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
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
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.