Historic Attractions

Orleans History

A historic story map created by the Cape Cod Commission and the Orleans Historical Society

Enter story map here

The Orleans Historical Society has a brochure with a Guide to Historic Main Street Walking Tour and a map of Orleans Town Sites of Interest. 


Historic Markers

Historic Orleans Massachusetts Cape Cod

Image provided by The Cape Cod Chronicle.

Placed around town at sites of historic significance are markers. The “anchor” marker is located in front of Snow Library, and in three panels, tells the story of the town’s origins, founding, incorporation, and naming. Markers memoralize the coming of the railroad to Orleans, Rock Harbor Academy, the origins of Snow Library, the Old Methodist Burial Ground, the Old Post Office, and the Old Firehouse. Historic Markers depicting the Lifesaving Heritage of Orleans will be installed soon at Nauset Beach. To find the markers, see this map. To learn more about the historic markers project please visit their website.

Popular Historic Sites

Historic Orleans Massachusetts Cape Cod

Jonathan Young Windmill – Circa 1700

  • The Jonathan Young Windmill is historically unique, with all of its early parts and machinery intact, far more than many others which have been substantially altered through restoration efforts.
  • Authentically restored by volunteers working with the Orleans historical Society over a two year period, the Windmill was built in the early 1700’s in South Orleans. In 1839 it was moved to overlook Town Cove on the present site of The Governor Prence Motor Inn.
  • Water power was first used to turn millstones to grind grain. With the shortage of fast running rivers and streams, Cape Codders turned to the wind for power.
  • Author/naturalist Henry David Thoreau was fascinated by our windmills: “Being on elevated ground, and high in themselves they serve as landmarks – for there are no tall trees.”
  • In 1990 the Orleans Historical Society donated the Windmill to the town as part of the “Town Cove Park”. The Windmill is open to the public, June through September.

Hurd Memorial Chapel

  • The Chapel stood on the highest ground of the Historic Orleans Massachusetts Cape Cod Orleans cemetery, facing eastward toward the Atlantic. The colonial structure was built in accordance with the will of Miss Flora E. Hurd and her sister in memory of their father and mother, David and Rebecca. In 1979 the building was moved to its present site, on Orleans Historical Society property to provide additional exhibition space.

Coast Guard 36500

  • The Coast Guard rescue boat 36500, property of the Orleans Historical Society, may be seen and boarded at Rock harbor from June through September.
  • Famous for its rescue of 32 men from the tanker Pendleton in 1952, the ship was been totally restored by the Orleans Historical Society and has received numerous awards for its excellence and historical significance.

Information provided by the Orleans Historical Society.