Chatham, Massachusetts

Chatham is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. Chatham is located at the southeast tip of Cape Cod, and has historically been a fishing community. First settled by the English in 1664, the township was originally called Monomoit based on the indigenous population's term for the region.[1] Chatham was incorporated as a town on June 11, 1712, and has become a summer resort area. The population was 6,169 at the 2017 census, and can swell to 25,000 during the summer months.[2] There are four villages that comprise the town, those being Chatham (CDC), South Chatham, North Chatham, and West Chatham. Chatham is home to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, and the decommissioned Monomoy Point Light both located on Monomoy Island. A popular attraction is the Chatham Light, which is an operational lighthouse that is operated by the United States Coast Guard.

Chatham, Massachusetts
Official seal of Chatham, Massachusetts

Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 41°40′55″N 69°57′37″W / 41.68194°N 69.96028°WCoordinates: 41°40′55″N 69°57′37″W / 41.68194°N 69.96028°W
CountryUnited States
 • TypeOpen town meeting
 • Total24.4 sq mi (63.2 km2)
 • Land16.1 sq mi (41.8 km2)
 • Water8.3 sq mi (21.4 km2)
46 ft (14 m)
 • Total6,125
 • Density380/sq mi (146.6/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code(s)508/774
FIPS code25-12995
GNIS feature ID0618250


Native American tribes who lived in the area before European colonization included the Nauset, specifically the Manomoy or Monomoy people. The expansive lands over which they roamed were known to them as Manamoyik or Monomoit. Explorer Samuel de Champlain landed here in October 1606 at a place he christened "Port Fortuné", where he contacted (and skirmished with) the Nauset. Twelve years later another group of Europeans gave it the name "Sutcliffe's Inlets".[1] Neither name stuck, and the location was not permanently occupied by Europeans until English settlers reached Monomoit in 1664.[1] The town was incorporated on June 11, 1712,[1] at which point it was renamed after Chatham, Kent, England. Its territory expanded with the annexation of Strong Island and its vicinity on February 7, 1797.[1]

Located at the "elbow" of Cape Cod, the community became a shipping, fishing, and whaling center. Chatham's early prosperity would leave it with a considerable number of 18th century buildings, whose charm helped it develop into a popular summer resort.

Chatham is home to the Chatham Lighthouse, which was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 to protect the ships circling the Cape. The 1808 towers were replaced in 1841 by twin brick towers that were eventually lost to erosion. The pair were rebuilt in 1877 out of cast iron across the street from its original location, where the light is today. The northern of the two was moved to Eastham to become the Nauset Light in 1923, when the northern tower was declared surplus. Today, the keeper's house is home to a Coast Guard station which patrols the waters of the Atlantic and Nantucket Sound from Wellfleet to West Yarmouth. The first reforesting project in America took place on Great Hill in 1821 when Selectmen had pine trees and beach grass planted to prevent erosion and to keep sand from blowing over the village.[3]

Although urban sprawl has invaded the Cape, the town of Chatham still boasts a quaint and walkable Main Street, home to numerous family-owned and -operated shops, restaurants, and businesses. The main shopping area features pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, on-street parallel parking, and some parking lots that are off Main Street. During the summer, concerts are held in a gazebo on Main Street, and not far from the shops is where the Chatham Anglers baseball team plays, as part of the Cape Cod Baseball League on the peninsula for collegiate-age players.

Chatham, like much of Cape Cod, is suffering from an exodus of young people and young families due to high housing prices and a lack of social and professional opportunities.[4] The majority of homes in Chatham sit empty in the winter months until the summer when second-home owners come to use their summer/vacation homes, or they are used as weekly rentals for tourists.[5][6] As of February 22, 2012, the average listing price for a home in Chatham was $1.3 million.[7]

In summer, Chatham grows to a population of an estimated 30,000. Facilities are overcrowded, and there continues to be limited parking in the Main Street Business District. Beaches are affected by this increase of population. Limited parking exists in established parking areas, and the town's most popular beach, Lighthouse Beach, has only off the street parking, which sometimes involves a long walk to her sandy shores.

