Falmouth, Massachusetts

Town in Massachusetts, United States
Flag of Falmouth, Massachusetts
Official seal of Falmouth, Massachusetts
Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Barnstable County and the state of Massachusetts.
Coordinates: 41°33′05″N 70°36′55″W / 41.55139°N 70.61528°W / 41.55139; -70.61528CountryUnited StatesStateMassachusettsCountyBarnstableSettled1660Incorporated1686Government
 • TypeRepresentative town meeting • Acting Town
   ManagerPeter Johnson-Staub[1]Area
 • Total54.4 sq mi (141.0 km2) • Land44.1 sq mi (114.1 km2) • Water10.3 sq mi (26.8 km2)Elevation
10 ft (3 m)Population
 • Total32,517 • Density738/sq mi (285.0/km2)Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern) • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)ZIP code
Area code508 / 774FIPS code25-23105GNIS feature ID0618253Websitewww.falmouthma.gov

Falmouth (/ˈfælməθ/ FAL-məth) is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 32,517 at the 2020 census,[2] making Falmouth the second-largest municipality on Cape Cod after 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 (WHOI), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woodwell Climate Research Center, NOAA's Woods Hole Science 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,[3] 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 due in part to the heavy use of neighboring Camp Edwards (now part of Joint Base Cape Cod) during World War II, population growth increased significantly. Large homebuilding 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 700 acres (280 ha) 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 13.5-foot (4.1 m) sailboat and reached Falmouth, Great Britain, 78 days later.

Historic districts

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:

Offshore Falmouth in Buzzards Bay, Cleveland East Ledge Light is listed with the National Register.


Juniper Point, the eastern point of Woods Hole in Falmouth

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 54.4 square miles (141.0 km2), of which 44.1 square miles (114.1 km2) is land and 10.3 square miles (26.8 km2), or 19.04%, is water.[6] Most of Falmouth, like the rest of Cape Cod, sits on glacial sands composed of glacial outwash deposits. However, the soil in the southwestern part of the town, consisting of moraine deposits, is more rocky and dense, like the rest of New England, and many glacial erratics are scattered about, having been dropped by the retreating glaciers. The climate is temperate marine. There is no exposed bedrock. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year and averages 2 to 3 in (51 to 76 mm) per month.

Falmouth lies on the southwestern tip of Cape Cod. It is bordered by Bourne and Sandwich to the north, Mashpee to the east, Vineyard Sound to the south, and Buzzards Bay to the west. At its closest point, Falmouth is approximately 560 yards (510 m) from Nonamesset Island, the easternmost island of the town of Gosnold and the Elizabeth Islands. It is approximately 3+13 miles (5.4 km) north-northwest of Martha's Vineyard, the closest land to the island. Falmouth is approximately 14 miles (23 km) south of the Bourne Bridge, 22 miles (35 km) west of Barnstable, and 77 miles (124 km) south-southeast of Boston.

Falmouth's topography is similar to the rest of Cape Cod's, with many small ponds, creeks, and inlets surrounded by the pines and oaks of the Cape and often rocky beachfront. Falmouth's southern shore is notable for a series of ponds and rivers spaced very closely together, all of which travel some distance into the town. These include, from west to east, Falmouth Inner Harbor, Little Pond, Great Pond (which leads to the Dexter and Coonamesset rivers), Green Pond, Bourne's Pond, Eel Pond (which leads to the Childs River), and Waquoit Bay, which lies along the Mashpee town line. The Buzzards Bay side of the town is primarily bays divided by necks, peninsulas connected to land by isthmi. The largest inlet is Megansett Cove along the Bourne town line. The Buzzards Bay shore of Falmouth is punctuated by a number of hamlets, including, from north to south, Megansett, New Silver Beach, Old Silver, Chappaquoit, Sippewisset, Quissett, and Woods Hole.


According to the Köppen climate classification system, Falmouth, Massachusetts has a warm-summer, wet year round, humid continental climate (Dfb). Dfb climates are characterized by at least one month having an average mean temperature ≤ 32.0 °F (≤ 0.0 °C), at least four months with an average mean temperature ≥ 50.0 °F (≥ 10.0 °C), all months with an average mean temperature ≤ 71.6 °F (≤ 22.0 °C), and no significant precipitation difference between seasons. The average seasonal (Nov–Apr) snowfall total is approximately 30 inches (76 cm). The average snowiest month is February, which corresponds with the annual peak in nor'easter activity. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the plant hardiness zone is 7a, with an average annual extreme minimum air temperature of 1.3 °F (−17.1 °C).[7]

Climate data for Falmouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts (1981–2010 averages)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 38.1
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.5
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 21.0
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.11
Average relative humidity (%) 68.6 67.9 66.4 66.9 70.3 73.7 75.6 75.6 75.2 71.8 69.8 69.5 71.0
Average dew point °F (°C) 21.4
Source: PRISM Climate Group[8]


According to the A. W. Kuchler U.S. Potential natural vegetation Types, Falmouoth, Massachusetts would primarily contain a Northeastern Oak/Pine (110) vegetation type with a Southern Mixed Forest (26) vegetation form.[9]


Steamship Authority in Woods Hole

Falmouth's main road is Massachusetts Route 28, which runs south from Bourne as a divided highway, then becomes a surface road and heads east through downtown as Main Street, then turns northeast through East Falmouth before crossing into Mashpee. As one of two major east–west routes on the Cape, Route 28 is regularly congested, and there is minimal room for widening opportunities. Route 151 runs east–west through the northern section of the town, connecting North Falmouth and Hatchville with Mashpee.[citation needed]

Falmouth is home to The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority. Daily ferry service brings tourists, residents and supplies from Woods Hole to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. It is the main ferry line between the Vineyard and the mainland (as Nantucket is further east, its main line leaves Hyannis). A seasonal ferry, the Island Queen, runs from Falmouth Harbor to Martha's Vineyard.[10]

The Massachusetts Coastal Railroad provides rail freight service to North Falmouth, where a spur runs into Otis Air Base to serve a trash transfer station. Also, as of a June 25, 2009, capecodonline.com article, the company plans to re-extend passenger railroad service to the town, complete with dinner and tourist trains, though this will also be only to North Falmouth, due to the fact that the other 8 miles (13 km) of railroad track had been replaced with the current Shining Sea Bikeway. On November 21, 2009, North Falmouth saw its first passenger train in at least 12 years. The nearest inter-city (Amtrak) passenger rail stations are Providence and Boston's South Station. The Middleborough/Lakeville and Kingston/Route 3 stations of the MBTA's commuter rail system provide the closest service to Boston.[citation needed]

There is a private air park in East Falmouth,[11] and the nearest national and international air service is at Logan International Airport in Boston and T. F. Green Airport near Providence, both being about equidistant from Falmouth. There is a regional airport in nearby Hyannis.[12]

Falmouth is also served by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority bus routes.[13]


Historical population
* = population estimate.
Source: United States census records and Population Estimates Program data.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

As of the census[25] of 2000, there were 32,660 people, 13,859 households, and 8,980 families residing in the town. The population density was 738.2 inhabitants per square mile (285.0/km2). There were 20,055 housing units at an average density of 453.3 per square mile (175.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 93.39% White, 1.82% Black or African American, 0.51% Native American, 0.92% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.44% from other races, and 1.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.28% of the population.

There were 13,859 households, out of which 24.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.0% were married couples living together, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 20.7% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 24.5% from 25 to 44, 27.5% from 45 to 64, and 22.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $68,191, and the median income for a family was $97,422. Males had a median income of $61,797 versus $38,867 for females. The per capita income for the town was $42,548. About 4.5% of families and 6.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics

Falmouth is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a part of two districts, the Third Barnstable (which also includes portions of Barnstable, Bourne and Mashpee), and the Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket District, which includes all of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Gosnold. The town is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a part of the Plymouth and Barnstable district, which includes Bourne, Kingston, Pembroke, Plymouth, and Sandwich.[26] The town is patrolled by the Seventh (Bourne) Barracks of Troop D of the Massachusetts State Police.[27]

On the national level, Falmouth is a part of Massachusetts's 9th congressional district, and is currently represented by Bill Keating.[28]

Since 1937, Falmouth has been governed by a representative town meeting and led by a five-member Select Board serving rotating three-year terms. Twenty-seven town meeting members are elected to three-year terms from nine precincts. The state senator and state representatives who both reside in the town and represent districts that overlap with town serve as town meeting members at large. Prior to 1937, the town was governed by an open town meeting and Select Board.[29][30][31] The town operates its own police and fire departments, with a central police station and five fire stations. The fire department also operates the town's ambulance service with four-ambulances staffed 24/7. The town's central library is located downtown. There are branches in North and East Falmouth, and private libraries in West Falmouth and Woods Hole which are open to the public. There are seven post offices in town for the six ZIP codes, although several overlap and the main office handles the majority of the work. Falmouth is also the site of Falmouth Hospital, which serves the Upper Cape region.[32]


Falmouth's public school system serves about 4,500 students yearly. There are four schools, East Falmouth, Mullen-Hall, North Falmouth, and Teaticket, which serve the elementary school population, from pre-kindergarten to fourth grade. The Morse Pond Middle School serves grades five and six, while the Lawrence Junior High School serves grades seven and eight. Falmouth High School covers grades 9–12. (Prior to 1974 the 9–12 grades were in the Lawrence building and known as Lawrence High School.) FHS's athletics teams are nicknamed the Clippers, and their colors are maroon and white. They compete in the Atlantic Coast League, having moved recently from the Old Colony League. Their chief rival is nearby Barnstable High School. The public schools are supported in part by the Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS), various PTO associations, the Falmouth Scholarship Association, the Falmouth Education Foundation (FEF), the Falmouth STEM Boosters and the Woods Hole Science Technology Partnership.

Falmouth is also the home of a private school, Falmouth Academy, serving grades 7 through 12. Falmouth high school students may also choose to attend the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Bourne free of charge. Resident students can also attend Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis also free of charge, pending acceptance through a lottery.

Sports and recreation

Boston Red Sox All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury played for the Falmouth Commodores in 2004.

Falmouth is home to the Falmouth Commodores, an amateur collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The team plays at Arnie Allen Diamond at Guv Fuller Field, and has featured dozens of players who went on to careers in Major League Baseball, such as Tino Martinez,[33] Darin Erstad,[34] and Jacoby Ellsbury.[35]

Falmouth is the home of its namesake Falmouth Road Race, an annual race started in 1973 that draws over 10,000 runners from all over the world. The race runs 7 miles (11 km) from the village of Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights Beach in downtown Falmouth.

Arts and entertainment

Falmouth is home to a vibrant theatre community. The College Light Opera Company has performed at the Highfield Theatre every summer since 1969. Other institutions include the Falmouth Theatre Guild and the Cape Cod Theatre Project.

In addition to theatre, there is the Cape Cod Conservatory[36] and the Falmouth Arts Guild.[37]

Falmouth holds a yearly Christmas parade in the month of December that runs along Main Street in downtown Falmouth.

At the end of July, the Woods Hole Film Festival showcases local and international films in a week long event. Established in 1991, it is the oldest independent film festival on Cape Cod.[38]

Notable people

Military installations

Camp Edwards, formerly named Camp Falmouth,[citation needed] is a US military training camp in western Barnstable County. It is the largest part of Joint Base Cape Cod, formerly named Massachusetts Military Reservation. The installation is of economic and environmental importance.

Groundwater pollution

During the 1970s and 1980s, it was discovered that the groundwater in some areas of Falmouth had been contaminated by toxic chemicals linked to the disposal of jet fuel, solvents, industrial chemicals, and other substances on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, now known as Joint Base Cape Cod. Plumes of groundwater pollution that reached into Falmouth contaminated household well water in some neighborhoods and forced the town to shut down a public well in 1975 that accounted for 25% of the town's public water supply. A major report was released on the contamination in 1986. In 1996, the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (now known as the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment) assumed responsibility for the cleanup, treating soils at several sites and installing pumping wells in an effort to contain the plumes of groundwater contamination.[39]

In 2010, the Silent Spring Institute tested about 20 public water supplies, 40 percent of which had detectable levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).[40] In 2015, the Air Force started testing private wells in the Currier Road area after water treatment plant samples showed elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane.[40] Since May 2016, four houses in the Currier Road neighborhood have been receiving bottled water for elevated levels of PFCs after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a national standard for PFCs, such as PFOS and PFOAs.[40]


  1. ^ "Julian Suso to start as new Town Manager". Falmouth Patch.com. AOL Inc. December 1, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  2. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: Falmouth town, Barnstable County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 123.
  4. ^ "Town of Falmouth, Historical Commission" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 2, 2014. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "Town of Falmouth, Historic Districts Commission". Archived from the original on January 16, 2012. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Falmouth town, Barnstable County, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "USDA Interactive Plant Hardiness Map". United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  8. ^ "PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State U". www.prism.oregonstate.edu. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  9. ^ "U.S. Potential Natural Vegetation, Original Kuchler Types, v2.0 (Spatially Adjusted to Correct Geometric Distortions)". Data Basin. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  10. ^ "The Island Queen Ferry to Martha's Vineyard". Island Queen. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  11. ^ "AirNav: 5B6 - Falmouth Airpark". www.airnav.com. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  12. ^ "Home". FlyHYA | Cape Cod Gateway Airport. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  13. ^ "Fixed Routes".
  14. ^ "Total Population (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1". American FactFinder, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts. United States Census Bureau. 2010.
  15. ^ "Massachusetts by Place and County Subdivision - GCT-T1. Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  17. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  18. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  19. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  20. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  21. ^ "1870 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1872. Pages 217 through 220. Table IX. Population of Minor Civil Divisions, &c. Massachusetts. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  22. ^ "1860 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1864. Pages 220 through 226. State of Massachusetts Table No. 3. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  23. ^ "1850 Census" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. 1854. Pages 338 through 393. Populations of Cities, Towns, &c. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  24. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020−2023". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 19, 2024.
  25. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  26. ^ "Index of Legislative Representation by City and Town, from Mass.gov". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved February 22, 2007.
  27. ^ "Mass.gov". www.mass.gov. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  28. ^ "Our District". December 4, 2012.
  29. ^ "Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts". mma.org. Massachusetts Municipal Association. Retrieved February 5, 2024.
  30. ^ "Town Meeting Members". falmouthma.gov. Town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. Retrieved February 5, 2024.
  31. ^ Falmouth Town Report 1936. Falmouth, Massachusetts: Falmouth Publishing Co., Inc. 1937. p. 36. Retrieved February 5, 2024.
  32. ^ Falmouth Hospital
  33. ^ "Cape League Wrapup". Barnstable Patriot. Barnstable, MA. July 3, 1986. p. 10.
  34. ^ Judd, Grant (January 31, 2002). "Cape League honors its own". Yarmouth Register. Yarmouth, MA. p. 8.
  35. ^ Murphy, Sarah (November 1, 2007). "A mother knows: Host mom was early witness to Ellsbury's greatness". Yarmouth Register. Yarmouth, MA. p. 16.
  36. ^ "Cape Cod Live Orchestra Music | Cape Symphony Orchestra". Cape Symphony. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  37. ^ "Home". Falmouth Art Center. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  38. ^ https://woodsholefilmfestival.org/about-woods-hole-film-festival/
  39. ^ "The Massachusetts Military Reservation - An Environmental Dilemma". United States Geological Survey. November 30, 2016. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  40. ^ a b c George Brennan (May 20, 2016). "Air Force reacts to contaminated Falmouth water wells". Cape Cod Times. Falmouth, MA. Local Media Group, Inc. Retrieved May 25, 2016.

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