A new book celebrates 139 Cape Cod natives and washashores—including many Chatham residents—from artists and educators to writers and business owners.
The world champion dancer, also known as Adam in Chatham, teaches ballroom dancing at Studio 878 on Main Street, where his popular classes include people of all ages. He also offers a program for young people regardless of their ability to pay the tuition.
One of the only constants in my life has been dance. Dance rescued me from a world of academia and catapulted me into a vortex of jumps, leaps and turns. My life had meaning, and I began my journey to understand this art form and experience as much as I possibly could. Dance led me to the four corners of the world, introduced me to new cultures and people, and taught me the importance of discipline, hard work, integrity and happiness.
Through the serendipitous nature of dance, I ended up in a little town named Chatham on Cape Cod. Here is where I realized what dance has truly given me. I began to understand that my life’s work and talent was not merely to perform for others on a stage, but to share the joys of dance with others by teaching and instilling an infectious passion. It made me realize that I love people—dance is merely the vehicle I use to connect.
Dance is beginning to insert itself into Chatham culture. The collaboration between myself and Studio 878 has meant that we are able to provide disadvantaged youths with dance education and the necessary materials, attire and opportunity. Every facet of town is slowly getting exposed to the benefits and joys that dance can offer, and the scenic backdrop of Chatham, along with the colorful fabric of the community, has made the whole process enjoyable and rewarding. Thank you, Cape Cod.
Wood is the editor of The Cape Cod Chronicle in Chatham as well as a reporter. His book, “Breakthrough: The Story of Chatham’s North Beach,” relates the story of the break in the Outer Bar and the massive erosion that followed. Wood also conducts Main Street walks, which combine local history and architecture.
Of course I love the sand, the sea and all the things that go with it. I’ve run the same route five days a week for more than 20 years because it takes me along the Chatham shore, which serves as a reminder of why I came here in the first place. The older I get, however, the more I have come to appreciate Chatham’s built environment. Along almost any street, you’re likely to find a 200-year-old rustic Cape building nestled in a grove, the remnant of a long-gone homestead of one of the town’s early settlers, or a stately Greek Revival left for our enjoyment by a Chatham sea captain. Downtown is an eclectic mix of the old and the new, ever changing and adapting while retaining the heritage and comfort of the familiar.
Sadly, many of our old buildings, especially houses, are being lost and overtaken by bloated monstrosities that pay obeisance to the egos of newcomers and their architects rather than the tradition of history and environments in which they are situated. For the first time, we are in danger of losing our heritage. For the sake of future generations, we need to make sure there’s a Cape Cod that looks like our Cape Cod left. For the time being, I will enjoy the history and heritage to be glimpsed around every corner and pass that appreciation to my children.
I moved to Cape Cod when I was 23. I packed my car with everything I owned, finished my last graduate school exam and drove straight from the university to Chatham without stopping. I never left, which is a surprise to me. I somehow imagined city life would call to me at some point, or perhaps a change in climate or culture would woo me away. At 23, living in a place where local businesses closed at 5 p.m. and the radio stations signed off at midnight seemed much like moving to the moon: fascinating, to be sure, but very remote.
People who love Cape Cod know why I stayed. Learning the character of the local community feels like admittance to an exclusive event. It is hard earned and brings a sense of local pride that isn’t without amusement at times. The cranky retiree who always complained about my dog walks was really just looking for a way to start a conversation that only ended when he passed away. The taciturn fisherman who never smiled stopped his truck one day to bounce his mooring buoy, amusing my young daughter and showing me a truer side. The people of Chatham invited me to be a character in our story, too, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to play my role in this vibrant community.
Then there is the raw beauty of it all. When you are young, entertainment consists of whatever you can afford, which often isn’t much. Fortunately, the greatest resources we have are available for no admission, and I drank in all that Cape Cod has to offer. What I know now is that no admission doesn’t mean no cost. I hope everyone who lands here works to preserve and protect this unique place so others will be able to enjoy it as I have.
