In My Footsteps
Trip 10: Barnstable, Mass.
January 24, 2010
Is it possible for one town to have two names? In the case of Barnstable, yes it is. People call the town Barnstable and Hyannis and they are both correct. Barnstable is usually the name associated with the historic district along Route 6A while Hyannis is seen as the area with all of the stores and restaurants along Routes 28 & 132.
The town of Barnstable, founded in 1639, got its name from the town of Barnstaple, England. As you enter the town from the highway there is a sign along Willow Street noting this fact. Heading south on Willow Street will lead you into Hyannis while heading north leads you into the historic district of Barnstable. On this trip I went north toward Rt. 6A.
A left turn onto Rt. 6A will eventually lead you to a set of traffic lights. Heading right takes you down Millway along Barnstable Harbor. The road ends at the small Millway Beach parking lot which has a tremendous view of the Sandy Neck Trails and the cottages and lighthouse that adorn the point(left). I covered the trails here: Sandy Neck Trails. There are extensive mudflats which become exposed at low tide and are popular for shell fishing.
Along historic Rt. 6A after exiting Millway you will find the Barnstable County Courthouse(below) standing stoically over the other buildings. Built in 1831 this is not even the oldest courthouse in the village. That honor belongs to the appropriately named Olde Colonial Courthouse. Located just up the road from the current courthouse near Rendezvous Lane this building, which currently houses the Tales of Cape Cod historical society, was built in 1772 and served as the county’s courthouse until 1838.
Located on the front lawn of the Barnstable County Courthouse are statues depicting Colonial lawyer James Otis who some argue actually sewed the seeds of the American Revolution through a speech in 1761 as well as his sister Mercy Otis Warren. She is widely considered the ‘Conscience of the American Revolution.’
About a half a mile up on the left is the narrow opening of Old Jail Lane. This road once housed the oldest wooden jail in the United States. Built in 1690, the ‘Old Jail’ was moved from its former location on Old Jail Lane in 1971 to its current location on Cobb’s Hill behind the Coast Guard Heritage Museum only a few minutes drive away.
Old Jail Lane can be a very spooky ride at dusk and there is a great set of trails which are accessible from here, the Cape Cod Community College parking lot, or at another entrance located diagonally from the Lamb and Lion Inn on Rt. 6A. The trails are easy to follow thanks to color coded arrows and detailed maps located throughout the trail area.
Entering the trails from the West Barnstable parking lot on Rt. 6A leads you up a steep hill that gives way to an unexpected and spectacular view. The wide open rolling hills that stretch out give you a feeling of being on the shores of Ireland rather than Cape Cod(right). This entrance is highly recommended specifically for the amazing views. There aren’t any water views but the sights and sounds of Cape Cod’s natural beauty will be enough to keep you interested.
Another great recreation area is Hathaways Pond located on Phinney’s Lane(left). It is hidden a bit from the busy road and has a swimming area and swings for children. The half-mile loop trail leading around the circumference of the pond is packed with views of the pond from all heights and angles. It is perfect for the warmer months.
Barnstable Village is filled with beautiful scenery and amazing historical relics as are most places along Rt. 6A. If you are lucky enough to find a parking spot during the warmer months most of the places visited here can be seen in one walk. Whether you walk or drive to all of these places make sure to take time out to see them all. It is definitely worth the trip. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Millway Beach: Take Rt. 6A to the set of lights at the intersection with Hyannis Road. Turn down Millway and follow it. Barnstable Harbor comes up on the left and the small parking lot for Millway Beach is at the end of the road.
Old Jail: Heading east on 6A take you last left before the lights at the intersection with Millway, this is the Coast Guard Heritage Museum, the Old Jail is located in the house directly behind it. Old Jail Lane is ½ mile from the Courthouse on the left. The road’s entrance is very narrow and could be mistaken for a driveway, go slow to find the turn.
Barnstable County Courthouse: On Rt. 6A heading east go through set of lights for Millway Beach. Courthouse in on the hill just past the fire department.
Olde Colonial Courthouse: Keep on Rt. 6A past the center of Barnstable Village, the building that was the courthouse and is now a museum is located on the right near Rendezvous Lane and across from St. Mary’s Church.
Hathaway’s Pond: Heading east on 6A turn left at lights onto Hyannis Road. Stay right, Hyannis Road becomes Phinney’s Lane. Follow Phinney’s Lane for nearly a mile. Entrance for Hathaway’s Pond is on the right and designated by a blue and white oval sign.
References: The Old Jail