod was once home to a thriving glass industry that produced sought-after pieces collected by people across the country. It is still possible to buy copies of this vintage glass; often, antique stores in the area offer pieces of historic glass at bargain prices, so Cape Cod is definitely a destination for antique hunters and history buffs.
The museum itself features permanent galleries that educate visitors on the color chemistry of glass, the history of glass in the electrical and lighting industry, and the Victorian glass industry in the 19th century. . Lucky museum goers can also watch the glassblowers at work in their seasonal temporary “exhibitions”; these demonstrations are definitely a highlight of the museum, so it is highly recommended that you time a visit to include this particular offering! The museum will also often highlight contemporary glassmakers, teaching visitors not only the history of glass, but also the glass industry today.
- Address: 129 Main Street Sandwich, MA 02563
- Admission: $12.00 for adults, $11.00 for ages 65 and over, $2.00 for children ages 6-14, and free for ages 5 and under
- Hours: Open February-March, Wednesday-Sunday, 9.30am-4pm; April-December, daily, 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Some visitors to New England might assume, given the area’s long colonial and Revolutionary War history, that 17th-century homes are extremely common in the area. And yes, while there may be more of these historic structures in the New England area, it’s not as common as one might think. The Hoxie House, built between 1640 and 1675 (sources vary), is the oldest structure on Cape Cod, and the preservation of the house shows how buildings from this era are revered by local townspeople. Owned by the town of Sandwich, the Hoxie House, along with its sister property, the Dexter Grist Mill, is preserved so visitors can learn about life on Cape Cod in the 17th century.
The house itself is set in an idyllic location overlooking nearby Shawme Pond. And while the grounds are an absolutely wonderful time to spend a sunny Cape Cod afternoon, in the house visitors experience “early period” architecture, experiencing rare 17th-century architectural features first-hand. . For those who love unique souvenirs, the town also sells ground corn flour in authentic cloth bags straight from the flour mill!
- Address: 18 Water Street, Sandwich, MA 02563
- Admission: $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children 12 and under, and free for children 8 and under
- Hours: Open from June to September by appointment; call the Sandwich Recreation Department at 508-888-4361 for a guided tour (book already for next season!)