Historical sites and museums

  • Atwood House (1752)
  • Caleb Nickerson House (1772)
  • Chatham Railroad Museum (1887)
  • Josiah Mayo House (c. 1820)
  • Marconi Maritime Museum [1914]


Earl in Chatham
Chatham Lighthouse during Hurricane Earl on September 3, 2010
Chatham sunset
Sunset in Chatham

The town occupies the southeast corner (the "elbow") of Cape Cod. The town's villages include Chatham proper, Chatham Port, North Chatham, West Chatham, and South Chatham (west of West Chatham). Chatham is bordered by Harwich to the west, Pleasant Bay and Orleans to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Nantucket Sound to the south. The town is 35 miles (56 km) south of Provincetown and east of the Sagamore Bridge, 20 miles (32 km) east of Barnstable, and 85 miles (137 km) southeast of Boston.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 24.4 square miles (63.2 km2), of which 16.1 square miles (41.8 km2) is land and 8.3 square miles (21.4 km2), or 33.88%, is water.[2]

The mainland portion of the town is typical of Cape Cod, with several ponds, brooks, rivers, harbors, and inlets around the town. The town includes two narrow strips of land which serve as a barrier between the Atlantic and the mainland; the northern of these is the southern part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. There are several islands, including Strong Island, Tern Island (which is a sanctuary), Morris Island, Stage Island, and Monomoy Island, a 7.25-mile-long (11.67 km) island south of the corner of the town which is home to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Erosion has changed the region over the years—for example, an island named Slut's Bush once existed until it vanished under water by the mid 19th century.[8]


Chatham has a warm-summer humid continental climate under the Köppen climate classification (Dfb) bordering an oceanic climate (Cfb), and is located in Hardiness zone 7b.

Climate data for Cape Cod (Chatham, Massachusetts)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 61
Average high °F (°C) 37.6
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.9
Average low °F (°C) 24.1
Record low °F (°C) −6
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.83
Average snowfall inches (cm) 8.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 12 10 12 11 11 9 8 8 9 10 11 13 125
Source #1: Western Regional Climate Center (normals 1981–2010, extremes and snow 1972–present)[9]
Source #2: NOAA[10]


All five roads that exit Chatham cross into Harwich. The two state routes that pass through the town are Route 28 and the southern end of Route 137. Route 28 circles through the center of town before exiting and heading north toward Route 6A, joining that route until the roads end at the Orleans Rotary.

Rail service no longer extends to the town; the former rail bed is a bicycling path, and is called the Old Colony Rail Trail. In addition, another bicycle route passes through the town, starting at the end of the Rail Trail, and providing views of Chatham Fish Pier, Chatham Bars, and Chatham Light.[11]

The town is the home to the Chatham Municipal Airport, which provides local service to other small airports on the Cape and islands. The nearest national and international air service can be reached at Logan International Airport in Boston.


Historical population
Chatham Light MA
Chatham Lighthouse, 2007

As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 6,625 people, 3,160 households, and 1,886 families residing in the town. The population density was 408.4 people per square mile (157.7/km²). There were 6,743 housing units at an average density of 415.7 per square mile (160.5/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 96% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.3% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.

During the summer months (generally Memorial Day through Labor Day), the population of the town triples to approximately 20,000, not counting the additional transient tourist population hosted by the town's many hotels, inns, motels, and bed and breakfasts. Tourism and Hospitality along with Commercial Fishing make up the town's main industry. The town has a thriving commercial fish pier where day-boats unload fresh fish and lobster.

There were 3,160 households out of which 15.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.2% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.3% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.00 and the average family size was 2.52.

In the town, the population was spread out with 13.3% under the age of 18, 4.4% from 18 to 24, 19.8% from 25 to 44, 28.2% from 45 to 64, and 34.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 54 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

The local K-12 school system has approximately 700 students, making for average high school grade sizes between 30 and 40 students.

