Featured Stories & Articles from Cape Cod Travel Magazine: Cape Cod's Notable Historic Locals
In Hyannis Port: America's Camelot
The seaside village of Hyannis Port, a tiny hamlet south of much larger Hyannis, attracted America’s most famous political family, the Kennedys. Beginning in 1926, when Joseph P. Kennedy purchased a home in the seaside enclave, the Kennedy clan has spent every summer at their family compound in Hyannis Port.
It was at Hyannis Port where JFK awoke in the early morning of November 9th, 1960, to find his and Jackie’s home surrounded by Secret Service agents, thus confirming his win as President of the United States. It was on the lawn of the compound where the Kennedy clan was filmed playing touch football, footage that would captivate America. It was at the dock just up the street where JFK would launch his beloved sailboat, Victoria. Many family members still summer in Hyannis Port and, although the compound is private, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street welcomes and educates curious visitors about our 35th president, his family, political career and the time he spent here. The multi-media museum offers more than 80 photographs, from 1934 to 1963, a film narrated by Walter Cronkite and oral histories as told by Kennedy’s friends.
In Wellfleet: Wireless is Born
If you happen to be one of those four-plus-million people who visit the Cape Cod National Seashore, be sure to check out the original site where Guglielmo Marconi sent the first two-way trans-Atlantic wireless radio transmission in South Wellfleet. It was from South Wellfleet where, on January 18, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke with King Edward III in Cornwall England. The newly pioneered technology, the ultimate precursor to Wi-Fi, was vitally important, making it possible for ships at sea to communicate with radio operators on land, a service that helped save the lives of hundreds of people aboard the ill-fated Titanic. This creation would also win Marconi the Nobel Prize in 1909. The original Marconi Station is long gone, but the site, with a viewing platform and to-scale replica of Marconi’s invention, remains a highlight of The Seashore.
A second locale, the Chatham Station--built as a replacement in 1914-- still remains and received notable communications from Charles Lindbergh, during his historic first solo trans-Atlantic flight, and from Amelia Earhart on her mysterious final flight. The old Chatham Station closed in 1993 when communication went digital, but has since reopened as the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, a museum that features exhibits on the birth of wireless communication.
On Nantucket: America’s First Female Astronomer
Maria Mitchell was a true trailblazer who left her mark on these shores. Born on Nantucket in 1818, she was the first American woman to become a professional astronomer. She received international recognition, winning a gold medal prize from King Frederick VI of Denmark in 1847, for discovering what was later named “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” Today, on Nantucket, the Maria Mitchell Association operates the Historic Mitchell House, a seasonal museum that displays many of Ms. Mitchell’s personal belongings, including one of her telescopes; The MMA also operates the Natural Science Musuem which hosts nature programs for the public; the Vestal Street Observatory where research is still conducted and visitors can learn about modern astronomy; and an aquarium that collects its exhibits locally, displaying marine life taken from the surrounding waters, which are then released back into the sea at the end of the season.
In Truro: Iconic Artist
Fameed American Realist Painer Edward Hopper appreciated Cape Cod’s unique natural surroundings. Beginning in 1930, Hopper—who has actor-comedian Steve Martin as one of his most ardent modern-day collectors—would spend his summers in Truro, where he could often be seen painting buildings, landscapes and landmarks while sitting in his car. The creator of “Nighthawks” (1942)--that iconic image of a couple and a lone man sitting at the counter of a harshly lit late-night diner--painted many structures around the Outer Cape area, including “Methodist Church, Provincetown,” now the library, “Highland Light, North Truro,” “Mouth of the Pamet River - Full Tide” and “Rich’s House,” located on the property of Truro Vineyards. Artists and visitors still visit these now-immortalized places to catch a glimpse of what inspired Edward Hopper as he created his masterpieces.
In Yarmouth Port: Illustrious Illustrator
Edward Gorey was a pen-and-ink man. The eccentric writer, illustrator and designer—who spent the later years of his life in Yarmouth Port and who could be frequently seen in the north-side restaurants up and down Route 6A—has become a cult favorite for his darkly humorous books and gothic illustrations, many of which appeared in The New Yorker. One of his more beloved books,
The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1962), is an off-beat alphabet book that recounts the absurd endings to the lives of 26 children. Gorey also devoted many years to creating sketches that would become the backdrops for Boston TV’s WGBH program MYSTERY! His former residence, the Elephant House, is now a museum devoted to his life and works, including drawings he penned for MYSTERY! His beloved Cape Cod home also retains much of its original furnishings.
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In Provincetown: The Father of American Drama
In 1916, Provincetown was considered the place to be for artists and writers from around the world. That year, American dramatist Eugene O’Neill visited Provincetown for the first time with what he referred to as “a trunk full of plays” and staged his one-act Bound East for Cardiff with a newly formed theatre group, The Provincetown Players. The groundbreaking show is now considered to have fathered the age of modern American drama--a new approach to theatre where the emphasis was on psychological realism rather than melodrama. In 1918, O’Neill moved to Provincetown, living in a former Coast Guard station on a desolate spit of land. It is here that he is believed to have penned his first Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Beyond the Horizon (1920).
O’Neill, a father of three including daughter Oona (nee O’Neill) Chaplin, would eventually write many still well-known and oft-performed plays, such as Desire Under the Elms and The Iceman Cometh and his final play, produced posthumously, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. He would also become a Nobel laureate in Literature and win several additional Pulitzer Prizes. Today, Provincetown is still a beacon to aspiring playwrights and experimental theater. The playhouse where O’Neill’s first plays were staged burned down in 1977, but his legacy continues at the Provincetown Theater’s playwright festivals which gives previously unpublished playwrights the opportunity to stage their works.