By any measure, St. Barnabas Church is distinct. Reverend Will Mebane, Jr. recounts the history of its founding: how the Beebe family pushed to establish the parish, and chose Gothic Revivalist architect Henry Vaughan to build a church unlike any other in Falmouth.
“We like to be known as the parish of the community,” he says, “so we are constantly opening our doors and welcoming nonprofit organizations and other entities to use our beautiful campus.” In the summer months especially, that campus is a hub of activity – for example, did you know that the 70th annual Strawberry Festival was celebrated this June?
Explore the oral history and digital exhibit, and learn for yourself how St. Barnabas became part of the fabric of Falmouth’s community!
The West Falmouth Library is a resource built by and for its community. From its humble beginning as a club for sharing books and cultural education, it grew into a well-loved non-profit whose programs and fundraisers draw audiences year after year. Check out our oral history interview with Charlie McCaffrey, former president of the Library Board, to learn about the way those outreach efforts are guided by the library’s philosophy.
“When the library was built in 1895, the main building had two rooms of approximate equal size,” he says. “One had the books, and the other was a community room […]. It was built as much as a community center and gathering place as a place for borrowing books.”
Based right in the heart of town, the Falmouth Historical Society – also known as the Falmouth Museums on the Green – has a story for each feature of its historic campus, and a dedication to preserving those stories for future residents and visitors. Former director Mark Schmidt takes us on a tour through the Museums’ past, present, and future, with an emphasis on one important point: today’s events are history in the making.
“We tend to think that if it happened in our lifetime it’s ‘not cool,’ or just not that important,” he says. He points out that history doesn’t start and end with Colonial houses and 18th century French wallpaper: “We’ve gone through some pretty major things in our lifetime.”
The Old Stone Dock of today might be easy to overlook, but its past self lives on in our vintage postcard collection – and in our oral history from Kevin Doyle, former president of the Old Stone Dock Association. He takes us back to the days when the Dock was a cornerstone of Falmouth commerce, and from there to the transformations wrought by the arrival of the railroad on Cape Cod.
“If you were to go down to the shore today, there’s a sign that says it’s the kiddie pool,” he says. But as his oral history proves, there’s a lot more to the story than that!
How well do you know Main Street? Join Camille Beale and Nancy Eldridge on an insider tour, and learn about everything you could buy, browse, or admire on Falmouth’s main drag in the middle of the 20th century. Both longtime residents with ties to Main Street, Camille and Nancy have watched it grow and change from front-row seats. In conversation with Barbara Kanellopoulos, they recall lunches at the five and dime, Western films at the Elizabeth Theater, and the attractions popular stores used to entice customers, from the monkey to the x-ray machine.
Built in 1797 as a Congregational church, the East End Meeting house has seen its fortunes grow and shrink over the years: from a generous bequest in 1842, to a decline in membership in the 1970s, to an unusual transfer in ownership in the early 1980s.
In this oral history, Rabbi Elias Lieberman walks us through that history to the current day, where the meetinghouse stands as the home of the Falmouth Jewish Congregation. Learn about the building’s origins and quirks, and about how the Falmouth Jewish Congregation updated, expanded, and made it their own.
You’ve probably passed by the carriage house on Mill Road, with its distinctive arches, but how much do you know about the mansion it outlived, or the man who built them both? Check out Bill Swift’s oral history to learn about Arm & Hammer co-founder John E. Dwight, who put down roots in Falmouth in the 1880s, complete with winter and summer homes and other properties across town.
The estate has dwindled over the years, most notably when the mansion was lost to the 1944 hurricane, but this oral history will take you back to its early days, when horses raced at Trotting Park, Grover Cleveland summered at Gray Gables, and Mrs. Dwight sat reading on her tiny artificial island in Salt Pond.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to weather the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, the late Donald Fish has a story for you. A student of Falmouth history, he recounts boyhood adventures alongside older stories of Falmouth’s modernization and development. He vividly recalls the chaos of the storms of 1938 and 1944: “As it got darker the wind picked up severely […] The water’s coming up, set yachts are foundering along the shore, raising hell.”
His four-part video series also touches on less-explored topics from our postcard collection: the Parthenon power plant, development along Shore Street, ice skating on Shiverick’s Pond, and even the long-gone era of the stagecoach. Follow along with his walk down memory lane, then check out the supplementary materials we’ve collected to complement the videos.
Join Rob Blomberg as he dons his tour guide hat and leads us through the history of two beloved Woods Hole institutions: the Woods Hole Public Library and its partner organization, the Woods Hole Historical Museum. As Vice President of the library Board and a longtime museum tour guide, he weaves his personal experiences into a retelling of the library and museum’s shared story. “The Woods Hole Library is a very important connection to me,” he tells interviewer Troy Clarkson. “The first time I was ever there, I was maybe two or two and a half years old.”
What it took to run a library in 1873 is somewhat different from what it takes today, and operating costs are only the start—no more $1 yearly membership fees! Over the years, the library and museum have adapted to the growth of their collections, the growth of tourist traffic, and most recently to the unique demands of the pandemic. They’ve established their own traditions, like the library’s annual Fabric and Fiber Sale (coming on March 13). “Come down and visit,” Mr. Blomberg says. “They would be happy to have you.”
The First Congregational Church of Falmouth may be a downtown icon, but it didn’t start life on the village green. Its first iteration was built at the site of the Old Burying Ground, and it had several different incarnations before it arrived at its current home. In this oral history interview, Reverend Jonathan Drury charts the course it took and highlights the details of the church we know today, from the Falmouth granite in its foundation to the bell in the steeple, cast by none other than Paul Revere.
While the First Congregational Church has deep roots in Falmouth’s past, Reverend Drury also emphasizes the way it looks toward the future. “Our congregation should be open and available,” he says, “as a place where people can feel not the divisiveness but the potential that exists in harmony.”