A Chatham summer kid since 1955, I sobbed when late August brought shorter days and cooler nights, the harbingers of autumn. Then, the dreaded and inevitable Labor Day meant saying goodbye to cherished summer friends as we headed off-Cape for the long and dismal drive home; me in the rear-facing seat of our yellow DeSoto station wagon, longingly looking back down Main Street, asking, “Mommy, please can’t we stay? Can’t we live here all year?”
Today, just over 60 years later, I am every bit as passionate about Chatham and have deep and profound connections to this extraordinary community. I consider myself “a Main Street girl.” My business, the Chatham Candy Manor, founded in 1955, is on Main Street, downtown. My Main Street home is a circa-1890 summer cottage overlooking Lighthouse Beach in the Old Village, lovingly restored by my husband, David Veach. Studio 878, my creative space, dance studio, home of the Tides Dance Company and Adam in Chatham Ballroom Dance, and nonprofit trust that provides support for talented young dancers, is on Main Street.
Beginning in 2011, I embarked upon manifestation of a long-held vision for return of the historic Chatham Theater to Main Street. With the support of over 3,000 donors, all regulatory boards and Chatham town officials, and an amazing board of trustees, the Chatham Orpheum Theater (originated in 1916) was restored and opened to resounding applause in July 2013. In 2015, I was privileged to lead the iconic Chatham Fourth of July parade down Main Street as grand marshal. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I couldn’t have been more honored.
If you’re in Chatham and wonder where I am, look for me on Main Street. I’d love to see you.
Twenty-six years ago, Williams founded Chatham’s First Night celebration, a popular alcohol-free townwide festival of the visual and performing arts that uses halls, churches and schools as performance venues. First Night continues to grow every year.
For nearly 40 years, I have called Chatham home. Chatham is an exceptional community, blending fishermen with professors and bartenders with CEOs. We encourage our children to be good students, good citizens and protectors of our fragile environment. It would be impossible to live here without recognizing the beauty of this place.
My joy has been to live and work here, to raise a family and feast in the friendships that have come my way over the years, and to hear the ocean from my back deck and sneak in an hour with a good book at Oyster Pond Beach in the evening. Kayaking in the beautiful waters of Chatham is one of my favorite things, along with walking the beaches and woods, and strolling through downtown. I’m a champion window shopper and enjoy chatting with familiar shop owners.
This is a town of hardworking individualists, but it is also teeming with creative, talented people: musicians, writers, photographers, sculptors, jewelry makers, potters, poets, painters. One outlet for all this creativity has been First Night Chatham, which I helped organize. First Night is an idea borrowed from Boston to mark New Year’s Eve with a celebration of the arts. Chatham is the perfect small town to do just that, and we have fashioned an art-based delight for people of all ages and interests.
When my husband died in 1999, a cousin asked me, “Do you think you’ll move back home to Virginia?” I was very much surprised by the question. How could I be anywhere but Chatham? My answer was simply, “No, I think I am home.”
Chatham native and owner of the Chatham Dog Club, which provides daycare services as well as training, grooming and agility classes for canines in the Lower Cape area. Their “puppy socials” are especially popular. She also breeds Vizslas and is president of the Vizsla Club of New England.
My parents wouldn’t let me have a dog. As far back as my memory goes, all I wanted was a dog. I wondered, as a young girl, why they were against my one desire? I didn’t ask for much growing up. What was their reason? Maybe because we rented our house; maybe that was it—the landlord. Or maybe because I was the youngest of 11 children and they didn’t want another mouth to feed. I just didn’t get it!
As it turned out, my mother was afraid of dogs. But I was not to be deterred! Early in the morning, I would wander the streets of Chatham, rope in hand, seeking out stray dogs, and bring them home and train them to do tricks. My father, with his infinite patience, would come home from his long day at work, bring me and my new dog friends back to where I collected them, and seek out the owners. That is how it all started.
Excerpts and photos reprinted with permission from the book: “I Am of Cape Cod: People and Their Stories,” by John Whelan and photographs by Kim Roderiques, Hummingbird
Books, 312 pages, $29.95.