The median income for a household in the town was $85,519, and the median income for a family was $112,750. Males had a median income of $71,064 versus $40,365 for females. The per capita income for the town was $48,594. About 1.9% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.1% of those under age 18 and 3.7% of those age 65 or over.


Chatham is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of the Fourth Barnstable district, which includes (with the exception of Brewster) all the towns east and north of Harwich on the Cape. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a part of the Cape and Islands District, which includes all of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket except the towns of Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich, and a portion of Barnstable.[13]

The Chatham Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency that services the town. The Police Department is staffed for 24-hour patrol and is a member of the Cape Cod Regional Law Enforcement Council. The Police station was recently constructed in 2012, and is located on George Ryder Road, across the street from the Chatham Municipal Airport. Troopers from the Massachusetts State Police Troop D Yarmouth barracks provide secondary law enforcement services to the town.

The Chatham Fire/Rescue Department is a 24-hour, fully staffed fire department, that provides fire and medical services to the town. The new fire station was constructed in 2016, and is located on Depot Road, across the street from Veteran's Field. Prior to 2012, the fire and police stations were attached and sat on the Depot Road site. The Chatham Fire/Rescue Department also has an unmanned substation on Route 28 in South Chatham; this station houses one engine truck.

On the national level, Chatham is a part of Massachusetts's 9th congressional district and is represented by William R. Keating. The state's senior (Class II) member of the United States Senate, elected in 2012, is Elizabeth Warren. The junior (Class I) senator is Ed Markey.

Chatham is governed by the open town meeting form of government, administered by an elected Board of Selectmen and an appointed Town Manager. The town has four post offices, all located at various points along Route 28. The town is home to the Eldredge Public Library, named for its benefactor and designed by a student of H. H. Richardson. The town operates several piers, beaches, boat landings and recreation areas throughout town. The nearest hospital is Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.


Until 2013, Chatham operated its own school system for the town's 700 students. The Chatham Elementary School served students from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, the Chatham Middle School served students from fifth through eighth grade, and Chatham High School served grades nine through twelve. Chatham's athletics teams were known as the Blue Devils, and wore blue and white. In December 2010, Chatham and the neighboring town of Harwich voted to regionalize their school systems into the Monomoy Regional school system. The Monomoy teams are known as the Sharks and their colors are navy blue and sliver. In March 2013, construction began in Harwich on a new high school to serve the region, expected to open in 2014. High school students may attend Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Harwich free of charge. Other private schools are located in nearby Brewster and Harwich.

Notable people


Atwood House, Chatham, MA

The Atwood House

Chatham Lights, Chatham, MA

Chatham Lights

Lighthouse chatham

Stage Harbor Light

Old Linden Tree - Chatham, MA - April 2012

Old Linden Tree (April 2012)

Seals in Chatham, MA harbor

Seals in Chatham Harbor

Cross Trees, Chatham, MA

Cross Trees

Chatham marsh
Windmill, Chatham, MA


  1. ^ a b c d e Smith, William C. (1909). A history of Chatham, Massachusetts; formerly the Constablewick or Village of Monomoit; with maps and illustrations and numerous genealogical notes. Hyannis, MA: F.B. & F.P. Goss. OL 14012476M. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  2. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Chatham town, Barnstable County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  3. ^ Green, Eugene; Sachse, William; McCaulley, Brian (2006). The Names of Cape Cod. Arcadia Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-933212-84-5.
  4. ^ "WCAI | How We've Grown". Archived from the original on 2016-09-19. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  5. ^ "WCAI | Two Cape Cods: Hidden Poverty on the Cape and Islands". Archived from the original on 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  6. ^ Holson, Laura M. (March 5, 2009). "In Winter, Cape Cod Vacations are Quiet and Peaceful". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Chatham, MA real estate overview". Retrieved 2013-01-04.
  8. ^ The New England historical and genealogical register, Volume 18.
  9. ^ "General Climate Summary Tables". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  10. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
  11. ^ "Chatham Bike Routes". Cape Cod Bike Book. Archived from the original on 2016-08-25. Retrieved 2015-07-26.
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  13. ^ Index of Legislative Representation by City and Town, from
  14. ^ Beth Healy; Casey Ross (April 12, 2010). "Irish bank's ex-CEO sits out crisis on Cape". The Boston Globe. Boston. 277 (102).
  15. ^ "Jack Forrester (1894-1964)".
  16. ^ "New Mexico's Richardson buys Cape home".

