In My Footsteps
Trip 44: Chatham, Mass. – Part Two
April 22, 2010
When visiting a place filled with as many amazing sites as Chatham is it becomes hard to fit them all into one article and not have it become long-running and boring. That being said, my second visit to Chatham was every bit as good as the first, if not better, thanks to the influx of sunny spring weather. Of course when visiting I had to go back over those places I had seen and written about during my first article, it is only natural. When you drive down Main Street and pass by Chatham Light and North Beach it is impossible not to stop at least momentarily and take a deep breath.
One spot I missed the first time around actually ties into Chatham Light. The Atwood House(left), which doubles as a museum, is virtually unchanged since it was built by sea captain Joseph Atwood in 1752. Five generations of the Atwood family were raised in the house. The only major change in the historic home was the wing added to it in 1833 by Joseph Atwood’s grandson, John, for his wife in 1833.
In addition to the Atwood House there are other items to see. There is the Nickerson North Beach Camp which was built in 1947 by Joshua Atkins Nickerson II, a descendent of Chatham founder William Nickerson. It once sat in a row of about fifty similar dune shacks along North Beach before the break in the beach in 1987 caused the shack to be moved in 1990. What amazed me was to find out that back in those days right after World War II if you so desired you could lug your own materials out to the beach and build your own dune shack.
Not to be forgotten is the before mentioned connection to Chatham Light and that is the one of the original lanterns of the Twin Lights which is located on the far side of the parking lot. The second light is now known as Nauset Light as it was moved to Eastham in 1923. The lantern(left) was removed from Chatham Light in 1969 and donated to the Historical Society. With the lantern intact it is possible to walk around on it and imagine what it was like when this piece of history was guiding ships that came close to North Beach more than forty years ago.
With miles of beautiful beaches in Chatham it is possible to overlook Oyster Pond(right). Situated near Main Street and actually connected to the ocean by the narrow Oyster River, this water body is a great spot to enjoy a swim or a picnic. The picnic area is one thing that makes the pond stand out from the beaches and the surrounding area has been renovated in the past few years as well. It is a perfect getaway from the busy beaches during the summer, the water is warmer and calm, there are boats but it is a very safe environment. Not to be missed is Oyster Pond’s proximity to Chatham’s Main Street, it is a short walk to many of the town’s shops and restaurants. It is possible to grab a bite to eat, or some snacks, and stop off at Oyster Pond to enjoy them.
The last place I visited is a place mentioned in my first Chatham article. While walking along the shore of the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge I had come to the mouth of Stage Harbor and was able to view Stage Harbor Light on the other side of the water. On this day I wanted to see it up close. To do so you need to take a trip to Harding’s Beach. The beach has two parking lots connected by a short road, it has a fabulous view of Monomoy Island to the east.
Stage Harbor Light is visible from the moment you get into the second parking lot, though it does sit about a mile down the beach. The tower itself was built in 1880 but deactivated in 1933. The lantern has been removed and the surrounding property is private, still you get a very close up look while respecting the boundaries.
I thought that the walk out to the lighthouse was going to be rough much like the walk across Herring Cove Beach to get to Race Point Light. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the pathway, being used by vehicles to get to the light, was much sturdier and the walk was easier. Along with the skeleton of the lighthouse there is still the original lighthouse keepers house, a shed, and an outhouse remaining on the property.
My visit to Stage Harbor Light(left) was a perfect cap to this trip. When standing alone on the western shore of Stage Harbor, facing the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, it was so peaceful that I had to take some time to sit in the sand and enjoy the sounds of the waves and the sights of a pair of osprey circling and looking for lunch. I highly recommend at least one trip to Stage Harbor Light but remember the actual structures are private. That will not dampen the experience though.
Chatham holds so many amazing places and sites that I was bound to have missed some on my first trip through. It is remarkable that a renowned fishing village can pack so much into a relatively small area. Sitting at the ‘elbow’ of Cape Cod, Chatham is a spot that needs to be visited and enjoyed over and over. I am guessing I might have missed something else on my second trip as well! Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Atwood House & Museum: From Rt. 28 heading east, take 2nd exit in the rotary for Stage Harbor Road. Museum is at 347 Stage Harbor Rd., on the left. Chatham Light lantern is on right side of parking lot.
Oyster Pond: From Rt. 28 heading east, take 2nd exit in rotary for Stage Harbor Road. Oyster Pond is on the right a half mile down the road.
Stage Harbor Light/Harding’s Beach: From Rt. 28 heading east, turn right onto Barn Hill Rd., just after Kream ‘N Kone. Turn right onto Harding’s Beach Rd., follow it to parking lot. Lighthouse is a mile walk away down the beach, pathway begins at end of parking lot.
References: New England Lighthouses - Stage Harbor Light