Friday, January 14, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 96: Falmouth, Mass. - Trip 2

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 96:  Falmouth, Mass. – Trip 2
October 20, 2010

            I decided to return to the scene of my initial In My Footsteps trip: Falmouth.  That first trip had no rhyme or reason to it and in the end I did not see very much of what the town has to offer besides Nobska Light.  I knew that there was so much beauty and history in Falmouth that it deserved a properly planned trip and that is what I will share with you here.
One of Sarah Peters' bronze plaques on Main Street.
            Falmouth was first settled in 1660 and named for the similarly named town in England.  It was explorer Bartholomew Gosnold’s home town, the name was chosen due to the fact that Gosnold had given Cape Cod its name.  The Native American name of Suckanesset was originally kept for the settlement; it was incorporated as a town in 1686 with the name being changed to Falmouth in 1690. 
I was amazed to find out that the area near Surf Drive Beach which I wrote about in my first Falmouth article actually saw some action in the War of 1812.  The Massachusetts militia entrenched themselves on the beach after the initial bombardment, preparing for a British landfall but it never came.  Falmouth is also the birthplace of American poet Katharine Lee Bates who wrote America the Beautiful in 1910.  There is a bronze statue of her in front of the Falmouth Public Library and her family’s home is forever preserved as an historic landmark in the town.
View of the garden at the Julia Wood House.
            I began my second trip to Falmouth at a beautiful town green along Main Street which lies in front of the Falmouth Public Library.  I parked along Shore Road which runs perpendicular to the green and took in the sights and sun.  The way Main Street borders the green gives it a different feel than most commons or greens in other towns, I can’t put my finger on what it is.  I particularly enjoyed the small bronze plaques along the walkway depicting working life in Falmouth in the 19th century.  They include plaques featuring the whaling industry, cranberry harvesting, old saltworks, and woolens industry.  Created by local sculptor Sarah Peters between 2000 and 2003 they are both informative and striking in their detail, I appreciate little things like that which make a trip even better.
            Ironically there is another town green located just up the road from that one, it is where Main Street forks off into West Main Street.  This is another great spot to park and walk.  There is an interesting wishing well with a plaque on it which tells that the acre and a half Town Green was set aside as the Meeting House Lot in 1749 with the third Meeting House, the first built on the site, being erected in 1756. 
Nobska Lighthouse
            A short walk down Main Street to where it becomes Palmer Avenue brings you face to face with a couple of historic homes.  These combine together to make the Falmouth Museums on the Green.  The town’s historical society resides in the Conant House which was built in the 1760’s and originally was owned by the Reverend Samuel Palmer, minister of the town’s First Congregational Church in the early 1730’s.  Next door to the Conant House is the Julia Wood House.  It was built in 1790 for Revolutionary War physician Dr. Francis Wicks.  The best part of the house is the exquisite garden located just to the left of it.  There is an astrolabe surrounded by flowers on the way in and a sweet cherub birdbath near the middle.  The view of the garden from the small gazebo was fabulous; the bright sun seemed to bring out each and every color of every flower.  There are other historic homes to see on Palmer Avenue however there was another spot I needed to revisit.
            A trip to Falmouth would not be complete without stopping at Nobska Lighthouse.  Originally constructed in 1829 the current lighthouse was built in 1876 and became a part of the Coast Guard family in 1939.  It has a magnificent view of Vineyard Sound, Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands from up on a hill where the lighthouse resides. 
Crocker Pond at Bourne Farm
            From the point on Nobska Road it is possible to see all the way down into Woods Hole to the west and it is the norm to see the ferry boats carrying passengers out to the Vineyard quite often throughout the day.  I enjoy taking photos of this amazing lighthouse from as many angles and spots as possible and there is no shortage of them.  Besides the fact that Nobska Light sits on a hill there is a place across the street that gives a wider perspective of the lighthouse.  Be careful though as it sits at the top of a steep dirt hill leading to the rocky shore below.
            A short drive north will bring you to the Bourne Farm, established in 1775.  In addition to the historic buildings on the property I was drawn to the spectacular view of the sloping green hill leading down to Crocker Pond.  The forty-nine acre farm is perfect for hiking, walking dogs, and even renting for weddings and other events.  The farmhouse itself is known as the Crowell-Bourne Farmhouse because the home was erected by Joseph Crowell along with his father.  I found it particularly amusing that the trail guide states that nothing historic happened there and nobody famous ever lived there, but in my mind a farmhouse dating back to the Revolutionary War era is historic enough for me.
            Falmouth was even better for me the second time around, I used my travel experience to fill the trip with way more historic sites than the first time.  Obviously Nobska Light is a great place to start but the Museums on the Green and the ‘nothing historic ever happened here’ Bourne Farm are excellent companion pieces to a wonderful trip to the second largest town on Cape Cod.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsNobska Light:  From the Bourne Bridge take Rt. 28 south into Falmouth.  Continue onto Locust St., slight left at Mill Rd., right at Surf Drive.  Continue onto Oyster Pond Rd., continue onto Nobska Rd., follow it to the point where the lighthouse is.
            Bourne Farm:  From the Bourne Bridge follow Rt. 28 south for 9 miles going through a rotary along the way.  Turn right at Thomas Landers Rd., slight right onto Rt. 28A, Bourne Farm is on left. 
            Museums on the Green:  From the Bourne Bridge take Rt. 28 south for 13.5 miles, going through a rotary along the way.  Rt. 28 becomes Palmer Ave., take slight left at Main St.  There is parking along the road, this is where I began my walk.

ReferencesSarah Peters Sculpture
                      Nobska Light - New England Lighthouses
                      Falmouth Historical


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