External links

Chatham (CDP), Massachusetts

Chatham is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Chatham in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,421 at the 2010 census, out of 6,125 in the entire town of Chatham.

Chatham High School (Massachusetts)

Chatham High School was a public high school located in Chatham, Massachusetts. Chatham served roughly 250 students in grades 9-12. Chatham's mascot was the Blue Devils and the school's colors were Royal Blue and White. In September 2014, Chatham merged with Harwich High School of Harwich, Massachusetts to become the new Monomoy Regional High School.

Chatham Light

Chatham Lighthouse, known as Twin Lights prior to 1923, is a lighthouse in Chatham, Massachusetts, near the "elbow" of Cape Cod. The original station, close to the shore, was built in 1808 with two wooden towers that were replaced in 1841 in spite of questions as to why a single tower would not be adequate. In 1877, two new towers, made of cast iron rings, replaced those. One of the towers was moved to the Eastham area and became Nauset Light in 1923.

Chatham Municipal Airport

Chatham Municipal Airport (ICAO: KCQX, FAA LID: CQX) is a public airport located two miles (3 km) northwest of the central business district of Chatham, a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. The airport is owned by the Town of Chatham. It has a full-service FBO (Cape Cod Flying Circus) and maintenance facility in their main building (Stick N Rudder Aero Maintenance). The flight school and sightseeing is operated by Cape Aerial Tours. There is also a restaurant Hangar B, a small eatery upstairs, serving breakfast and lunch.

Chatham Windmill

The Chatham Windmill is a historic windmill at Chase Park in Chatham, Massachusetts. Built in 1797, it is one of the state's few surviving wooden windmills, and also one of the few still in working condition. The windmill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Coast Guard Station Chatham

United States Coast Guard Station Chatham is a United States Coast Guard station located in Chatham, Massachusetts. The station was the origin of the famous 1952 Pendleton rescue.

Julie Harris (actress)

Julia Ann Harris (December 2, 1925 – August 24, 2013), was an American actress renowned for classical and contemporary stage work that brought her five "best actress in a play" Tony Awards.

Debuting on Broadway in 1945, much against the wishes of her mother who wanted her to 'come out' as a society debutante, she was acclaimed for a complex performance as an isolated 12-year-old girl in the 1950 play The Member of the Wedding and the following year her range was demonstrated as Sally Bowles in the original production of I Am a Camera, for which she won her first Tony award. She appeared in a film version in 1955 and the director Elia Kazan cast her opposite James Dean in East of Eden. After a lull in the quality of motion pictures she had parts in, the '60s saw Harris give acclaimed performances in classic films, including The Haunting, and what is sometimes considered the screen role that allowed her to best display her talents Reflections in a Golden Eye, in which she played opposite Marlon Brando. Known for her attention to preparation and research, Harris's superb intonation and phrasing gave her a pleasing silvery voice. A rare method acting star actress, she won Tony awards for The Lark (1956), Forty Carats (1969), The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1973), and The Belle of Amherst (1977). She also won three Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for the 1952 film The Member of the Wedding.

She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1979, received the National Medal of Arts in 1994, and the 2002 Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award.

Milt Graham

Milton Russell Graham (born July 28, 1934) was an American and Canadian football player who played for the Ottawa Rough Riders. He won the Grey Cup with Ottawa in 1960. Graham played college football at Colgate University and was drafted in the 1956 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears (Round 14, #167). He also played basketball at Colgate, after which he was also drafted in the 13th round of the 1956 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers), but focused on football instead. He later played in American Football League for the Boston Patriots.

