Bus Tour, Museum Openings Highlight Chatham History Weekend

By: Tim Wood

The Caleb Nickerson Homestead at the Nickerson Family Association campus on Orleans Road will be open for tours during History Weekend. In addition, visitors can observe archaeologists working on the 1664 homestead site of William and Anne Nickerson. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – The town is justly proud of its history and the historical assets that it has preserved. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, residents and visitors will have the opportunity to experience special events and open houses at the town's museums and other sites during the annual History Weekend.

Sponsored by Historic Chatham, a cooperative effort among the town's museums and non-profit historical and cultural organizations, History Weekend includes free or reduced admission at museums, a guided bus tour, walking tour of downtown and a number of special presentations and exhibits.

A highlight of this year's History Weekend is Chatham History Tours, a 90-minute guided bus rides through the town. Volunteer guide and local history buff Ron Clark will highlight key historical landmarks and venues, including brief stops at the Geoffrey Grist Mill, Atwood House and Museum, Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, Marconi Wireless Museum and the Chatham Railroad Museum. Representatives of each venue will board the bus at each stop and give a short presentation about the site's historical significance.

The tours, sponsored by the Chatham Beachcombers Boat Tours and the Cape Cod Five Foundation, leave the Railroad Museum at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Reservations are encouraged and tickets, at $10 per person, can be purchased in advance by credit card by calling the Atwood House and Museum at 508-945-2493, or by dropping off a check at the Stage Harbor Road museum. Those interested can also send an email with name and number of seats desired to atwoodmuseumevents@gmail.com.

For those interested in an historic stroll down Main Street, Chatham Walks will give a free tour at 10 a.m. Saturday starting at the community center. Chronicle editor Tim Wood leads the 60- to 90-minute walk through the village providing background and insights into the history and people of the town's main business district.

The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge will give tours of the Monomoy Point Light and Keeper's House, but they are sold out. The refuge visitors’ center on Morris Island will be open from 9 to 5. There are self-guided walking tours and volunteers and staff are sometimes available to give tours.

Three new exhibits are featured at the Atwood House and Museum, which will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday with half priced admission of $5 for adults and $2.50 for children. Members and children under 7 are free. “Main Streets Cape Cod” takes a look at Main Streets in different Cape villages; “Chatham Digs” explores recent archaeological sites; and “Flight into Chatham” celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first transatlantic flight, which stopped in Chatham in 2019.

On Sunday, the museum will present a lecture on “Chatham's Archaeological Digs” by Craig Chartier, director of the Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery Project. Admission is $10, members are free.

To celebrate History Weekend, the Marconi Marconi Maritime Center is throwing a 100th anniversary party for the Radio Corporation of America, better known as RCA. It was in late 1919 that RCA was founded and assumed ownership of the Chatham Marconi Station, which had been taken over by the government during World War I. Most of Marconi's assets were seized during the war and were given over to the private company afterwards. At 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Ed Moxon, director of the museum, will narrate a slide presentation of the post-World War I events that led to the founding of RCA. The talk expands the museum's current exhibit “Celebrating the Centennial: Radio Corporation of America 1919—The Beginning.”

Admission to the Marconi Museum Friday through Sunday is $5 for adults and seniors. Members are free. History Weekend museum hours are Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

On Saturday at the Nickerson Family Association's Caleb Nickerson Homestead, archaeologist Craig Chartier will be conducting test pits at the 1664 homestead of William and Anne Nickerson. At 2 p.m. he'll speak on “Excavation of the c1664 Nickerson Homestead.” At noon, Mark and Kathleen Francis will speak on colonial beekeeping at noon. The homestead site at 1107 Orleans Rd. will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tours throughout the day. Admission is free.

If the weather cooperates, the Benjamin Godfrey Grist Mill in Chase Park will be grinding corn from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The historic windmill's sails were recently put in place in anticipation of getting it up and running for History Weekend. “Colonel Godfrey” will be distributing corn bread and tours will be available throughout the day.

Chatham Lighthouse will be open for tours on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3:20 p.m., weather permitting. Proper footwear is required. The lighthouse is open for tours through October on Wednesday afternoons.

Also open during History Weekend will be the Eldredge Public Library, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; the Chatham Railroad Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and the Mayo House, where tours detailing life on Main Street in the early 1800s and the Cape's native plans and ecology will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

For more details about History Weekend, visit www.historic-chatham.org.