Chatham is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States, Barnstable County being coextensive with Cape Cod. First settled by the English in 1664, the township was originally called Monomoit based on the indigenous population's term for the region. The population was 6,125 at the 2010 census. Chatham is home to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, located on Monomoy Island, and to Monomoy Theatre.
Native American tribes who lived in the area before European colonization included the Nauset, specifically the Manomoy or Monomoy people. The expansive lands over which they roamed were known to them as Manamoyik or Monomoit. Explorer Samuel de Champlain landed here in October of 1606 at a place he christened "Port Fortuné", where he contacted (and skirmished with) the Nauset. Twelve years later another group of Europeans gave it the name "Sutcliffe's Inlets". Neither name stuck, and the location was not permanently occupied by Europeans until English settlers reached Monomoit in 1664. The town was incorporated on 11 June 1712, at which point it was renamed after Chatham, Kent, England. Its territory expanded with the annexation of Strong Island and its vicinity on 7 February 1797.
Located at the "elbow" of Cape Cod, the community became a shipping, fishing, and whaling center. Chatham's early prosperity would leave it with a considerable number of 18th century buildings, whose charm helped it develop into a popular summer resort.
Chatham is home to the Chatham Lighthouse, which was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 to protect the ships circling the Cape. Originally consisting of two lights, the pair were moved back and rebuilt in 1877. The second was moved to Eastham to become the Nauset Light in 1923, after both were upgraded to rotating lights. Today, the keeper's house is home to a Coast Guard station which tends the light.
Although urban sprawl has invaded the Cape, the town of Chatham still boasts a quaint and walkable Main Street, home to numerous family-owned and -operated shops, restaurants, and businesses. The main shopping area features pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, on-street parallel parking, and some parking lots that are off Main Street. During the summer, concerts are held in a gazebo on Main Street, and not far from the shops is where the Chatham Anglers baseball team plays, as part of the Cape Cod Baseball League on the peninsula for collegiate-age players.
Chatham, like much of Cape Cod, is suffering from an exodus of young people and young families due to high housing prices and a lack of social and professional opportunities. The majority of homes in Chatham sit empty in the winter months until the summer when second-home owners come to use their summer/vacation homes, or they are used as weekly rentals for tourists. As of February 22, 2012, the average listing price for a home in Chatham was $1.3 million.
In summer, Chatham grows to a population of an estimated 30,000. Facilities are overcrowded, and there continues to be limited parking in the Main Street Business District. Beaches are affected by this increase of population. Limited parking exists in established parking areas, and the town's most popular beach, Lighthouse Beach, has only off the street parking, which sometimes involves a long walk to her sandy shores.
Historical sites and museums