Mitchell River (Massachusetts)

The Mitchell River is a 1.5-mile-long (2.4 km) river in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. It is an estuary connecting Mill Pond to Stage Harbor.

Monomoy Island

Monomoy Island is an 8-mile-long (13-kilometre) spit of sand extending southwest from Chatham, Cape Cod off the Massachusetts mainland.

Monomoy Island Gunnery Range

The Monomoy Island Gunnery Range was a former Air Force gunnery range for aviators, located on Monomoy Island, in Chatham, Massachusetts and in use c. 1942-1950. The site was principally used for machine gun target practice, and bullets and fragments can still be found on the refuge. After 1950, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide habitat for migrating birds.

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge is a federal wildlife refuge located on Monomoy Island in Massachusetts.

It was taken over by the US government just before World War II. The island was home to the Monomoy Island Gunnery Range until 1951 when the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge was established. Its goal was to provide habitat for migratory birds. The size of the refuge is 7,604 acres (31 km²) with varied habitats of oceans, salt and freshwater marshes, dunes, freshwater ponds, and some historic manmade structures, such as the Monomoy Point Light and keeper's quarters (decommissioned but open to the public).

Monomoy Point Light

Monomoy Point Light is a historic light in Chatham, Massachusetts.

The station was established in 1823. The first light was a wood tower and brick lantern room on top of the keeper's house. The current tower, one of the first made of cast iron, was built in 1849.

After the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914, most vessels bound from south of the Cape to the Boston area took the shorter and safer route through the canal, so there was much less traffic past the light and the light was deactivated in 1923.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Monomoy Point Lighthouse on November 1, 1979, reference number 79000324.The keeper's house is preserved and serves today as a guest house. The Lighthouse Preservation Society, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and The Friends of Monomoy support preservation of the lighthouse and keeper's house. It lies within the Monomoy Wilderness.

Monomoy Regional High School

Monomoy Regional High School is a regional secondary school located in Harwich, Massachusetts, within Barnstable County. Monomoy Regional High School serves approximately 625 students in grades 8-12 from the towns of Chatham and Harwich.

Construction of the high school was completed in early 2014 and officially opened in September 2014. The school's mascot is the Sharks and the school colors are Navy Blue & Silver.

Naval Air Station Chatham

Naval Air Station Chatham, was an operational United States Navy airfield from 1917 to 1922. It was first established as a blimp base during World War I. It was located in Chatham, Massachusetts.

The base was one of the first operational naval air stations in the country. It helped to patrol the northeast United States coast and even participated in a skirmish off of Orleans. In 1922, the station was closed and the history of the base has largely been forgotten except for a lone marker near where the site used to be.

Oyster Pond River

Oyster Pond River, also called Oyster Creek, is a 1.7-mile-long (2.7 km) river in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.

The river is an estuary connecting Oyster Pond with Stage Harbor, averaging 3 to 5 feet (1 to 2 m) in depth and bordered with salt marshes. Both river and pond provide excellent anchorage. According to an assessment for the Massachusetts Estuaries Project, its total surface area is 88.1 acres (357,000 m2).

Todd Eldredge

Todd James Eldredge (born August 28, 1971) is an American former competitive figure skater. He is the 1996 World champion, a six-time U.S. national champion (1990, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002), a three-time Olympian (1992, 1998, 2002), and a six-time World medalist.


WFCC-FM (107.5 MHz/Channel 298) is a 50,000-watt effective radiated power radio station licensed to Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, with studios and offices in Hyannis and transmitter facilities in Brewster. It broadcasts on 107.5 MHz with a classical format. Current hosts on WFCC-FM include Mark Calder, Dave Read, Don Spencer, and Larry King.

West Chatham, Massachusetts

West Chatham is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Chatham in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,410 at the 2010 census.

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