Dennis History

In 1978 Dennis was designated the All-American Town. Three hundred and thirty-nine years earlier, Yarmouth could have claimed title to that honored designation because in 1639 Dennis was part of Yarmouth.

How did Dennis become Dennis? As happened in many early Cape towns, as the early settlers spread out farther away from their parish church, going a long distance to church became a chore. These settlers in outlying areas would start a new parish, closer to their homes. As the new parishes grew they would incorporate as new towns. And this is what happened in Dennis. In 1721 a new East Parish was established and in 1725 the Reverend Josiah Dennis began a pastorate that lasted 38 years. In 1793 the five villages of the East Parish of Yarmouth were finally incorporated and named Dennis. The Josiah Dennis Manse is one of the historical gems of Dennis and is open to the public.

Dennis was a town of seafarers. It was also the town with the first salt works, the inspiration of Captain John Sears in 1776. Captain Sears devised a way to evaporate salt water. This began the most important land-based industry on Cape Cod. Salt was used for preserving fish, and was also used in tanneries.

For the visitor, Dennis is still a wonderful place for those who enjoy water - salt and/or fresh. For swimming, Dennis has sixteen beaches on the ocean and two on fresh water lakes. For fishing, the Bluefish tempt surfcasters and Small Mouth Bass tempt flycasters at Scargo Lake. For boating, there is Sesuit Harbor opening onto Cape Cod Bay in East Dennis, now home for sport fishing and recreational boats but once the home of Shiverick Shipyards which built many of the schooners and clippers that plied the seven seas during the heyday of sail in the mid-1800s. The Bass River serves boaters headed for the pleasures of Nantucket Sound.

For those who prefer other forms of recreation, golf is available at Dennis' two municipal golf courses, Dennis Highlands and Dennis Pines; tennis is available at Mashantum and Sesuit and ice skating is available at the Tony Kent Arena where some of the world's top skaters, such as Paul Wylie and Nancy Kerrigan, practice their routines and occasionally hold exhibitions.

Dennis has a wealth of history, much of which can be experienced at the Josiah Dennis Manse and Jericho House & Barn Museum. Another fine museum is the Cape Museum of Fine Arts on the grounds of the Cape Playhouse.

For those who enjoy the theater, the Cape Playhouse, on Route 6A, is a true gem. It began life in 1838 as a Unitarian Church. In 1874 it was sold and moved. It became a livery stable, then a tin shop and then it was moved again to become a barn and slaughter house. Then, in 1926, Raymond Moore, a 28-year-old member of a theater group in Provincetown, had a dream. Although Provincetown was then the center of theatrical life on Cape Cod it was a long way from the center of life on Cape Cod. So Raymond Moore bought the old building, moved it once more to an open field off Route 6A and hired Cleon Throckmorton, a well-known New York architect and scenic designer, to turn it into a theater. In 1927 Basil Rathbone and Violet Kemble Cooper opened the new theater with The Guardsman and the Cape Playhouse has been entertaining happy audiences ever since. Now in its 71st year, the Playhouse has featured established stars and has also been the springboard for youngsters, such as Bette Davis, who went on to greater fame. Shortly after the Playhouse opened, another gem was built on the Playhouse grounds, the Cape Cinema. The Cape Cinema, with its beautiful ceiling mural by Rockwell Kent and Jo Milzner, comfortable seats and eclectic programming, attracts movie buffs from all over the Cape.

Dennis Cape Cod Contact Information

279 Orleans Road
North Chatham, MA 02650

Phone: (508) 945-6443
Fax: (508) 945-7837

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