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Upcoming Events

Talk - Tue, Jul 22, 7:30 pm

Dick Ryder - Life-Saving Stations

Historical Stations of the outer Cape.
Descending from a local seafaring family, Ryder shares his passion and knowledge of the coastal Life-saving Stations which became the precursors of the modern day Coast Guard.


Bonnie Snow - Main St. Walk

Friday, July 25, 10 am

Hear stories and historical anecdotes about a few Orleans' early citizens on these easy walks.
Adults $10 ~ Children12 and under free.
Meet at the Meeting House Museum,
Main St & River Rd.


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Museum OPEN hours:
July & August
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 - 1:00


Regular office hours are:
Monday through Friday, 9 am - 12 pm, or by appointment.

Please call ahead for archival research appointments.


Meeting House Museum


Orleans Historical Society

Orleans Historical Society

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.


2014 Summer Exhibits

The Orleans Life-Saving Station

LSS crew

Join us this summer as we pay tribute to the lifesaving tradition of our community. 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 Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts became the first organization to address the plight of shipwreck survivors soon after it was founded in 1786. By erecting shelters along the coast and stocking them with survival supplies, hope was provided to those who made it to shore after disasters in our dangerous waters. One of the first huts provided by the Society was in Orleans. Some of these huts, including the one in Orleans, became early lifesaving stations, provided with a boat and staffed by volunteers.


War of 1812 in Orleans - The Battle of Rock Harbor

War of 1812

The short battle between British marines and Orleans militia on 19 December 1814, has been called "The Battle of Orleans". The British intended to burn boats, destroy salt works, and bomb the town. One barge, under Lieutenant Frederick Marryat with 22 men and marines, led the way to the mouth of Rock Harbor Creek... Lt. Marryat’s plans of revenge were interrupted before causing too much damage by a large group of armed militia who lay down heavy fire.
History should remember that Orleans, along with Barnstable and Falmouth, were the only Cape Cod towns to resist the antiwar stand of Governor Caleb Strong.

Battle of Rock Harbor


Learn more >>


Watch our 5 minute video about the Battle of Rock Harbor >>



Wood Carvers of Orleans

As a result of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act which banned the hunting of migratory waterfowl, bird carving evolved from a hunting decoy to a much loved art form. Bird carvers who had up to that time made a living from the production and sale of hunting decoys changed their focus to include a wider range of species. Carvings have become a decorative art and the intricate details that artists put into their pieces give you a sense that the birds are very real. Today, collectors focus on the preservation and recognition of bird carving as an art form.
Birds and other carved pieces by local carvers; Maurence "Square" Gould, Ken Young, Dan Gould and others will be a featured exhibit this summer.



Sam's scrapbook

Sam's Scrapbook

is an exciting web collection of vintage images of Orleans; teams, class pics and more!
View Sam's Scrapbook > >



Naustical manuscript

Community Preservation Act

The Society is currently working on several preservation projects made possible through grants provided by the Community Preservation Act.
To learn more about these projects click here >>



Historic House Plaque Project

plaque plaque

Beautiful historic markers for qualifying houses.
Members $95 ~ Non-members $120
Find out if your house is eligible for a marker!
For details and an application download PDF here
or call 508-240-1329


French Cable Station Museum

located in Orleans, contains an historic collection of Atlantic undersea telegraphic cables, instruments, maps, and assorted memorabilia.
Come and see history. Learn more > >


Cape and Islands Historical Association

Museums, Historical Societies and Libraries of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Learn more > >



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