Did you know?
Orleans is the only place in the United States to have been attacked twice by foreign powers in different wars. During the War of 1812 the local militia repelled a British force at Rock Harbor and, in WWI, a German submarine attacked a tugboat and barges off Nauset Beach and fired upon the local U.S. Lifesaving Service facility there. More information about these events is included in revolving exhibits and on the CHO website.
Founded in 1958 as the Orleans Historical Society, the CHO’s 1834 Meetinghouse (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) houses the Museum and is used for exhibits and cultural programs. This building, along with the adjacent 1939 Hurd Chapel, has been recently updated and is available for civic and private functions.
The CHO has a collection of more than 6,000 items covering genealogical information, diaries, deeds, 19th and 20th century photos, artwork by local artists, special collections focusing on Orleans families and individuals, ships' logs, Native American artifacts, and other items relating to the history of Orleans and its citizens.
One of its exhibits is of the lifesaving tradition on the Outer Cape. This legacy dates back almost 170 years before Orleans was incorporated as a separate municipality. During the winter of 1626-1627, the Sparrowhawk was wrecked off the shores of what became Orleans, and the first documented rescue mission was headed by none other than Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony.
On February 18, 1952, during a raging nor’easter snowstorm, four Coast Guardsmen set out at night on this 36-foot boat to rescue crewmen on the tanker Pendleton that had broken apart. Despite all odds, the men managed to cross a notoriously dangerous shoal, find the Pendleton without a compass, and return with 32 survivors. For their bravery, the CG36500’s crew each received the Gold Life-Saving Medal in what is still called “the greatest small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history.” The story is retold in the best-selling book, The Finest Hours, and in a major motion picture by the same name.
The boat is docked at Rock Harbor, Orleans, during the summer months for public viewing, with guided tours on weekends.
Museum Winter Hours:
Sunday: 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM
CG36500 Summer Hours:
Saturday: 01:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Sunday: 01:00 PM – 3:00 PM