About Heritage Museums & Gardens: Creating Cape Cod...What comes to mind when you imagine summer on Cape Cod? Beautiful beaches? Historic villages? Crowds and traffic?
Creating Cape Cod tells the story of the region's development into a place visited by over five million people each year. However, the Cape wasn't always known as a destination to which tourists wanted to go. Between 1860 and 1900, the region experienced a lingering depression as traditional industries faltered and residents moved away. Henry David Thoreau described the Cape as a "Yankee backwater," and most everyone agreed.
What changed? At first, the arrival of the railroad on the Cape provided a way for some visitors to discover the area. Tourist hotels sprang up near railroad lines, and urban families came and spent the entire summer in the healthy seaside air. This fledgling vacation economy provided a partial economic salvation to the Cape.
But what really supercharged the tourism industry was the widespread adoption of the automobile. Once people could explore all the Cape had to offer, there was a new demand for playhouses, lodgings, restaurants, historic homes to visit, golf courses, souvenir shops, and more. Not everyone was welcome though, as some white Protestants discriminated against travelers of other races and religions. As more people became familiar with the region, demand grew for summer homes, and the development of the Cape was seriously underway.
After World War II, development of the Cape increased rapidly, and people grew increasingly concerned that the crush of people coming to enjoy the Cape's special qualities would destroy the features that drew them here in the first place. Today, the expansion of the Cape's tourism industry has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. What has been gained, and lost, in the process? And how can we preserve this special place for future generations to enjoy?