In My Footsteps
Trip 45: Dennis, Mass. – Part Two
April 21, 2010
After living on Cape Cod for nearly the entirety of my life it is difficult for me to find places that I either had not known about or had not seen. On this second trip through Dennis I was able to discover one such place. The town of Dennis, though settled by Thomas Howes and John Crowe (Crowell), got its name for the resident minister Josiah Dennis. His saltbox home, the Josiah Dennis Manse, built in 1736, is a must see which functions as a museum as well. Though it is highly recommended the museum is currently being renovated and will not be opened to the public again until 2011.
The north side of Dennis has an incredible stretch of beaches that are some of the most popular on the Cape. My beach of choice is Corporation Beach due to the scenic overlook that gives you a view of the beach below from about thirty feet up(left). On a clear day you can easily see all the way up the coastline to Provincetown with the Pilgrim Monument standing out against the sky. Another great view at Corporation Beach happens during big storms. There is a long rock wall, separating the private homes from the ocean, which runs parallel to the parking lot about fifty feet out. During these storms it is fun to park and watch the ocean waves crashing up and over the rock wall. These views are what make Corporation Beach unique.
Still, if that is not your thing, Chapin Beach offers a different sort of thrill which is off-roading. The route to Chapin Beach is nearly two and a half miles leading to a very secluded parking lot; though in summer it is extremely crowded. Those vehicles with the capability may opt to drive out along the beach which extends out to where the Chase Garden Creek Salt Marsh empties into Cape Cod Bay. From there you have a great view of both Sandy Neck in Sandwich and the close by Grey’s Beach, also known as Bass Hole.
After hitting the beaches there are more historical sites to see and of course they lie on Route 6A. Around the intersection of 6A and Old Bass River Road there are a few places close together which makes it a great area to park and walk. Located directly across the street from one another are two historic places. The Carleton Hall, built in 1828, was originally created to be a Methodist ‘praying house.’ It was purchased in 1865 by Captain Carleton Howes and a group of local citizens to be used for community activities. It is still used for that purpose to this day.
Across the street from the Carleton Hall, and next door to the fire station, is the Dennis Union Church(right). Originally established in 1727 this church still plays the chimes at the tops of the hours. It is incredible to be there at noon when it is almost as if an entire concert is being played for those in and around the church. It has a large green in front of it with a gazebo; this spot is a tremendous place to get out of the hot sun, or to just sit and people watch along 6A.
Not more than a few hundred yards from the Dennis Union Church is the famous Dennis Playhouse(left). It is the country’s oldest professional summer theatre. Originally a Uniatrian Meeting House the Playhouse was begun by California native Raymond Moore in 1927. A frequent visitor to Provincetown where he worked in the theatres there Moore desired to have a theatre of his own. The first performance came on July 4, 1927 and was The Guardsman featuring Basil Rathbone. In the time since many world famous performers have graced the stage inside the Playhouse or, in the case of Bette Davis, been discovered there. Ms. Davis worked as an usher in the Playhouse when it opened. Gregory Peck, Lana Turner, Humphrey Bogart, and Ginger Rogers are just a few of the performers that include shows at the Playhouse on their resumes.
Finally we come to a spot in Dennis that I had never actually been to. Crows Pasture sits on South Street past the Quivett Cemetery on the east side of Sesuit Harbor. The road out to Crows Pasture Beach is long, bumpy, and unpaved. It is recommended that you take it slow, or better yet have a vehicle capable of four-wheel drive. The scenery is amazing, especially during a first drive out there. The 138-acre conservation area has many designated parking areas with views of Cape Cod Bay and the neighboring Quivett Creek Marsh(left). On this trip I witnessed a few people out on the beach at low-tide shellfishing. It is possible to park and any of the designated areas and taking a walk to the beach or to Coles Pond which sits in the northeast section of Crows Pasture and only a few hundred yards from the ocean.
Though it is relatively hidden to those unfamiliar with it, Crows Pasture is a spot in which a day can easily be spent simply enjoying the solitude and beauty of untouched Cape Cod. I left there feeling like it was a part of the National Seashore on the mid-Cape; an area large enough to give you the feeling that it looked much the same as when the first settlers gazed upon it for the first time.
Whether taking a walk along Rt. 6A, where nearly everything has historical significance, or enjoying the untouched solitude of Crows Pasture, Dennis is a destination point with limitless possibilities for good times. I enjoyed taking another look at the amazing sites that are in my own backyard and absolutely recommend any visitor to the Cape take some time to enjoy what this town has to offer. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Corporation Beach: From Rt. 6A heading east, turn left onto Corporation Rd. Follow it to the beach. Chapin Beach: From Rt. 6A heading east, turn left at New Boston Rd., take quick right onto Beach St. Continue onto Taunton Ave., turn left at Dr. Botero Rd., continue onto Chapin Beach Rd. Follow it to parking lot.
Crows Pasture: From Rt. 6A heading east turn left onto School St. Take first right at South Street. Follow it past the cemetery on the right. Entrance to Crows Pasture is straight ahead, remember road is dirt so drive carefully.
References: Cape Playhouse