Orleans, MA 02653
Did you know?
The Battle of Orleans during the War of 1812 saw a British ship of war repelled at Rock Harbor by a fast-organized local militia.
The museum is located in a Greek Revival structure that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Formerly used as the Meeting House for the Universalist Church of Orleans, this building houses the Society's Museum and is used for special exhibits and cultural programs.
The Society has a collection 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 these exhibits is of the lifesaving tradition on the 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.
The boat is docked at Rock Harbor, Orleans, during the summer months for public viewing. The Motor Lifeboat CG36500 is nothing short of a floating museum. Built in 1946, she performed admirably during her years of service at the Chatham, Massachusetts Lifeboat Station. On an incredible night on the high seas off Chatham back in 1952, the Coast Guard craft rescued the Pendleton and most of its crew. The story is now a major motion picture and book, The Finest Hours. Click here to learn and see more.
Admission is free; donations appreciated.
Beyond its Thursday-Saturday hours, you can visit by appointment