Falmouth is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States; Barnstable County is coextensive with Cape Cod. The population was 31,532 at the 2010 census, making Falmouth the second-largest municipality on Cape Cod (behind only Barnstable). The terminal for the Steamship Authority ferries to Martha's Vineyard is located in the village of Woods Hole in Falmouth. Woods Hole also contains several scientific organizations such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Research Center, National Marine Fisheries Aquarium, and the scientific institutions' various museums.
For geographic and demographic information on specific parts of the town of Falmouth, please see the articles on East Falmouth, Falmouth Village, North Falmouth, Teaticket, West Falmouth, and Woods Hole. Falmouth also encompasses the villages of Hatchville and Waquoit, which are not census-designated places and fall within the village of East Falmouth based on postal service.
Falmouth was first settled by English colonists in 1660 and was officially incorporated in 1686. Bartholomew Gosnold named the settlement for Falmouth, Cornwall, England, his home port. Early principal activities were farming, salt works, shipping, whaling, and sheep husbandry, which was very popular due to the introduction of Merino sheep and the beginnings of water-powered mills that could process the wool. In 1837, Falmouth averaged about 50 sheep per square mile.
Falmouth saw brief action in the War of 1812, when the area around Falmouth Heights, on its southern coast, was bombarded by several British frigates and ships of the line, and Massachusetts militia hastily entrenched themselves on the beaches to repulse a possible British landing which never came. By 1872, the train had come to Falmouth and Woods Hole, and some of the first summer homes were established. By the late 19th century, cranberries were being cultivated and strawberries were being raised for the Boston market. Large-scale dairying was tried in the early 20th century in interior regions. After the improvement in highways, and thanks in part to the heavy use of neighboring Otis Air National Guard Base during World War II, population growth increased significantly. Large home-building booms occurred in the 1970s, followed by others in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the late 1800s, after railroad service was established between Boston and Cape Cod, James Madison Beebe bought over and built Highfield Hall, which is now a museum, and much of the land is preserved as Beebe Woods.
In 1965, Robert Manry sailed from Falmouth aboard his sailboat and reached Falmouth, England, 78 days later.
The town of Falmouth has seven historic districts, including four on the National Register of Historic Places:
The other three historic districts are in Woods Hole, Davisville, and Quissett.
In addition to the historic districts, Falmouth has ten individual sites on the National Register: