Falmouth, Massachusetts, (population 34,000), originally known as Suckanesset, received its charter in 1686. Its strategic location on the south coast of Cape Cod caused it to be heavily damaged during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In its early years, Falmouth was a fishing and farming community. Coastal trading and the production of salt also became important to the economy.
The extension of the railroad through Falmouth to Woods Hole allowed Falmouth to become more accessible to business leaders and workers seeking to escape from the urban environment. Joseph Story Fay and James M. Beebe, successful Boston retailers, were major influences in Falmouth's development as a summer resort community.
The oceanographic research community started to develop in Woods Hole in 1871 with the establishment of the US Fish and Fisheries Laboratory. In 1930, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution opened its doors. Today construction, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and tourism are the three leading components of the Falmouth economy. The year-round population triples during the summer tourism season.
Highfield Hall is a Queen Anne manor completed in 1879 as the summer residence of J. Arthur Beebe. In 2001, the non-profit Historic Highfield began the restoration of the structure. Completed in the fall of 2007, the restoration provided many jobs and has created full-time, part-time, and temporary employment positions as part of its current day operations. Highfield Hall offers a place for artists to sell their art, a venue for musicians to perform, and a location for local chefs to promote their cuisine. Cooking and art classes are available for both adults and children.
The Cape Land and Sea Harvest (CLASH) is a weekend long celebration of the rich fishing heritage and abundance of local foods in Cape Cod. Events include a clam-digging demonstration, wine tasting, farm tours, a farmers market, and a variety of food tastings and meals.
Falmouth adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2005, which allows the town to collect a 3 percent surcharge on property taxes for community preservation purposes. Falmouth receives state matching funds from the Community Preservation Trust Fund, which the town can appropriate for affordable housing, historic preservation, open space, or recreation initiatives. A total of 19 historic preservation projects have been funded since the adoption of the Community Preservation Act.
Falmouth Museums on the Green, operated by the Falmouth Historical Society, overlook the Village Green where members of the Colonial militia drilled in the 1700s and sea captains built their homes. Exhibits explore Falmouth's 19th century whaling industry, pre-Civil War medicine, and the life of Katharine Lee Bates, the Falmouth born author of “America the Beautiful.”
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2009.